By Rick Reeno
Records, records and more records. Last Saturday’s mega-event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has cracked records that most experts felt were unbreakable. The event which Golden Boy Promotions/Mayweather Promotions tagged as - “The One” – was headlined by the biggest star in sport, Floyd Mayweather Jr., as he defended his status against an undefeated rising star in Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. After twelve rounds of action, Mayweather won a clear twelve round decision to hold his position as the pound-for-pound king.
Several weeks ago, “The One” broke the 2007 gate record, set by the Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather pay-per-view. A massive gate of $20,003,150 was generated. The event also produced a gate of $2,615,360 from closed circuit viewings in Las Vegas - with 26,163 tickets sold.
The most significant figure was reported on Thursday, when Showtime/Golden Boy announced that Mayweather-Canelo generated a projected figure of 2.2 million pay-per-view purchases – placing it right behind De La Hoya-Mayweather - which holds the record with 2.48 million buys.
However, the current figure makes Mayweather-Canelo the highest-grossing pay-per-view event of all time, with nearly $150 million in U.S. pay-per-view revenue to date. Thursday’s figure ran past the previous record of $136 million, which De La Hoya-Mayweather generated in 2007.
Not all of the pay-per-view buy figures have been received. “The One” is still capable of threatening the existing buyrate record of De La Hoya-Mayweather. The initial buyrate number for De La Hoya-Mayweather was 2.15 million, and grew to 2.48 when all of the distributors submitted their final figures.
Mayweather’s run for 2013 is over, but he plans to fight twice next year – with May 3rd and September 13th as the selected targets.
Golden Boy’s CEO, Richard Schaefer, sat down with BoxingScene.com to discuss last Saturday’s record breaking event, the various options for Mayweather in 2014, and more.
BoxingScene.com: The buyrate figure of 2.2 million has surpassed most predictions. You and Showtime Sports VP Stephen Ezpinoza were very reserved in your predictions. Both of you predicted at least 2 million buys and Thursday’s figure has surpassed those predictions. In almost every case, a promoter’s prediction is much higher than the actual number generated.
Schaefer: When we announced the fight, we knew it was going to be a big fight - no question about it. Both of them have a big following. But when we went on tour and had that first stop [in New York City], the kickoff press conference. We had to close Times Square because we had 10,000 people there and it was one of the best and most exciting press events that we've done. [At that point] I knew this thing was going to be huge.
Then the next day, Tuesday, the tickets went on sale and they sold out in no time and already broke the gate record. Now you have to remember that when we did the gate record in 2007 for De La Hoya and Mayweather, that was at the height of the economic boom, and one thing that was really available was money and people were spending like there was no tomorrow. So a lot of people said 'you are never going to break that record.' When we broke that record on the second day of the press tour, I knew that it was going to be a huge, huge fight.
And then press tour progressed and if we add it all together - there were hundreds of thousands of people involved - cheering on the respective fighters. I knew that if there was one fight that was going to break the record - it was going to be this one. As other records were falling - the closed circuit, the merchandising, you saw the arrivals on fight week. It was getting bigger and bigger like a snowball. That's why I knew that it was going to be very successful and I wasn't shy about it. By Thursday of fight week I said that I was very confident, based on what I had seen, that we were going to break the revenue record.
At the final press conference, I looked at all the media and I said that nobody believed that we were going to break the record in 2007 and nobody believes me now. I said that we would break the record and I was right. I am really happy for the fighters, for the fans - and of course for the sport of boxing.
BoxingScene.com: The success of "The One" has certainly sent a strong message to the critics who say 'boxing is a dying sport.'"
Schaefer: This is a validation that the sport of boxing is healthier than it ever was. It's not just that Mayweather-Canelo is breaking records when we are coming out of an economic recession, and when consumers are very careful with spending money - so to break the record at this time makes it even more impressive. What is impressive for the sport is that we know that at the highest levels we can breaks records.
What we've seen in 2013 with the sport is 40,000 in Texas for Canelo. And you were there at the Home Depot Center when Josesito Lopez fought [against Maidana] and we broke the all-time gate record and attendance record [at that venue]. And we see the Barclays Center, the events are getting bigger and bigger. You see it with Showtime with the ratings, getting double digit increases year over year. You see it with Fox Sports 1 committing Monday night primetime to boxing.
It's not just at the highest level, it's on every level that boxing is big news again. You look at the sponsors...a record number of sponsors committing to boxing. You have new sponsors coming to the sport, you have existing sponsors making new multi-year agreements. All of those signs are showing one direction - and that is up, and that is exciting for the sport of boxing.
I think people realized that even if you buy [the pay-per-view] in HD and spend $75 bucks, and you have 10 or 15 people over for a party - it is still is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. All of that makes me extremely bullish for the sport of boxing. To put it back in my old banking terms - if boxing was a stock you would want to buy it. Breaking this record is not the end, it is the beginning of a trend. As I said back in 2007 - records are here to broken. And I will break this record.
BoxingScene.com: The power of social media in helping make "The One" a record breaking event.
Schaefer: I think what Floyd Mayweather has done, with his reach with the social media - I think what he has done to a large extent is bring back a younger audience to the sport of boxing. On the day of the fight, some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment were tweeting 'buy the fight, buy the fight.' A Cristiano Ronaldo, the number one soccer player in the world, who has 21 million followers on Twitter - he tweeted that 'you should watch the fight and you can buy it here if you click on this link.' You had close to 100 million tweets just on the morning of the fight. The social media activation, I think what that did is bring the young people back to the sport of boxing. They see how exciting it is, how entertaining it is.
BoxingScene.com: When your company was trying to make a fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, everyone viewed that match as the single biggest threat to the pay-per-view record of De La Hoya-Mayweather. Do you believe that fight would have been just as big, at least financially, than Mayweather-Canelo? And provided he wins in November, is Mayweather-Pacquiao still possible?
Schaefer: I think a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would have been big as well. But why is it that Golden Boy is involved in breaking all of these records? That's not by coincidence. I don’t want to really pat myself on the shoulder because it's a team effort. CBS and Showtime did a terrific job. Of course everything starts and ends with Floyd Mayweather. Floyd Mayweather is a huge crossover star and the highest paid athlete in the world. And I can tell you that next year he is going to be on top of the list again, not by a few million but by a few tens of millions.
I really believe that we at Golden Boy have the best pay-per-view team, we know how to promote, we know how to create events. And we saw that throughout fight week. We keep pushing ourselves, so I think a lot of that has to do with it. I don't want to knock Top Rank, but it has been a while since they've been breaking records. I think they have other priorities which is okay. Our priority is the U.S. market. Our partner is Showtime, which is a U.S. based company and I know their audience likes to see the kind of content we give them.
So when you do a Pacquiao fight, if we would be the sole promoter of that fight - I have no doubt that it would be a huge, huge fight as well and it would have the potential to break the records. But if you deal with other people, who don’t have the access or the reach to activate in the market, and not the same priorities - I think it makes it very difficult to do that.
As [Top Rank CEO Bob] Arum said - when it was Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley - they would get a fight with Pacquiao if he was the promoter and we are not involved. Well, maybe Pacquiao will have to take a hard look at this situation and decide what he wants to do. Pacquiiao has clearly lost some of the luster but it’s still Manny Pacquiao. Manny Pacquiao, whether you win some or lose some, is a terrific fighter and a very entertaining fighter. Most importantly, he is an entertainer and that's what people want to see - entertainment.
And Floyd is an entertainer inside of the ring, and of course outside of the ring. And he's unmatched and maybe unmatched ever. He's the single best self-promoter in any sport. He is absolutely brilliant in promoting himself, his brand. Not just his fights, look what he has been doing with TMT, The Money Team. TMT is today one of the hottest brands in all of the United States and all of sports. These TMT items are selling like hotcakes. Why is that? Because he knows how to promote.
BoxingScene.com: There are a lot of names floating around. You saw a recent article that we ran, where Bernard Hopkins made it clear that he was willing to move down by two divisions to 160-pounds to face Mayweather on May 3. Provided he defeats Karo Murat next month, is a Mayweather-Hopkins fight even possible?
Schaefer: There are a lot of names. When you are the best fighter and you generate record revenues - the list of potential opponents is not getting shorter, it is getting longer. Any weight class that Floyd Mayweather is around, every fighter would love to fight Floyd Mayweather. There are two reasons - the opportunity to be in the ring with Floyd and hopefully beat him. I think that's the number one motivation. And the second one, let's not kid ourselves, is the payday which comes with a Mayweather fight.
Look, I can’t speak for Floyd and you may have to ask [Mayweather Promotions CEO] Leonard [Ellerbe] or Floyd himself - but I don’t think Floyd Mayweather is going to be fighting as a middleweight. I wouldn't say that he’s a small welterweight, but certainly he is a smaller junior middleweight. I don’t really see that happening, but one never knows.
BoxingScene.com: What are some of the other possibilities?
Schaefer: I think there are other names out there. One thing that we've learned, whether it's with Ortiz or Guerrero or with Canelo - size and power is obviously not the key to solve the Mayweather puzzle. I don't think you can beat him like that. I think the only way to beat Floyd is to beat him at his own game. As the Mayweathers always say - skills pay the bills. I think we need to find somebody, from a skill level, who is close to Mayweather. There is nobody out there like Mayweather, but somebody who is close and somebody who has speed, who is fast or even faster than Floyd Mayweather. We have to see if there is somebody out there in those weight classes who would fit that profile.
One name that comes to mind is Amir Khan, who is a big event fighter and knows how to rise to the occasion. And another one, who certainly knows how to rise to the occasion, is Danny Garcia. He loves that underdog role more than anyone else and he knows how to perform at his best when he is in that underdog role. And he loves to prove everybody wrong. There are names out there, who I think would pose a different set of challenges to a Floyd Mayweather. At this point it’s' tough to argue, because Floyd Mayweather in any fight, no matter who he fights, will come in as the favorite because he is so good. He is a once in a generation, a once in a lifetime, and maybe he really is the best ever.
BoxingScene.com: There is another possibility out there, and your company handles his career. And that guy is Adrien Broner. He has the crossover appeal, he has the charisma to make fans love him or hate him, he has a world title at 147 and he has a very difficult style that would certainly give Mayweather a different look in the ring. In a few fights, provided the two of them keep winning, that could certainly become a very big fight. I know the two of them are friends and both have said that they would never fight each other, but do you think one of them will eventually budge on that position?
Schaefer: It's difficult to say anything, because one thing you do is never say never. I agree with you, Adrien Broner is a young, emerging star who can talk the talk and walk the walk. He is very charismatic, extremely skilled and always finds a way as well to win. We'll see. If that fight with Broner and Maidana happens, and Broner wins - it would be a huge win at welterweight.
Maybe down the road it could happen. At the end of the day, that's something that Floyd and Adrien would have to be on board with. They have a relationship and they are good friends, and I think Floyd looks at him as a little brother. But at the end of the day, Floyd and Adrien are both entertainers. And they both have a lot in common - not only from a style point of view but from a skill-set point of view. But they do know how to entertain, how to invoke emotions in people. I agree with you, if that fight would ever happen - it certainly would be a huge, huge fight.
They look at each other as brothers, but it's not like the Klitschkos who are actual brothers. That's why I'm saying right now it doesn't seem like it [would happen], but who knows what the future will hold. I hear the same things from Andre Ward and Bernard Hopkins. I think they are very close friends and they respect each other like brothers too. I know Andre looks up to Bernard and Bernard believes Andre, from a skill-set point of view and from a style point of view - that Andre Ward is the heir apparent to Hopkins. They mentioned, and publicly as well, they won't fight each other. But again who knows.
Just because you fight each other it doesn't mean that you need to be enemies. It’s about athletic competition, trying to win, and of course in the process making substantial amounts of money for your legacy, the legacy of your family, the legacy of your children and their children. We just have to see.
BoxingScene.com: Based on the business generated last Saturday night, is a Mayweather-Canelo rematch a possibility down the line? And based on the excitement of last year's fight, the option of a Miguel Cotto rematch is also there.
Schaefer: In a year or year and a half or so, I could see a potential rematch with Canelo. I don't think Canelo embarrassed himself, or his people, or anyone. He came to fight, he realized how slick and how skilled Floyd is. I don’t think this is the end for Canelo. On the contrary, the appeal that Canelo has and continues to have in Mexico, will get bigger.
Right after the [Mayweather] fight, the President of Mexico tweeted some very encouraging words to Canelo and his fans. This is not like 'hey we have to go back to the drawing board.' This is like 'hey this is an experience.' I know that Canelo will come away from that as a better fighter and he was darn good before. Do I see the potential for a rematch down the road....absolutely. Do I see a potential rematch with Miguel Cotto.....absolutely. As far as I could remember, Cotto was the only one who have Mayweather a bloody nose. Cotto came to fight.
Even a Victor Ortiz. I'm not saying his next fight, but if he makes some noise in the welterweight division with some significant wins and becomes welterweight champion again, which I have no doubt Victor will achieve - I think there is some unfinished business because some people feel that was a bit of suckerpunch and Victor was coming on strong. The storyline is there. Is there another chapter to be written? Maybe.
I think there are certainly different options and Floyd Mayweather will have to look through these different options, and then he is going to decide what he wants to do.