The money magazines say Floyd Mayweather Jr. is one of the world’s richest athletes. I say he’s one of the biggest frauds in the history of con-mankind. Would someone please explain how a fighter with one signature victory in the all-time category — Oscar De La Hoya, 2007 — walks away with at least $50 million for yet another predictable Vegas sham, suckering in a record 2.5 million pay-per-view customers who paid $64.95 apiece ($74.95 for hi-def) in what became boxing’s richest event ever at $200 million-plus in gross revenue? Actually, I can answer that.
And a lot of dumb, gullible saps swallow it whole.
Because Mayweather is the last major name left in an otherwise dead sport, he has been absurdly overhyped by a publicity engine linked to cable network Showtime, which apparently needs something to air when Hank Moody and Charlie Runkle aren’t doing blow with Atticus Fitch on “Californication.” That much, I get: Promoters are out to make money, and Showtime needs profits from its $200-million, six-fight deal with Stink Floyd. What I don’t get is why so many intelligent, well-adjusted consumers use their hard-earned disposable income on a one-man act who would provide a better show fighting himself in a mirror. And why so many high-profile corporate brands throw sponsorship millions at Mayweather, effectively feeding a monster whose occasional bouts barely merits our attention.
His record, now 45-0, reflects not his invincibility but a glaring dearth of credible competition in the ghost town that is today’s fight game. No one disputes Mayweather is the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of his day, but what day is it? I remember pummelings of Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton and others, but the fight everyone wanted — Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao — is the fight Mayweather seemingly didn’t want with his repeated demands that Pacquiao be tested for performance-enhancing drugs. As the years passed and both grew older, the buzz fizzled, and Mayweather resumed his solo exhibition tour by padding his record against so many sparring partners and tomato cans.
The public should see through the farce. Instead, it wants to believe the next Mayweather fight is the big one, the one everybody has been waiting for, prompting his slick promoters to bill his Saturday night date with Saul Alvarez as “The One.” All of which turned a nothing event into a presumed spectacle that not only triggered itchy PPV fingers, but sold out MGM’s Grand Garden Arena with a record gate of $20 million-plus, lured fans in 160 countries and packed closed-circuit houses and theaters nationwide. This is the Floyd “Money” Mayweather Economy at work.
“It’ll be more like $100 million,” he said of his take.
For what, exactly? After hanging out pre-fight in his dressing room with his friend, Justin Bieber, Mayweather treated a supposedly epic welterweight title bout with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as the joke it was. All you need to know: Alvarez’s face was redder than his red hair about five punches into the fight. The promoters had pumped him up as a great Mexican hope, but he landed only 22 percent of his punches and avoided a unanimous Mayweather decision only after one of the three judges, CJ Ross, scored the fight 114-114. I’d rail about the filth of fight judging, as analyst Teddy Atlas did, except it’s woefully repetitive to do that.
Tell me: Are people so hungry for sports that they’ll put blinders on, probably realizing this was a waste of money and time yet pushing the PPV button anyway? It’s a form of gambling — paying $74.95 in hopes a fight is a good one — when folks should know the house is going to win every time on Mayweather. It’s sad he has no foe to challenge him, but fight fans can’t force-feed the competition with the remote control. They should have sensed something was awry when De La Hoya, now a promoter via his Golden Boy Promotions, talked up Alvarez like a champion days before the fight — “It’s caught on so big because people strongly feel that Mayweather is going to get beat,” he said — only to slip away into alcohol rehab on fight’s eve.
For some reason, reputable media outlets buy into the slop. Wrote USA Today on Friday: “As sporting events go, especially `niche’ sporting events, it doesn’t get much bigger than `The One’ … The list of celebrities confirmed for the fight is proof that the interest is as high as for any boxing event in recent memory.” The writer listed them, of course, taking whatever the promoters fed them, true or otherwise: actors Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, Jon Voight and Don Cheadle; entertainers George Lopez, Heidi Klum and Bieber; hip-hop stars Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Sean “Diddy” Combs, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes; athletes Michael Phelps, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Julius Erving, Cain Velasquez and Gina Carano.
ESPN called it “a must-see fight,” saying, “Without Manny Pacquiao, this is the next biggest fight in boxing.”
And yet, the Mayweather camp keeps churning out the poo. When USA Today asked the fighter’s father if he’d ever seen anything like the fuss over his son, Floyd Sr. said, “No, never, not even in the days of Muhammad Ali.” On a scale of 10, with Ali buzz a 9 or 10, Mayweather buzz is a 4 and should be a 2.
Doesn’t matter. The fans flock and pay their TV fees anyway. Even media tough guys love “Money,” especially when they’re getting money to love him. Showtime’s Jim Rome, conveniently omitting that Mayweather spent two months in jail last year on a domestic conviction, warmly welcomed him to his Showtime show this summer — just after ripping Tiger Woods for being a bad human being.
If only all the PPV suckers had done their homework. Mayweather is in business with De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, whose chief executive is Richard Schaefer, a former Swiss banker. Golden Boy gave us Canelo Alvarez and made him sound like the second coming of Kid Gavilan. Then they told you this fight would be BIG, BIG, BIG, BIG.
When, in the end, you felt as small as your wallet.