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Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Paquiao nearly agreed to a 2010 fight.
LAS VEGAS – Though sports fans remain desperate to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight Manny Pacquiao, in 2010 the superstar boxers came closer to fighting than anyone previously realized, according to a document obtained by Yahoo! Sports.
A contract sent on Dec. 11, 2009, by Golden Boy Promotions on behalf of Mayweather to Top Rank on behalf of Pacquiao proposed a 50-50 financial split between the sides for a fight that would have been held March 13, 2010.
The eight-page agreement is so detailed that it indicates which of the two fighters would step onto the scale first at the weigh-in (Pacquiao), who would walk to the ring first (Pacquiao), who would be introduced first (Mayweather) and who had first choice of the locker room (Mayweather).
It detailed that the bout would have been on HBO Pay-Per-View at a cost of $59.95. Billing was to be "Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, presented by Top Rank, Golden Boy Promotions, Mayweather Promotions and M-P Promotions in association with [approved sponsors and the site]."
A Mayweather-Pacquiao bout is expected to be the largest-grossing fight in history, in which total revenues could reach $300 million. Experts have predicted the fight would sell between 2.5 million and 3 million pay-per-views in the U.S.
Given that Mayweather's May 5 bout against Miguel Cotto was priced at $69.95, it would not be unreasonable for Mayweather-Pacquiao to be priced at $79.95 or more. At $79.95, it would generate a whopping $199.875 million if it reached 2.5 million pay-per-view buys.
Pacquiao's side declined the 2009 contract offer because Pacquiao objected to Mayweather's request for the drug testing. Though Pacquiao has subsequently agreed to Mayweather's demands for random blood and urine testing, the sides have not been able to reach agreement on a deal.
After his May 5 win over Cotto, which sold 1.5 million pay-per-view units and generated $94 million in domestic PPV revenue, Mayweather said he would not agree to a 50-50 split of revenue.
Mayweather entered the Clark County Detention Center on Friday to begin serving the remainder of a 90-day sentence as the result of a plea deal to misdemeanor domestic violence charges. With good behavior, Mayweather is expected to serve two months.
Pacquiao faces unbeaten Timothy Bradley on June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a bout he must win if he is to keep hope alive for a match with Mayweather either later this year or early next year. According to Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, they already had a contract in place.
"We have a contract that they sent us and all the terms have been agreed to," Arum said. "All this that's been going on – 'Bob Arum doesn't want it,' and 'I'm entitled to this and that,' is all [expletive]. All [expletive]. This is their lawyer who prepared this, sent copies to everyone. … This isn't something I wrote and passed out. Their lawyer did this and sent it to us."
Richard Schaefer, the chief executive officer of Golden Boy Promotions, said he did not recall sending a contract offering a 50-50 split.
"If we had a deal, how come we didn't have a fight?" Schaefer said when asked to comment.
Schaefer said he met Arum shortly before Thanksgiving in 2009 to discuss parameters of a deal, but said he didn't remember sending Top Rank a completed contract for signature that included a 50-50 purse split.
However, in a contract obtained by Yahoo! Sports, paragraph 11 under the section entitled Net Profits reads: "Net Profits shall be allocated 50/50 between GBP and TR." The contract goes on to say that net profits would include a split of "all gross revenues."
In sub-paragraph 11 (a), entitled HBO PPV Fight Night Advance, it reads, "Not withstanding the foregoing, the HBO PPV fight night advance shall be paid 50% directly to GBP and 50% directly to TR."
Schaefer said Pacquiao's reluctance to accept the drug testing Mayweather was demanding in 2009 was "a deal killer." Still, Schaefer told Yahoo! Sports he didn't recall offering a 50-50 split, but said that even had he done so, it wouldn't apply now given what has subsequently happened in the fighters' careers.
"It never happened, but for the sake of argument, let's say that the 50-50 split was offered back then," Schaefer said. "A long time has passed. Let's say that I wanted in 2009 to hire you and I offered you $100,000. We didn't sign a contract, but now, I come to you and said, 'Kevin, I know now you are worth $200,000. You are more accomplished and more famous than you were in 2009, but remember that contract I offered you in 2009 where I said I would pay you $100,000? Well, I want you to sign that now.' Like I said, I don't think that ever happened, but if it did, circumstances are vastly different now."
Schaefer said he wanted to hire an accounting firm to do an audit of the fighters' earning power. He said the money split could then go however the audit turned out.
One of the different circumstances now is that the MGM Resorts, the owner of the MGM Grand (Mayweather's and Golden Boy's preferred venue) commissioned a study to examine the feasibility of an outdoor stadium with a greater capacity.
It released the study, titled "Temporary Stadium Study," on Feb. 7, a week after Mayweather announced during a hearing in front of the Nevada Athletic Commission that he would fight Cotto on May 5.
The study chose a 10-acre lot on the southern end of Las Vegas Blvd. across from the Luxor Hotel & Casino that would have seated 40,000 and which also would have been used for UFC fights, concerts and shows.
In January, before Mayweather announced he'd fight Cotto and talks were still going on for a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, Mayweather CEO Leonard Ellerbe scoffed at the plans for a stadium in an interview with Yahoo! Sports.
Ellerbe called the stadium idea "a bunch of baloney" and said "we're talking about a temporary venue out in the middle of a dusty parking lot with bleacher seating."
Ellerbe did not return recent phone calls seeking comment.
Arum said the stadium would have cost $20 million to build and estimated a paid gate for a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight at between $50-60 million.
MGM Resorts chairman and CEO Jim Murren and chief marketing officer Bill Hornbuckle were traveling and could not be reached for comment. However, Gordon Absher, the vice president of public affairs at MGM Resorts, said the company believes Las Vegas needs such a facility to host major events.
"The potential of a Pacquiao–Mayweather match-up highlights the need for a large capacity, 40,000-plus-seat stadium in our community," Absher said. "But a once-in-a-lifetime boxing match is by no means the only such event that could be hosted there. MGM Resorts supports the concept of a multi-purpose, 50,000-seat stadium currently being discussed at UNLV."
Top Rank president Todd duBoef said that even if after construction costs the temporary facility only generated the same paid gate as the roughly 16,000-seat MGM Grand Garden would, it would be worth it to allow more people to attend the event.
If the fight were to happen at the MGM Grand, almost certainly all tickets would be taken by corporate types and ticket brokers before the public had a chance to purchase them. As a result, the vast majority of spectators would be casino customers and VIPs and not general boxing fans.
"I'd like to make that a special week and have it be a celebration of the sport," duBoef said. "And it could be a Festival of Boxing and be like the sport's Super Bowl. It would allow more people the opportunity to be a part of it."
The largest gate in boxing history came on May 5, 2007, when Mayweather fought Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand Garden. That fight drew a crowd of 17,078 and generated a paid gate of $18,419,2000.
That is an average of $1,078.53 per ticket. With the same per-ticket price, the gate at a 40,000-seat venue would be $43,141,356. Prices could climb because of a greater number of expensive floor tickets that would be available and the intense desire to see the fight.
Schaefer remains skeptical of the weather and noted that Clark County building codes only allow a temporary structure to remain erect for a year, making it difficult to have a rematch there. He also suggested that if the fight occurred, the promotion could have a fan festival that duBoef suggested by emulating the UFC and holding something in the convention area at sister property Mandalay Bay.
The issue that is more pressing, though, is the money split, because Mayweather has repeatedly said he won't give 50-50 and Pacquiao said he won't fight for less.
HBO Sports president Ken Hershman said earlier this year that he believed the fight had "a short shelf life," and said if the bout wasn't made soon, it would be time to move on. Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach agreed, saying interest in the match may be starting to wane.
"My fear is that we may have passed the point of no return," Roach said. "I don't get asked if the fight is going to happen as often as I used to. If they don't make this fight soon, it may no longer be relevant."