Top pound-for-pound boxing champion Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. scored a surprise knockout over HBO Tuesday by announcing a historic, six-fight deal over 30 months with Showtime that includes broad promotion on multiple platforms under the CBS Corporate umbrella.
The first fight is scheduled for May 4 against Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Though not officially announced, the co-feature is expected to be between popular Mexican Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (41-0, 30 KOs) and Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KOs) of Las Cruces, N.M.
Alvarez tweeted last Friday that his bout was set with Trout, whose trainer acknowledged the engagement Monday, but said it was only 99 percent done.
Adding more drama was a statement Monday by Alvarez that he may not agree to fight Trout unless he's promised a date with Mayweather, probably in September. There was no response to that demand during Tuesday's announcement.
Also unmentioned was Filipino hero Manny Pacquiao, long considered Mayweather's arch-rival despite their inability to get in the ring together. It now seems doubtful they'll ever fight.
After their most recent matchup attempt was thwarted, Pacquiao met Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8, 2012 in the fourth of a dramatic and highly debated series. There was no debate in that fight as Pacquiao was knocked out with one second left in the second round. The knockout was so devastating that questions arose as to whether the Pacman should ever fight again.
However, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said this week he's having dinner with Marquez Wednesday in Las Vegas to discuss the possibility of Pacquiao-Marquez V (five) in September, but that's far from a done deal.
Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, said Mayweather's Showtime agreement will make his fighter "the richest individual athlete in all of sports," if the contract is fully realized. However, no specific financial arrangements were revealed.
Mayweather, 43-0 with 26 knockouts, last fought on May 5, 2012 and won by unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto, who then lost to Trout, earning the latter a bout with Alvarez. After the Cotto fight, Mayweather reported to the Clark County Detention Center and served an 87-day term for domestic violence.
In December, Ellerbe announced that Mayweather would fights twice in 2013. With the May 4 date against Guerrero already set, that could leave room for a September meeting with Alvarez, who must first overcome Trout, a slick lefty who should be the toughest challenge to date for the 22-year old Mexican.
There have long been signs that the Mayweather/HBO relationship has been eroding. After winning on a controversial knockout over Victor Ortiz with what some described as a sucker punch, Mayweather didn't like the line of questioning by HBO veteran Larry Merchant and told him so. Merchant replied that if he were "50 years younger, I would kick your ass."
So for those paying closer attention to Mayweather than Ortiz did, this move from HBO shouldn't be a surprise. Ellerbe admitted this was the result of being in a stale relationship and then being courted by a new suitor.
"Sometimes, after you've been in a long-term relationship, you'll find yourself in another environment and you see someone else who makes it crystal clear to you what they see in you and why they want to be in a relationship with you, and they have all the credentials to prove themselves," Ellerbe said.
"Sometimes," he added, "people take you for granted and somebody else is willing to do what you aren't."
However, Ellerbe said he meant no disrespect for HBO, which televised all 23 Mayweather fights since his 1999 world title victory over Carlos Rice on TNT. Mayweather originally signed a six-fight, $12 million with HBO through Top Rank, which represented him at the time. But Mayweather disliked the part of the agreement that paid Top Rank 100 percent of the television revenue. He described as a "slave contract."
Ellerbe avoided mention of past disputes in announcing the new deal with Showtime.
"Floyd and HBO have had a fabulous relationship for 17 years and Floyd appreciates everything they've done for him," Ellerbe said. "But it's a business."