With the competing interests of promoters, managers, trainers, television networks, venues, state athletic commissions and sanctioning bodies, not to mention the fighters themselves, its no wonder some of the biggest fights in history were never made. “Sugar” Ray Leonard never faced “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler for a much anticipated rematch. Riddick Bowe would not agree to face former amateur rival Lennox Lewis in a battle of young unbeaten heavyweight titlists. Felix “Tito” Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya could not come to terms on a much hyped rematch even though their first fight broke then pay per view records for non-heavyweight bouts. The most recent example, of course, is the failure of all parties involved to consummate a mega fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
So it is somewhat of a surprise to many in the sports world (including this author), that it was announced yesterday, first by Mayweather himself on twitter, that contracts have been signed and Mayweather (44-0) will meet Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0-1) on September 14, 2013 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Financial terms of the agreement were not released. The fight will take place in the junior middleweight division but, at Mayweather’s request, will have a maximum contract weight of 152 pounds which is two pounds less than the junior middleweight limit. There will be no other restrictions on weight so the fighters will be free to re-hydrate as heavy as they would like for the fight. At stake in the bout will be Mayweather’s WBA “super” junior middleweight title and Canelo’s WBC, WBA “regular” and Ring Magazine junior middleweight titles. As the bout will be contested above the welterweight limit of 147 pounds, Mayweather’s WBC and Ring Magazine welterweight championship will not be on the line.
The fight will air on Showtime Pay Per View in the United States and is expected to do much better business than Mayweather’s May bout against Robert Guerrero (the head of Showtime Sports, Stephen Espinoza has said the goal for Mayweather-Canelo should be breaking the all-time pay per view mark of 2.5 million buys held by Mayweather-De La Hoya). Showtime announced that the May event sold over one million pay per view buys but numerous credible boxing writers, including Dan Rafael of ESPN, cite industry sources that the actual amount sold is “around 870,000 to 900,000.” The performance of that pay per view and the possibility that it was not profitable for Showtime and/or Golden Boy Promotions led many to believe that those entities pushed very hard for this fight to be agreed to. Showtime, which has five fights remaining in an exclusive contract reportedly worth $200 million with Mayweather, and Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Canelo and has worked with Mayweather since his May 2007 bout with De La Hoya, both previously announced that it was their main priority to have Mayweather and Canelo face off in September. As such, much of the credit for getting the fight to contract should go to Richard Schaefer, the chief executive of Golden Boy.
That said, a lot of credit should be given to the fighters themselves for agreeing to the fight. Both are big stars and could have fought other fights, including against potentially overmatched foes, for large purses. In particular, Mayweather’s Showtime deal guarantees him a certain minimum (thought to be around $30 million) no matter who he fights so he did not have to agree to face a younger and bigger opponent. Canelo, superstar in Mexico and growing star in the United States, also had other options and the 22 year old did not have to risk his undefeated record against boxing’s best defensive fighter.
Many have said that this fight is the biggest that can be made in boxing right now. Indeed, it is big enough that Bob Arum’s Top Rank has moved the Juan Manuel Marquez – Timothy Bradley fight off of the September 14, 2013 date to October 12, 2013. While Espinoza has speculated that the fight could do over 2.5 million buys, that remains to be seen. Working against breaking the record is that while Canelo is a superstar in Mexico, he is not well known by the general public in the United States and does not speak fluent English. Additionally, promotional materials, such as the “All Access” reality show, will be aired on Showtime as opposed to HBO which has many more subscribers. Boxing fans will also be faced with a financial issue; the months of September, October and November will each have a major pay per view event with Mayweather-Canelo, Marquez-Bradley and Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios respectively. Although Mayweather-Canelo is obviously the biggest event, it will be interesting to see if the quick succession of pay per views has any impact on the bottom line.
An interesting side effect of the finalization of Mayweather-Canelo is that other fights will likely fall into place now. Most notably, WBC and WBA junior welterweight titlist Danny Garcia has no viable opponent for a big fight other than WBC interim junior welterweight titlist Lucas Matthysse. That fight, which should be an excellent one, is being penciled in for September 7, 2013 on Showtime and the network must be intrigued at using such an excellent fight as a way to promote the Mayweather-Canelo bout. In addition to that fight, Amir Khan will now likely step up to welterweight to challenge Devon Alexander for his IBF welterweight title. The winner of both of those potential fights will position themselves very well to challenge the winner of Mayweather-Canelo, especially if Mayweather wins.
One final note, the sports book at the Las Vegas Hilton listed Mayweather as a -250 favorite and will give you +210 on Canelo. This is notable because these are the closest odds for a Mayweather fight since the De La Hoya bout (numbers which were skewed because of De La Hoya’s popularity) six years ago and possibly since Mayweather fought Diego Corrales in 2001. This is a sign that Canelo’s challenge to Mayweather is a serious one and that could fuel the promotion to being incredibly successful. It will also be interesting to see how the line moves especially as Mexican fans descend on Las Vegas for the fight and Mexican Independence Day. Stated otherwise, these may be the best odds you can (or will ever get) get for a Mayweather win.