Floyd Mayweather (left) defeated Robert Guerrero via unanimous decision on Showtime PPV. (Robert Beck/SI)
NEW YORK -- The Showtime boxing pay-per-view show headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Robert Guerrero last Saturday will surpass 1 million buys, Showtime Executive Vice President of Sports and Event Programming Stephen Espinoza told SI.com. Espinoza declined to give an exact figure but said “we’re very comfortable saying that the pay-per-view buys for Mayweather-Guerrero will definitely exceed 1 million.”
Twitter was abuzz this week with rumors that early Mayweather-Guerrero numbers indicated the show would finish under a million. Considering the investment Showtime made in Mayweather -- signing him to a six-fight deal that could be worth in excess of $200 million -- such a number would be disastrous. Espinoza declined to say how many buys over a million the event did, but declared it “a major win.”
“What this does is [it] reconfirms Floyd’s status as the top pay-per-view draw in boxing,” Espinoza said. “Really in all of sports. To do this kind of number without the benefit of a well-known opponent speaks very strongly for his continued drawing power. We look at Robert, and he was very game, he has proven he was among the top of the division. But he is not well known to the general public. His awareness as far as the pay per view goes is still low. To do this number without a well-known opponent established is great.”
One rumor circulating was that Showtime, because of the $32 million Mayweather was guaranteed, needed a big number just to break even, reportedly between 1.1 and 1.3 million. Espinoza called the reports “absolutely untrue.”
“It’s inaccurate,” Espinoza said. “We have talked about it before internally and we agreed that we are not going to go into details of the deal. I can say generally though that there are a lot of mischaracterizations going around. Rumors of financial demise are greatly exaggerated.”
Still, the success of Mayweather-Guerrero may not be a sign of things to come. It’s likely a large number of people bought the pay-per-view to see if Mayweather, at 36 and coming off a one-year layoff that included a two month stint in prison, had lost a step. Mayweather is among the most polarizing athletes in sports, with as many pay-per-view buyers watching to see him lose as there are to see him win. The ease with which Mayweather defeated Guerrero could turn many of those buyers away in the future.
“It is a challenge,” Espinoza admitted. “There is a challenge here when you have someone as skilled as Floyd is, someone who is able to neutralize an opponent as much as he often does, it can become monotonous. There has always been a significant portion of the audience that wants to see him lose. More people will appreciate his skill level when he retires. I wish there was more appreciation for his skill level now while we have him.”
Of course, the buy rate for Mayweather-Guerrero would be boosted by more cooperative fighters. There was no press conference to announce the fight, a shock when you consider that virtually all fights on that level would include a multi-city press tour. Guerrero was largely useless, effectively shutting down after being arrested for gun possession in March. Mayweather, uninterested in delving too deep into his time in jail and problems with the law, repeatedly declined extended interviews before the fight. And viewership for Showtime’s All-Access show struggled compared to HBO’s 24/7 series (box), which has the benefit of a larger subscriber base (29 million to 22 million for Showtime).
“The argument made was because there was a large guarantee, Floyd wasn’t as motivated [to promote the fight] and that assumed something that wasn’t established,” Espinoza said. “That was attributing motives to Floyd that may or may not be there. I think Floyd put forth a tremendous effort, particularly in social media and other non-traditional stuff that we did. He flew across country to do a couple of days of publicity at the Final Four. Some writers out there were upset at not getting the access that they desired. Floyd took this camp very seriously. His priority was being in camp. Some of the media access might have been sacrificed.”
Of course, one way to guarantee financial success in the future is the opponent. Junior middleweight titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is considered one of the biggest stars in boxing after Mayweather, and certainly one of its most popular. His last fight, against Austin Trout in San Antonio, drew 40,000 fans. Mayweather has yet to say who he will face in September but it’s clear Canelo would generate the most revenue.
“We are actively involved in those discussions,” Espinoza said. “It’s my understanding that everybody involved from Mayweather, to Canelo, to Golden Boy, to Showtime, wants that fight to happen. It’s still a deal that has to get done. The talks are underway and the most positive thing I can say about the prospects of that happening is that everybody wants that fight. It’s not about convincing one side to take the fight. We are past that point. I am cautiously optimistic that it will happen.”
-- Chris Mannix