Floyd Mayweather Surprises Boxing World By Leaving HBO For Six-Fight Showtime Deal
Boxer Floyd Mayweather “rejected a multi-fight deal from longtime television partner HBO to sign with archrival Showtime,” according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. The first bout under the terms of the six-fight deal “will be on May 4 in Las Vegas on Showtime pay-per-view against Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand Garden.” Terms of the deal were not available, but Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe said the deal Showtime offered, "from top to bottom, was substantially better than what we received from HBO.” Iole noted the deal is “a coup" for Showtime Sports Exec VP & GM Stephen Espinoza and a "body blow to HBO.” Mayweather had been with HBO “from the beginning of his career,” and he has “averaged over 1 million pay-per-view sales per fight over the last six years.” Ellerbe said that Mayweather "had been loyal to HBO, but suggested that HBO may have been taking its star for granted.” Though Top Rank “took Manny Pacquiao from HBO to Showtime for a 2011 fight with Shane Mosley, this is the biggest defection from HBO since former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson bolted for Showtime in 1990” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/19). On Long Island, Marcus Henry notes former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg "was let go after Manny Pacquiao left HBO for Showtime for one fight." That "doesn't mean" HBO Sports President Ken Hershman is "in any trouble, but he'll probably take some heat for Mayweather jumping ship" (NEWSDAY, 2/20).
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CBS TIES: BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Tim Baysinger noted Showtime parent company CBS will allow Mayweather "to hold six fights on Showtime PPV over the next 30 months.” Showtime PPV will “collaborate with CBS Corp. to promote Mayweather's events on the CBS TV network and via the corporation's other media platforms” (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 2/19). Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer indicated that the promotion for Mayweather-Guerrero “could include a nationally televised press conference on CBS, extensive promotion during the NCAA tournament and appearances by Guerrero on one or more of CBS's morning shows, in addition to regular ‘All Access’ episodes, Showtime's version” of HBO's “24/7.” Espinoza said that he “expects cameras to be on Mayweather within the next 24 hours” (SI.com, 2/19). Schaefer said, "This will redefine the way boxing press conferences are done." He added, “We are looking at putting together a press conference similar to the way you see a presidential debate -- a moderator, a live audience and journalists can submit questions that will then be read and it will televised nationwide on CBS" (ESPN.com, 2/19).
SURPRISING MOVE: SI.com’s Chris Mannix wrote, "It was no secret that representatives for Mayweather were negotiating with executives at both HBO and Showtime.” While Showtime has “built a strong relationship with shadowy advisor Al Haymon and Golden Boy" since the hiring of Espinoza in November '11, few “expected Mayweather to turn his back on HBO.” Sources said that Mayweather “sought massive guaranteed money from the networks.” The loss of Mayweather is “a body blow for HBO, which has been at war with Showtime since Ken Hershman left the network for HBO in 2011.” But it is “hardly a death sentence.” HBO still has Pacquiao, Andre Ward, Sergio Martinez, Nonito Donaire, Gennady Golovkin and Brandon Rios, among others, "in the rotation.” But with Mayweather gone, HBO “has a decision to make: What to do with Haymon and Golden Boy fighters?” (SI.com, 2/19). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ryan Maquinana noted Schaefer, who “promotes Guerrero, and Mayweather’s adviser Al Haymon have a strong working relationship” with Espinoza. Almost “all of Showtime Championship Boxing’s main events over the past 12 months … have included a Golden Boy or Al Haymon-backed fighter.” Further strengthening ties is “the fact that Espinoza served as lead counsel for Golden Boy before moving to his new post in November of last year” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 2/19).
ARUM HAS LEVERAGE WITH HBO: YAHOO SPORTS’ Iole writes the deal “hardly puts HBO out of business, as some have suggested in the immediate aftermath of Mayweather's announcement.” The downside for HBO is that its “biggest source of talent now is Top Rank,” and Top Rank Chair Bob Arum has “always been difficult to appease.” Arum now has “plenty of leverage with HBO, and all of his fighters are on fight-to-fight contracts.” The significance of that is “he can move any of them over to Showtime at the first sign of any trouble with HBO.” Arum has had a “strong working relationship with HBO's new leadership team, particularly HBO CEO Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo, the president of HBO programming, and that has to help HBO's cause.” Still, the knowledge that their boxing business “now depends so heavily upon the mercurial Arum has to make HBO executives more than a little nervous.” HBO could “get burned if it loses Adrien Broner, whom it has been grooming as Mayweather's potential successor the last two years.” Though Schaefer yesterday said that he is “willing to negotiate a long-term deal with HBO for Broner's services, moving him to Showtime would essentially make Schaefer's job easier in that he'd be able to plan long-term better knowing all of his key athletes would then be with Showtime.” Iole notes Mayweather's deal is “essentially a pay-per-view deal." But Espinoza said Showtime could "get creative" and have a Mayweather fight on CBS (YAHOO.SPORTS.com, 2/20).
WILL FLOYD STILL BE MUST-SEE TV? USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes Mayweather is “definitely helping his brand in at least one sense by going with the CBS-owned Showtime, given that his fights now can be promoted on the CBS broadcast network.” But Hiestand wonders, “How marketable will Mayweather’s fights be?” Without other “obvious stars in his weight division, Mayweather might not get obviously marquee matchups” (USA TODAY, 2/20). In New Jersey, Keith Idec notes while Mayweather’s switch to Showtime “definitely damages HBO’s boxing brand, it would’ve been worse if Mayweather were in the prime of his career.” The move “shouldn’t impact fight fans all that much.” It will “still cost an additional $60 to $70 to watch Mayweather fight, no matter which cable company produces the telecast” (Bergen RECORD, 2/20).