Floyd Mayweather tweeted to his 4.1 million followers Wednesday night announcing his next fight: "I chose my opponent for September 14th and it's Canelo Alvarez. I'm giving the fans what they want." This is why Showtime Networks guaranteed Mayweather roughly $200 million earlier this year.
After years of pining for Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao to face off in the ring, Mayweather-Alvarez is the fight that fans want to see. It has the potential to be the second biggest non-heavyweight fight ever on pay-per-view and the biggest score yet for Mayweather in a career of eight-figure paydays.
Alvarez (42-0-1) won a unanimous decision last month against Austin Trout that attracted 40,000 people to the Alamodome in San Antonio. He is a star in the making and the most popular Mexican fighter with a massive following. There were concerns that Alvarez was too big for Mayweather, but the two boxers agreed to fight at a "catchweight" of 152 pounds (Mayweather usually fights at 147 pounds).
The event will take place in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand where Mayweather has fought his last seven bouts. September 14 is over the Mexican Independence Day weekend, which is always a hot date on the boxing calendar along with the first week in May for Cinco de Mayo.
Mayweather has been criticized for handpicking his opponents to pad his undefeated record, which reached 44-0 this month after he crushed Roberto Guerrero in a unanimous decision. The fight was the first for Mayweather after signing a six-fight deal with Showtime in February called the “richest individual athlete deal in all of sports” in a press release.
The Guerrero fight was a disappointment at the box office after a heavily hyped month on Showtime and its parent CBS, including two Mayweather documentaries, an appearance at the Final Four by Mayweather, a reality series and heavy promotion on the CBS Sports Radio network. Five of Mayweather’s previous six fights on HBO had topped one million PPV buys.
Showtime insists the Guerrero fight will narrowly beat the one million mark once everything is counted, but sources have told Forbes that the fight is likely to top out at 875,000 buys. Either figure has to be a disappointment. Showtime boss Stephen Espinoza told Forbes before the Guerrero fight that it was trending better than Mayweather's Victor Ortiz fight in 2011 (1.25 million buys) and had an outside shot at the Miguel Cotto bout in 2012 (1.5 million).
Mayweather’s guarantee for the Guerrero fight was $32 million, tied for the biggest ever in boxing, but his additional haul from his cut of PPV revenue is expected to be minimal. The large Mayweather guarantee and significant promotional budget resulted in a loss of as much as $12 million for Showtime for the fight, according to sources.
But the Alvarez fight is where Showtime makes back its money and attracts a bigger following, as it tries to narrow the subscription gap with HBO. Alvarez is deemed a credible threat to Mayweather’s pristine record. Mayweather is a wildly polarizing figure and his fans will tune in, as will those looking for Mayweather to lose for the first time. The bout is likely to top the 1.5 million audience for Mayweather-Cotto. The record PPV audience of almost 2.5 million was for Mayweather-Oscar de La Hoya in 2007.
The De La Hoya fight was before Mayweather controlled the revenue streams from his fights through his company Mayweather Promotions. When promoting his own fights, Mayweather has typically netted close to 50% of the gross PPV revenue. The Cotto fight grossed $94 million from PPV and Mayweather netted $45 million, which was his biggest payout to date.
Revenues for fights have gotten a boost in recent years through the addition of high-definition telecasts. The Guerrero fight cost $60 for the regular telecast and $70 for the HD version on most cable systems. The buys were split about 60-40 in favor of HD. If Alvarez-Mayweather can attract 1.6 million PPVs, the gross from PPV will likely hit $105 million and mean a $50 million haul for Mayweather.
"When you have someone who is already taking the vast majority of the pie, the only appeal you can make to him is that you can make the pie bigger," Espinoza told Forbes after the Showtime deal was announced. "I can’t give [Mayweather] a bigger piece; he already has about the whole thing."
The pie just got bigger and Money, as always, is going to get paid.
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