Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: February 21, 7:14 PM ET
Floyd Mayweather inks new PPV deal
By Dan Rafael
Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. made two announcements on Tuesday, one expected and another rather surprising one that will change the landscape of the boxing business.
The expected: Mayweather will return to the ring on May 4 -- one day short of a year since his last fight -- to defend his welterweight world title against interim titlist Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where Mayweather will be fighting for the seventh consecutive time.
Since Mayweather first announced in December that he would fight on May 4, Guerrero was the leading candidate to get the fight.
The unexpected element of Mayweather's announcement: He is leaving HBO/Time Warner, his television home for virtually his entire career, to move to rival Showtime/CBS for the pay-per-view fight.
But Mayweather is not just going to Showtime PPV for one fight, like Manny Pacquiao did when Top Rank promoter Bob Arum took him from HBO to Showtime to face Shane Mosley in a 2011 pay-per-view fight. Arum ultimately brought Pacquiao back after HBO Sports' Ross Greenburg was forced to resign, in large part for losing Pacquiao to Showtime.
Ken Hershman, who left as head of Showtime Sports to replace Greenburg as HBO Sports president, wound up losing Mayweather long term.
Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs), the five-division champion who turns 36 on Sunday, signed a six-fight, 30-month deal with Showtime/CBS, effectively ending his career at HBO.
"Floyd has signed a record-breaking deal with Showtime PPV/CBS, and Floyd is ecstatic," Leonard Ellerbe, one of Mayweather's top advisers, told ESPN.com. "This historic deal reflects a global superstar who is head and shoulders above his peers. HBO, they made a great offer, but the Showtime PPV/CBS offer was substantially greater in every facet, from top to bottom.
"So bottom line, HBO was outgunned. They came to a gun fight with a knife. At the end of the day, it's business. Floyd has had a fantastic relationship over the last (16) years with HBO but he's moving on. He made the decision based on what was best for him and his family. Showtime/CBS really stepped up and made it crystal clear that they wanted Floyd Mayweather. This is a tremendous platform, and Floyd's looking forward to putting his talents in front of a much larger worldwide audience."
Ellerbe said the details of the deal were confidential but that Mayweather had every intention of fighting all six bouts under the deal.
"The first fight is Guerrero, 'The Ghost,' the boogey man," Ellerbe said. "Floyd's going to line all these guys up and he's going to whup their asses one by one."
Showtime Sports general manager Stephen Espinoza had hoped to sign Mayweather before his last fight and lost out to HBO. This time, he got his man after weeks of tough negotiations.
"It was a very detailed process," Espinoza told ESPN.com. "We put forth a very aggressive offer, and I know Floyd spent a lot of time with (adviser) Al Haymon poring over the details. Ultimately, I was able to bring a lot of the (Showtime and CBS) assets to the table, and with so many of our platforms stepping forward to support it, this was a deal he couldn't refuse."
The fight will receive heavy promotion on various CBS outlets, including during the NCAA tournament and Final Four.
Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer, who promotes Guerrero and has promoted all of Mayweather's fights since 2007 on a fight-by-fight basis, told ESPN.com that the kickoff news conference for the fight, which hasn't been scheduled yet, will be nationally televised on CBS on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, when the network televises most of its sports fare.
"This will redefine the way boxing press conferences are done," Schaefer said. "The traveling to different cities maybe was the most effective thing at a time when you had in each city a half dozen writers. Now it's driven by different platforms and 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."
Junior middleweight titleholder Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs), the 22-year-old Mexican star and a big draw for the card on Cinco de Mayo weekend, is expected to fight on the undercard, possibly in a unification fight with Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KOs), who upset Miguel Cotto in a December title defense.
But Schaefer said that deal is not done.
"First we needed to get (Mayweather-Guerrero and the TV deal) done and now, within the next 24 or 48 hours, I am trying to see if in fact we can get a fight done between Canelo and Trout," he said. "It is not done, it is not signed. There are other possibilities we are looking at for Canelo.
"But as I have said all along, we have every intention to have Canelo fight on this card. As for the matchup, that is my next task."
Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs), 29, of Gilroy, Calif., has won titles at featherweight and junior lightweight plus interim belts at lightweight and welterweight. He is a southpaw in his prime and coming off his two most significant victories, both coming last year after skipping over the junior welterweight division and moving into the 147-pound welterweight division.
Guerrero was out of action for 15 months because of a serious shoulder injury that required surgery on his rotator cuff. But he returned in July to hand top-10 welterweight contender Selcuk Aydin his first defeat in a clear decision to win a vacant interim belt.
Guerrero made an even bigger statement in November by punishing former welterweight titlist Andre Berto in an explosive fight. He dropped Berto twice, beat him up and won a unanimous decision, paving the way for him to get the fight with Mayweather that he had been campaigning for.
"I think it's a fantastic matchup. Robert is one tough competitor," Schaefer said. "He hasn't lost (since 2006) and that loss was to a fighter (Orlando Salido in a featherweight title fight) who tested positive for steroids after the fight (and the decision was changed to a no contest). He's a multiple-weight world champion. He actively campaigned for this fight, and a lot of media people say he has earned the fight if you look at what he's done in the last 12 months.
"He's young, he's been active, he's coming off the biggest wins of his career and he showed he is a real welterweight against Berto and Aydin. This is a hell of a challenge for Floyd, and Robert as well. At 147, he is the most dangerous opponent Floyd could have picked, end of story."
Said Ellerbe: "Guerrero thinks he's a badass and come May 4, Floyd is going to show him why he is the top dog and why he's been world champion for 15 years."
With Showtime signing Mayweather long-term, it shifts the power of the boxing business from HBO to Showtime after decades of HBO dominance.
Mayweather made his first appearance on HBO in 1997 (in his 10th pro fight) and has been a network cornerstone since, including having nine of his 10 fights on HBO PPV and generating hundreds of millions of dollars. Now he's going to the archrival.
Hershman was informed of Mayweather's decision on Tuesday morning. The network tried to sign Mayweather but was rebuffed.
"We made an aggressive and responsible pay-per-view offer," HBO said in a statement given to ESPN.com. "Now we move on. We are focused on the best boxing franchise in the television business. We are proud of the roster of superstar fighters and emerging stars who are scheduled to appear on the multiple HBO television platforms this year."
Mayweather, the world's highest-paid athlete according to Forbes magazine, will be fighting for first time since outpointing Cotto to win a version of the junior middleweight title for the second time last May.
A month after the fight, Mayweather reported to county jail in Las Vegas, where he was incarcerated for two months following a domestic abuse conviction.
Cotto hit Mayweather more than he had been tagged in years, and it remains to be seen if Mayweather will still be the same following that physical fight and a jail term, especially against a young, hungry Guerrero.
"Robert can box, he can punch, he has a chin," Schaefer said. "He has a hell of a chance to win this fight. When you look at Floyd Mayweather, he's the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He's the most skilled fighter out there, but at the same time he's getting older and hasn't fought for a year. Not fighting for a year when you are in your 20s is one thing, but in your 30s, fighting once a year is not the best setup.
"His body went through a grueling fight with Cotto, and he was in jail. Who knows what all that has done to him? There are a lot of interesting aspects which make this fight high-stakes."