With one stroke of the pen on Wednesday, Floyd Mayweather and Showtime scored a triple play on arch-rival HBO.
Mayweather signed to fight UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor in a bout that figures to generate more than $500 million in gross revenue on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.
That deal, first reported by Yahoo Sports, was devastating to three separate HBO fights: Saturday’s light heavyweight title match between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev in Las Vegas; the Aug. 26 super welterweight bout between Miguel Cotto and Yoshihiro Kamegai in Carson, Calif.; and the Sept. 16 mega-bout in Las Vegas between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin for the middleweight title.
Ward-Kovalev is an outstanding match that looks like it will struggle badly at the box office. Promoters at Thursday’s news conference were pleading with the gathered media for coverage to what should be a sensational bout. But when it was reported that the Mayweather-McGregor fight was on, the Ward-Kovalev fight was largely ignored.
And while it will get some coverage this week, the volume and the significance of it will be greatly diminished by all the attention given to Mayweather-McGregor.
There wasn’t much interest in Cotto-Kamegai in the first place, but it will be all but impossible for that show to receive any media coverage whatsoever given it is going directly opposite Mayweather-McGregor.
Then there is the case of the long-awaited Alvarez-Golovkin bout for middleweight supremacy. Promoter Oscar De La Hoya took his sweet time putting it together, even though fans were clamoring for it in late 2015 after Alvarez bested Cotto to win a version of the middleweight title.
De La Hoya, though, resisted and didn’t make the bout until last month, after Alvarez defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a meaningless bout that nevertheless managed to sell 1 million on pay-per-view and did a $10 million gate.
He was gloating when the pay-per-view numbers came out, believing his decision to wait on making Alvarez-Golovkin had been vindicated. And he then went and spoke out publicly against the Mayweather-McGregor bout, urging fans not to support it, even though only a few months ago he stood outside a Los Angeles bar in the wee hours of the morning and told TMZ that McGregor should fight Alvarez instead of Mayweather.
Mayweather, who has much personal disdain for De La Hoya, turned the tables on the Golden Boy, though, when he put his bout with McGregor a few weeks before De La Hoya’s big one.
From a competitive standpoint, there is no choice between the top bouts. Alvarez-Golovkin is arguably the best fight that can be made in boxing and pits the two best middleweights in the world for divisional supremacy.
McGregor has never boxed, and the consensus is that he’ll get blown out by Mayweather.
However, the best fights aren’t always the ones that sell. Mayweather and McGregor are two of the best trash talkers in history, and their bout is almost guaranteed to be the best promotion ever, at least until the first bell rings.
Then, all bets are off, though the promoters will have by that point made a financial killing. Mayweather-McGregor interest is off-the-charts high, and has at least a chance to top the record of 4.6 million pay-per-view sales that Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao set in 2015.
They’ll take airtime and media space away from Alvarez-Golovkin. Alvarez speaks next to no English and Golovkin’s English still isn’t great. They’re far better at punching than promoting.
Fans are also going to spend a lot of money just three weeks before Alvarez-Golovkin, and history has shown that can impact sales. It’s doubly hard when the intensity of the media coverage promoters were planning on for that show will be cut significantly by Mayweather-McGregor coverage.
Boxing is as unpredictable of a sport as there is, and when a promoter has an opportunity to make what would be a big fight, he should take it. An NFL game that loses a star player to injury will still go on, and ticket sales won’t suffer.
In boxing, though, where shows are sold on the strength of name recognition and fighter marketability, it’s curtains.
A fighter could get injured or lose or fail a drug test. There are any number of things that could happen which would prevent the match from being made.
Now, De La Hoya must find a way to recapture the media’s attention after the tornado that will be Mayweather-McGregor blows away.
It’s not going to be easy.
In late 2009, a potential featherweight bout between Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa was beginning to stir passion among boxing fans. Both had aggressive, fan-friendly styles, and while it wouldn’t have been a massive show, it was the kind of fight that gets the hardcore fan base excited and keeps the media interested.
They fought on the same card on Jan. 23, 2010, and all the talk after that show centered around a match between the two. But promoter Bob Arum infamously said he wanted to let it “marinate,” and it wound up never happening.
Whenever a promoter talks about allowing a fight to marinate, it’s a bad, bad, bad thing. Scream long and loud in protest.
Allowing Alvarez-Golovkin to marinate resulted in having the Mayweather-McGregor pay-per-view dropped on top of it.
Mayweather once fought for HBO, before leaping to Showtime in 2013.
On Thursday, he did the most damage to his ex-network since he signed that Showtime deal by putting the McGregor fight on Aug. 26.
Hopefully, it will serve as a lesson. When fans are calling for a fight, give it to them as soon as reasonably possible.
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