Saturday, August 29, 2009

Like the Big Fights? Thank Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

When Floyd Mayweather, Jr. walked away from the sport of boxing in June of 2008 he did so while at the top of his game. He was the universally recognized number one pound-for-pound boxer on the planet. He was (and still is) undefeated with a record of 39-0, 25 KOs. He had won titles in five separate weight divisions and was number one at the box office. His May 2007 fight against Oscar De La Hoya shattered all of boxing's established pay-per-view records. His bout against Ricky Hatton later that year grossed millions here and in the United Kingdom.

At age 30, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. went out on top as the King of boxing. And now he's ready to return, “ reclaim my throne” he wrote on his Twitter page yesterday.

In the short time that Mayweather was away, several big fights came together involving Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito. All those fighters engaged in high-profile, money-making fights that allowed them to move up in the pound-for-pound rankings, win titles, and occupy the slots that Floyd once did.

Now that he is 22 days away from facing Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas, Mayweather and his team feel that those fighters should be thanking him for those fights and that it was because of his absence that they were able to flourish.

“When Floyd decided to retire, that is how the other guys came into prominence,” explains Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather's business affairs. “They need to be thanking Floyd because he's the one that made the opportunities for them to make their money. De La Hoya – Pacquiao would never have happened if Floyd didn't retire. The Pacquiao fight would never have happened for Ricky Hatton. But Floyd didn't mind, he was stepping down. But they should be thanking him for giving them the opportunity because he had them all boxed out.”

Would Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao have had their success if Mayweather had still been in the picture?

It's an interesting theory and there may be some truth to it. I'm not saying I necessarily agree with it, but one has to think that if Mayweather hadn't retired, that the boxing landscape would look much different than it does today.

“The press tries to downplay all of what Floyd did,” says Ellerbe. “Some of them are just idiots out there and they want to talk about another guy – another fighter – I don't even want to use his name. But we just deal with the facts and it's not a popularity contest.

“The facts are the revenue. Floyd's the first fighter ever to generate a quarter-billion dollars in revenue in one year. The two fights with De La Hoya and Hatton did that and that has never, ever been done before. In their last two fights they fought the same two opponents. Floyd generated twice as much revenue as the other guy did - and that’s a fact. That’s not me saying it, it’s a fact. HBO will confirm that remark and Mark Taffet (Senior VP Sports Operations & PPV) will confirm that Floyd is the first athlete ever to do that.”

While Mayweather's monetary success is indisputable, there isn't too much one can argue about when it comes to Mayweather's record in the ring, either. A certain segment of hardcore boxing fans often try to argue that Mayweather hasn't fought the toughest available competition. They believe that Mayweather has avoided Margarito, Cotto and Mosley and that he would never fight Paul Williams.

But Ellerbe counters those arguments by reiterating what Floyd told him when he decided to return to the fight game.

“When Floyd told me he was coming back he said, 'I want to fight in the biggest fights out there and we’ll line them up one-by-one and knock 'em down.'”

In his return, Mayweather will meet Juan Manuel Marquez on Sept. 19th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

It would seem certain that in this new world economy, if Mayweather is going to continue making the sort of money he has become accustomed to, that he will have no choice but to face the marquee names that now inhabit the welterweight division. Mayweather has not said what his plans may be after he meets Marquez, but the boxing world is craving for a superfight with Manny Pacquiao.

“There is no timetable,” Ellerbe said, on how long the now 32-year-old Mayweather may continue with his boxing career and who he could face in the future.

But one thing is clear, and that's the fact that the man who now goes by the nickname “Money” is all about the Benjamins. His rumored paycheck for the Marquez fight is a cool $15-million.

“He’s a very successful businessman,” says Ellerbe. “We’ve been able to use boxing as a platform to build his business portfolio to take the Mayweather brand to a whole other level. We’ve gotten the exposure on Dancing with the Stars and the WWE which has expanded his fan base to a whole other level. That's made it possible for him to become a mainstream superstar with more visibility. He’s a global superstar.

“Five thousand fans in England waited outside for ten hours just to get a sight of him. He’s been able to transcend the sport and establish himself. He has a short window of opportunity to be successful and to parlay boxing into being a mainstream superstar. But I feel he has established the business model for boxers of the future, elite fighters, to be in control of their business.”

Being Floyd Mayweather, Jr. means having a license to print money - in this case - his own.

To be in control of his own destiny, Mayweather purchased the remainder of his contract from his former promoter, Bob Arum in 2006. Since then, Ellerbe claims that Mayweather's career took a turn for the better and the $750,000 he paid Arum was the best money they could have ever spent.

“After he bought out his contract from Arum he became his own boss,” says Ellerbe. “In the three fights since he left Arum he has made almost sixty million dollars. He made more in those three fights than he did in his whole career. Floyd’s the only fighter active out there that’s in control of his own business. He gets one-hundred percent of his own money. Promoters and managers are not ripping him off. He’s the first fighter, him and Oscar De La Hoya, ever to do that.”

So now that Mayweather is back in the game, and as long as he gets by Marquez on Sept. 19th, there could be bigger paydays and bigger fights down the line for him against names like Pacquiao, Cotto, Margarito and Mosley.

And in the world according to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. - since all of those same fighters should have thanked him for retiring – his stance would be that they should all now be thanking him for unretiring, too.

August 2009

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