Perhaps Floyd Mayweather isn’t as “Money” as we all thought.
The world’s pound-for-pound greatest boxer faced off against Robert Guerrero on Saturday night and did what he always does—dominated the competition. Mayweather won via unanimous decision, defeating the overmatched Guerrero 117-111 on all three judges’ scorecards.
The win brings Mayweather’s record to an astounding 44 fights without being beaten. It was a win that further cements the 36-year-old’s master's degree in pugilism and creates an even more interesting conversation about where he stands all-time.
Frankly, the bout went the way everyone thought it would. Guerrero started out strong, landing some solid power punches and making everyone in the crowd wonder what if this could be the fighter to finally take down Mayweather.
And then Mayweather figured Guerrero out, abjectly destroyed him for the fight’s second half and essentially toyed with his opponent. Mayweather was so in control that fans lamented him not knocking out the obviously finished Guerrero, with many at the MGM Grand leaving early or even booing.
Fans weren’t the only ones displeased with the result of Saturday night. If recent reports about the pay-per-view purchases for Mayweather-Guerrero are true, Showtime/CBS might just join in with the chorus of boos. According to ESPN’s Dan Rafael, two sources close to the situation said Mayweather-Guerrero did under one million pay-per-view buys:
No official PPV #'s yet for Floyd but 2 industry sources tell me they look bad (under 1M). We'll see. If true, heavy $$ losses for Showtime.— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) May 7, 2013
Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole had sources tell him the numbers were “well under” that coveted benchmark:
@danrafaelespn Well under 1m I've heard— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) May 7, 2013
Largely considered the most bankable name in the sport, Mayweather’s reputation as a salesman crashed to earth with violent force with this fight. As Rafael notes, Showtime needed quite a few more than a million buyers to break even on Saturday:
If Mayweather PPV indeed does under 1M that will mean heavy $$ losses for Showtime. My sources tell me break even was about 1.1 or 1.2M buys— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) May 7, 2013
Nevertheless, only some of that has to do with Mayweather itself.
There are plenty of reasons—all of which are logical—that this fight Speed Racer’d its way to box office dudville.
Guerrero, while well-respected in the boxing world, wasn’t a well-known name. He was arguably Mayweather’s lowest-profile opponent since Carlos Baldomir, which left little in the way of non-Money buys for this fight.
What’s more, the promotion was bizarre for such a high-profile matchup. There was no kickoff press conference due to the lengthy negotiation process, and once the promotion got underway, everything felt underwhelming.
It felt much like what Mayweather used to do with HBO—only on a far lesser scale. Grantland’s Jay Caspian Kang noted the proclivity of people calling Showtime’s All Access program “24/7 with Common.” Meanwhile, Rafael was particularly confused by the lack of promotion Mayweather did after landing such an enormous guaranteed contract for the fight:
Floyd, whose $ was guaranteed, did VERY little media. As someone in biz said to me 'his last impression wasn't supposed to be his 1st.'— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) May 7, 2013
Couple that with underwhelming numbers for his CBS documentary, Mayweather, and there was plenty of cause for concern even before the opening bell rang.
That being said, arguably the biggest looming reason Mayweather-Guerrero didn’t sell has less to do with either fighter than it does the rapid decline of Manny Pacquiao.
For about a half-decade, boxing has subsisted on two major prizefighters—Mayweather and Pacquiao. For that same half-decade, those two fighters have been able to rake in millions of dollars fighting lesser opponents all while teasing a possible bout between each other. Trash was talked, possible dates were discussed—and then nothing materialized.
The fight has become the bane of every hardcore boxing fan’s existence. Every fight gets compared in one way or another to Mayweather-Pacquiao—even ones not involving the two boxers—and it’s become one of the most over-covered non-events in sports.
Well, at least it was. While Mayweather was off dilly-dallying with a jail sentence during his customary year off, Pacquiao was out submarining the intrigue of a possible bout between the two.
First, it was his controversial loss to Timothy Bradley last June. Then came the killshot—a knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez in December that left mouths agape in the boxing world and the Internet aflutter with what classic picture to Photoshop Pacquiao into next.
Mayweather didn’t even have to get back into the ring before sitting alone atop boxing’s biggest throne. Pacquiao’s career was hanging on by a threat after the Marquez loss, something Mayweather was more than willing to throw in his rival’s face.
Here is what Mayweather said during a televised CBS Sports interview last month:
Manny Pacquiao has a lot of hurdles to get to Floyd Mayweather. He just got two back to back losses. I tried to make the fight happen. The only thing I was asking for was random blood and urine testing just to show the world that the sport of boxing is a clean sport.
Even after Saturday’s result, we already know the coveted fight won’t be happening in 2013. Pacquiao will fight Brandon Rios on Nov. 23, as tweeted by SportsCenter’s Twitter feed:
Manny Pacquiao will fight Brandon Rios November 23rd in Macau, China. It's Pacquiao's 1st fight since KO at hands of Juan Manuel Marquez.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 6, 2013
Nevertheless, we know that Showtime cannot afford to allow Mayweather to fight another Guerrero. Not with Mayweather having banked a guaranteed $32 million for Saturday night and having another five fights on his massive deal with Showtime.
The network will need someone with clout in the mainstream, a guy who can help recoup some of the losses suffered from Mayweather-Guerrero—or at least help them break even.
The answer for September could be Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. He’s arguably the most buzz-worthy up-and-comer in the sport right now, a 22-year-old who could present an interesting challenge for Mayweather.
But after Mayweather-Alvarez and Pacquiao-Rios? Anything is possible.
The desperation from both camps to get a deal done and capitalize on whatever buzz they have left should be palpable—especially with Showtime needing a big windfall now that Saturday's fight was such a failure.