The Economics of 'Money'
Over the past twelve months, Floyd Mayweather Jr. (aka TBE aka TMT aka Money) has done the unthinkable - he has passed The Golden Boy (Oscar De La Hoya) in terms of economic value in the sport of boxing. Oscar De La Hoya was the box office star for the majority of his illustrious career, during a time that saw the Welterweight / Super-Welterweight / Junior-Middleweight weight classes overtake the Heavyweight division in terms of overall appeal. The 1999 De La Hoya - Trinidad showdown, to-this-day, is one fight that I will remember forever. There was an energy about that fight that seemed almost mythical - it was not only a clash of two undefeated champions, but it was also a clash of cultures - Trinidad was (and still is) Puerto Rico's favorite son. De La Hoya was a 'tweener' that straddled both his Mexican ancestry and American (East Los Angeles) upbringing.
However the fight, in-retrospect, was vastly overrated and neither fighter really ever overcame the disappointment of what transpired on that September night. De La Hoya dominated early and then ran, losing a close majority decision. De La Hoya went on to many big fights beating the likes of Vargas and Mayorga, but lost to Hopkins, Mayweather, Mosley (twice), and finally Pacquiao. Trinidad would be knocked out by Bernard Hopkins in late 2001 and was never really the same after that. The fight did an extraordinary 1.4M Pay-Per-View (PPV) buys but never saw a rematch in-large-part because the public didn't demand it.
Floyd Mayweather ironically built his early career in Bob Arum's Top Rank camp and largely in the shadows of De La Hoya. After splitting with Arum, Mayweather went off on his own and the rest is, as they say, is history. On September 14, 2013, Mayweather stepped into the ring with Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and made financial history. The 'Money' making by-the-numbers:
- 2.2M PPV buys generating $150 million
- Over 16,100 in attendance generating gate proceeds of $18.4 million
- Other revenue (foreign, closed circuit, merchandise) generating an additional $40.0 million
- Total revenue exceeding $200 million (Mayweather's take: Over $40 million)
The Mayweather - Alvarez fight was not the most exciting fight I've ever seen. It was ruled a split decision - the one judge who scored it a draw (C.J. Ross) was also the same moron who scored the first Pacquiao - Bradley fight in favor of Bradley. To the delight of everyone associated with the sport, she has since relinquished her license to judge boxing in Nevada. It was a good fight, but it wasn't a great fight - Mayweather even at age 36, was simply too fast for the 23 year-old Alvarez. To put it nicely, he made Alvarez (a seasoned champion in his own right) look like an amateur.
Whatever that September night lacked in boxing skill parity, it more than made up for in the spectacle that has become a Floyd Mayweather fight. Many other fighters, including the aforementioned De La Hoya, have had mainstream crossover appeal with the ability to draw celebrities and fans from all walks-of-life, but none have quite mastered it like 'Money'. The guy walks to the ring with Justin Bieber on one side and Lil Wayne on the other. He's done 'ring walks' with his Dancing of the Stars competitors before - Wayne Newton, Helio Castroneves, and Heidi Klum.
Mayweather talks a lot of smack and that turns off a lot of people. But, the guy who walked to the ring to fight Maidana earlier this month is very different than the guy who fought De La Hoya in May 2007. He sees boxing much more like a business today and much less like a playground. He uses his fights as a celebration of sport - a means of entertainment to satisfy fans. He has mastered the idea of sport as a delicate balance between art and war. To his credit, Mayweather lives a 'clean' life - he is a workout monster, doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, and certainly doesn't party like he used to. So while many others before him have flamed out long before the age of 37, he's still 'Money'.
- T.C. Schiller