Split-T Management head David McWater is stuck in hardball negotiations with Top Rank to make the lightweight unification match between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez a possibility.
At the moment, an Oct. 3 fight that once seemed to be a formality is trending toward falling apart due to Lopez balking at the $1.25 million purse he was offered, just as Lomachenko agreed to a deal to pull in excess of $3.5 million.
Team Lopez signed off on the Lomachenko fight immediately after the Brooklyn-bred boxer demolished Richard Commey in two rounds in December. But once Top Rank came back with an offer for the first time last week, the brakes were immediately pumped.
“They never gave us a [financial] number before the pandemic. Never once. They never discussed it for this fight — period — no matter how much I asked until July 28, and you can bet I’ve asked hundreds of times over the course of the year,” McWater told BoxingScene.com in a recent interview.
“I’d be hard-pressed to describe negotiations. I haven’t heard from Top Rank in over a week. They are talking to the press instead of me. Top Rank knows where I am. They can call me 24 hours a day. There’s been very little effort from their side to get it done. We’re hoping ESPN, or somebody, rides up in a white hat and makes this fight happen. The total pot seems to be $4.7 million, and we’re going to need more than what they are offering us. We’ve been open and fair about this, and will continue to be fair. I just hope that is reciprocated.”
McWater said he doesn’t believe he’s asking for the moon, and he doesn’t even deem the fight needs to be a 50-50 pay split.
“We think that [Lomachenko] probably deserves more money, but not three times as much. We’re hoping that there is enough impetus to get this fight done, and Top Rank will come back and talk to us,” he said. “It’s sunshine and rainbows for [Lomachenko]. They offered an appropriate amount of money and he accepted in five minutes. Unfortunately, it didn’t leave any money for us.”
McWater understands the trickle effect of the coronavirus-created pandemic and doesn’t believe Top Rank is entirely using the impact it’s had on the sport’s economics as a crutch.
“Everyone is losing a lot of money, but guys are still getting good purses in the Las Vegas Bubble for much lesser fights,” said McWater. “If it’s one of the most anticipated fights of the year, why are we being offered [barely more than previous Lomachenko opponents]? It just doesn’t seem right.”
McWater strongly believes Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) should well exceed the $1.25 million that is on the table, especially since Top Rank opened up the coffers and paid Shakur Stevenson a minimum of $400,000 for his gross mismatch and win over Felix Caraballo in June in their first show back during the pandemic.
In previous fights in which the minimum purses were reported, Lomachenko opponents like Jorge Linares made $1.2 million, Jose Pedraza earned $1 million, Guillermo Rigondeaux cashed in for $400,000, Jason Sosa clocked in at $350,000, Anthony Crolla and Nicholas Walters each took home $300,000 and Miguel Marriaga made $50,000.
Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs), a three-division champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, consistently makes more than seven figures over the last three years, and his $3.5 million payday would be a career high.
In the meantime, Lomachenko, the WBO and WBA titlist, and Lopez, the IBF crownholder, appear to be headed in different directions.
Lomachenko manager Egis Klimas told BoxingScene.com on Thursday that they will focus on Felix Verdejo (27-1, 17 KOs) as a potential next opponent for an 2012 Olympics rematch if Lopez slips their grasp.
McWater told Top Rank that if they don’t come back with a better offer, they want to move forward with a voluntary defense of the IBF title.
“We explained to them we have no gate [revenue], no closed-circuit [revenue],” Top Rank boss Arum told ESPN on Tuesday. “I mean, we’re willing to pay [Lopez] a big price, but again, I’m not going to lose millions of dollars on an event because he thinks he’s worth more … If we don't make a deal with him, we'll move off. But I'm optimistic still that we'll come to terms."
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.