The most talked about person in the world of boxing these days isn't even a boxer, or one of the sport's traditional powerbrokers. It's Curtis Jackson -- 50 Cent. The longtime friend of Floyd Mayweather had intended to form a promotional venture with him, known as TMT Promotions. However, that fell apart and he decided to move ahead on his own, forming SMS Promotions in its place.
The company already has a handful of notable fighters in its stable, including Celestino Caballero, Billy Dib, Andre Dirrell and Yuriorkis Gamboa. Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs), a Cuban Olympic gold medalist and former Featherweight champion, fights this weekend for the first time in over a year. He'll square off against Michael Farenas (34-3-4, 26 KOs) for an interim Super Featherweight title strap on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez 4 pay-per-view event.
50 Cent took some time for a lengthy one-on-one discussion to talk about Gamboa, SMS Promotions, his thoughts on Mayweather, and concerns about Mayweather's future well-being, Miguel Cotto's last fight and much more.
After months of speculation and rumors, you're finally getting started here with Yuriorkis Gamboa's fight against Michael Farenas on the Pacquiao-Marquez 4 undercard. How does that feel for you?
50 Cent: Oh, it's great. For me, to get in there and have the first co-promotion to be with Top Rank and Pacquiao-Marquez with Yuriorkis Gamboa and Michael Farenas, and it's right before that actual bout on the pay-per-view, it's excellent. It's the right spot for him to come back after being off for some time.
Definitely a big splash to make for your first time out...
50 Cent: It's a great feeling, the event has energy around it by itself. It's the fourth matchup between Manny and Marquez, and there have been controversial decisions and there's always been pretty exciting fights every time they've met each other. Manny's coming off the decision with Bradley, and he doesn't want to leave the decision to the judges. We're going to see some excitement. They're definitely going in there to knock each other out. And Marquez feels like he won some of those fights that the judges gave Manny, and he don't want to leave it to the judges either.
Should be a great night... so is the plan to continue having individual fights and fighters as part of these larger cards, or will SMS Promotions be putting together a complete show of its own?
50 Cent: I'll put them on the biggest possible cards to raise the exposure level of the fighters, whether it's Yuriorkis Gamboa, Andre Dirrell, Billy Dib or Celestino Caballero. Shortly though, you'll see me actually putting my own cards together. And the roster of fighters under SMS Promotions will definitely grow.
Any specific plans or names in the works, or are you just taking that as it comes?
50 Cent: We're just kind of waiting it out right now. I don't want to do anything that's not the most exciting event, period, right now. I'd rather be a part of creating the most exciting moment in boxing at each step of the way, than to be just creating a night. The opportunity and the concept of merging music culture with actual boxing is exciting. It's bringing a younger demographic to the sport. The UFC has a demo that's 15 to 34. Look in the crowd when a fight is going on and you'll see kids in there enjoying the actual fight. And boxing is 30 and up. And the tradition of it is keeping the older demographic interested, but you have to bring that culture into it so it becomes more exciting.
So how do you plan to do that and leverage who you are in the entertainment and music industries to benefit your company and your fighters? Do you have a specific plan?
50 Cent: Yeah! Of course. My new music video, "My Life" featuring Eminem and Adam Levine, the only person in the actual video who you can physically make out besides myself and Adam Levine is Andre Dirrell. And having hip-hop culture being a youth-driven platform, it's definitely something which will continuously be relevant to a younger demo and audience. So to bring the fighters into that and have them more involved in that actual culture... they'll become someone they recognize and somebody they actually have a vested interest in, and they'll want to see them fight. Keeping them in those other ends will raise the excitement level. And when you look at somebody like Floyd Mayweather or Adrien Broner, it's that actual energy and entertainment, the show within the show. It's something which directly matches, as far as those ages are concerned, the hip-hop culture. They don't hear the directors say cut, they continue to live the music video.
So you mentioned Mayweather, obviously I have to ask you about him, and you've made some comments before. But can you talk a bit about how that all went down - you invested $1.5 million on fighters thinking it was for TMT Promotions, but Mayweather decided when he got out of jail he wasn't interested? How'd that all play out?
50 Cent: He just changed his mind. I've said before, Floyd is like my brother. I still feel the same way. I'm real affected that he didn't call me when his son broke his arm, because his son hurt himself real bad. But, other than that... there's no hard feelings. Gamboa isn't Gamboa because of Floyd Mayweather. Neither is Andre Dirrell or Billy Dib or Celestino Caballero. These guys have earned their own positions, and developed their own value within the sport. So when he decided he didn't want to invest, it was a disappointment only because he's following the regimen of other successful fighters that had no income away from boxing. And he's 36 years old. He's got to actually think about his future.
Time is ticking on the career and post-boxing career...
50 Cent: Exactly. Away from that, he said himself, out of his mouth, he's got two or three more left in him. After two or three more fights - and I don't know if this is because he's coming off the tough Cotto fight that he's actually saying that - but he is saying that. And I'm telling him that OK, well you have to put it together around what you're passionate about. I don't know if everyone is aware of this, but he stopped going to school after the sixth grade. So, at that point, the thing that he would be around that he would be completely knowledgeable about and passionate about is boxing.
So he really needs to capitalize on that.
50 Cent: Right. If he came around -- because I initially started this process and idea for him, it was really developing what would be his retirement plan -- he could come around later and financially bring me his half and I would still partner with him. Just because that's my brother.
Are you very concerned for him for his financial future?
50 Cent: You can't sustain the lifestyle he's living right now. It's impossible.
Have you guys been in touch or talked to each other at all recently?
50 Cent: Not me and Floyd directly. But me and everyone around.
What do you think it would take for you guys to get on the same page again?
50 Cent: In time, he'll call. That's it. He's also familiar with keeping everyone around him codependent. So nobody actually tries to help. I'm the one person who's close to him that doesn't need anything from him. When you're at that point when you find yourself hitting rock bottom... well hopefully he comes to his senses before it gets to that point.
So is putting together Mayweather vs. Pacquiao still a core goal that you have with SMS Promotions or is that something that's just on the backburner for you and if it happened, well then that would be great?
50 Cent: It's on the backburner. Floyd, his actual energy right now... what happens is he retires every fight. He retires until he spends his money. Then he comes back because he has to come back, see what I'm saying? If it's not the Floyd-Manny fight, you'll see me doing something where I'm working with Manny to put together his next fight or something, moving him to a different territory so it's not actually in Las Vegas, the fight would be somewhere in Dubai.
Wow, well that would be a big change. And as far as Mayweather goes, you're saying he's basically getting to the point of being broke in between fights. It sounds like he's on the brink.
50 Cent: It's just the regimen of a successful fighter who doesn't have income away from boxing. It's fight, get the money, spend the money, fight. Fight, get the money, spend the money, fight. It's not anything new to the sport. You think about fighters who are in the position he's in who make a lot of money in each fight, there's no pressure. But god forbid something ever happen to him where he's injured, he could be in a car accident, you need something between now and the next fight and then you're not in a good financial space at that point.
If you could say anything to him right now, personally or professionally, what would it be?
50 Cent: Just think about your future man. I'd ask him to think about his future, and he'd understand that over time... he'll know that it doesn't make sense to go in the direction he's going.
Let's move on. Did you watch the Cotto-Trout fight? What'd you think?
50 Cent: I did man! I think that was a terrible matchup for Cotto. It didn't make sense for him. I think it was bad management on Cotto's part.
High-risk, low-reward kind of fight.
50 Cent: Yeah, it just didn't make sense. You're coming off a fight against Floyd Mayweather. You earned $8 million. Now you're taking this fight, for what? What's the upside? It makes me feel like they had something else involved in this deal.
So, as in, fight this guy, and then maybe we'll put you in there with, oh I don't know, Canelo next...
50 Cent: Not Canelo, because, I mean, Canelo would have made sense for this fight! That would have been another HBO event. It just makes no sense. The fight made no sense. Who was the matchmaker? Who did that? From Cotto's perspective, that fight made no sense, not financially, none.
I'm sure you'd say that if you and SMS Promotions were working with Cotto you never would have let something like that happen.
50 Cent: Never, never. He never would have took that fight. He should have been back on HBO pay-per-view or HBO fighting Canelo. If you wanted a fight like that, he should have been fighting Cornelius Bundrage.
A stay busy fight until a big event but perhaps a bit of an easier night.
50 Cent: Right, c'mon man. Doesn't make any sense.
How do you think Pacquiao-Marquez 4 is going to play out?
50 Cent: It's going to be a war man, it's going to be definitely tough, and I don't think either one of them will want to leave it to the judges. So I'm predicting a knockout whichever way it goes but it will be a tough fight.
No official prediction, just a knockout for one guy or the other?
50 Cent: Yeah, I got a chance to see Manny in training and sparring and stuff like that with different fighters, and he looks pretty good. But they're both going to be in dope shape, they'll be in really good shape. You're talking about professionals, these guys know what type of work they need to offer their best performances. Marquez feels like he won some of those fights that they said he lost, and Manny coming off that Bradley decision, and the world feels like Manny won that fight. Anybody who watched it feels like he did. So he feels he can't leave it to the judges either. So this will end all of the speculation right here.
Any word on the next move for Dirrell or Caballero or any of your other guys right now at this point?
50 Cent: Well, Dirrell will be fighting in January, January 19th, and he'll be fighting in New York.
So he'll be getting on the MSG card that day?
50 Cent: Right.
Is there an opponent?
50 Cent: (pauses) Rowland Bryant.
Done deal or in the works?
50 Cent: We're working it out now.
So what about Caballero, are you looking at putting him in there with Dib eventually or what?
50 Cent: Yeah, that would be ideal for them to fight each other. But we're also going to work with Chris John. We'll see what happens.
Finally, as a boxing fan, and now also a promoter, what's your ideal mega-fight for 2013, possibly on the popular Cinco de Mayo weekend? Is it still Mayweather-Pacquiao? Canelo-Mayweather? Is it Gamboa vs. Rios which almost came off this year, or Gamboa vs. Adrien Broner? What's the fight that has you excited?
50 Cent: I like Gamboa-Rios. And Floyd vs. Canelo. But I think it'll probably be Floyd vs. Guerrero, who just beat Berto. I don't think he'll take the Canelo fight right now. He should. But I think, well, he took Ortiz fight after he beat Berto. He'll probably do that again.
What do you think the reasoning is beyond that?
50 Cent: It's safe. He's not picking the tough opponents. He's trying to continuously keep himself next to someone he feels he has an edge on.
And you think he thinks Guerrero is an easier fight than Canelo?
50 Cent: Exactly.
More money in fighting Canelo though...
50 Cent: Yeah, yeah. But there's a lot more money than all of them, Guerrero, Canelo... what would it look like next to the Manny money?
True story. Well, thanks for the time and we're looking forward to keeping an eye on SMS Promotions and your fighters.
50 Cent: Alright. Thank you.
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com, where you can find breaking news stories, interviews, rankings and more. You can also follow Jake and ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.
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