What a difference a year makes
LAS VEGAS -- A year ago, the idea of this would have seemed preposterous: Rapper 50 Cent, a longtime friend and associate of Floyd Mayweather, shaking hands and smiling with Bob Arum, sharing a dais as a co-promoter of a Manny Pacquiao-headlined show.
"I really couldn't have [envisioned] this," 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, said on Thursday.
How did he get here? Last summer, 50 had a public split with Mayweather, a dispute that was over money Mayweather owed him for his half of TMT Promotions, a boxing promotional company that 50 Cent started while Mayweather was imprisoned after pleading guilty to a domestic violence charge.
In Mayweather's absence, 50 received a promoters' license in New York and began the process of applying for one in Nevada. He signed super featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa, featherweight Billy Dib and super middleweight Andre Dirrell, investments that cost the hip hop mogul $1.5 million.
Yet when Mayweather was released, the relationship crumbled when Mayweather refused to pay. Mayweather and 50 parted ways and engaged in a Twitter war of words that was broadcast out to their combined 11.3 million followers.
Without Mayweather, 50 Cent has continued to pursue boxing promotions. He changed TMT Promotions to SMS Promotions -- a nod to the audio company 50 founded -- and on Saturday night will walk to the ring with Gamboa, who will face Michael Farenas for an interim 130-pound title on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao's fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez (HBO PPV, 9 p.m.).
50 Cent said even while he was friendly with Mayweather, he wanted to work with Arum, who he got to know at a party following the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight in September.
"Even from the beginning of TMT, I immediately opened the lines of communication with Bob because how do you not do business with Top Rank?" 50 said. "Look at the top fighters right now, the fighters you really want to see in action and what they have in common is Top Rank."
After being on the outskirts of Mayweather's promotions, 50 Cent says he has enjoyed being part of the promotion process with Gamboa.
"It's a different experience because I wasn't involved in the mechanics of Floyd's fights," 50 said. "I was just there as a participant. The process is completely different when you are responsible for all of the moving parts of the promotion, as opposed to being on the outside enjoying the activities."
"They [Mayweather and Top Rank] both put on great shows. There is a little more production value to the [Top Rank] show, in the things they do to change the actual experience. It makes me excited to be a part of it."
Arum says 50's presence will help Hispanic fighters tap into urban markets. Arum told SI.com the early pay per view numbers for Pacquiao-Marquez IV were stronger than the early numbers for Pacquiao's fight with Timothy Bradley in Hispanic markets, but weaker in urban markets.
"He has the ability that we don't have to reach out and attract the urban audience," Arum said. "Now, it probably won't happen for this fight. But if he can attract them and bring them to boxing, he has really raised the level of our audience."
Asked if 50's relationship with Mayweather was an incentive to work with him, Arum was succinct.
"It's how I heard of him," Arum said. "I mean, where the f--- would I hear about 50 Cent?" -- Chris Mannix