Last Saturday, Floyd Mayweather made $25 million for stepping into the ring to face Oscar De La Hoya’s young fighter, Victor Ortiz. (Mayweather will probably end up with much more than that by the time it’s all said and done.) Ortiz made about 10% of that, which is meaningful. It’s not meaningful because of whether or not it’s a lot of money (not much compared to Mayweather, but a ton compared to most everyone reading). It’s meaningful because in the whole scheme of things, it’s part of why Floyd Mayweather doesn’t have to fight Manny Pacquiao.
If Floyd Mayweather can swing deals that would allow him to rake in 90% or more of the total purse whenever he fights, he doesn’t need to risk what makes him boxing’s biggest draw. In Eric Raskin’s historical Grantland piece on the Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler fight from 1987, there’s a quote uttered by Seth Abraham, former president of HBO Sports about one of the differences between Leonard and Hagler. He described Hagler as someone who cared about his legacy more than his money.
He (Hagler) was a boxer-businessman. Ray was a businessman-boxer.
It’s also great way to describe Mayweather. Mayweather is far more concerned with continuing to be boxing’s biggest draw than he is to prove to people that he can beat Manny Pacquiao. In his mind, he’s already boxing’s best fighter, so there’s no real reason to risk it all in a fight with Manny Pacquiao. What would he prove winning that fight? Actually, I don’t believe it’s that simple. Let me explain.
Floyd Mayweather is one of the biggest PPV draws in the history of boxing. But he didn’t become that until just four years ago. After putting what Mayweather would describe as a boxing clinic on Carlos Baldomir, he faced boxing’s true golden boy, Oscar De La Hoya in what is still boxing’s biggest money fight ever. HBO brilliantly decided that this fight was worthy of a new hype series titled 24/7. Cameras would follow both fighters in their training routine, but also around their personal life, shooting video during the week and quickly cutting it for the TV show so you’d get the latest information on each fighter. During that series, Mayweather understood that the way he was going to make this fight most interesting was to wear the black hat. It was simple, smart marketing.
De La Hoya is one of the most beloved boxers when it comes to mass appeal. He was able to bring in casual, non-boxing fans because people saw him as a star. Mayweather jumped on De La Hoya’s coattails. While De La Hoya was the true draw, Mayweather’s trash talking and bad boy antics took the interest over the top. And it didn’t hurt that he had the credentials to back it up. Many people were watching Mayweather for the first time ever and they saw a guy who was simply the better fighter. While De La Hoya wasn’t in his prime any longer, there was a clear separation of class between the two fighters.
At this point in his career, with the exposure gained from beating the Golden Boy, Mayweather was now getting his due from the general sports fan even though most boxing fans already had him pegged as one of the best fighters in the game. And this is the dream situation for any fighter. You’ve paid your dues and now you’re reaping on the benefits of all the hard work. Mayweather was still undefeated after beating De La Hoya and to him, that was more important than anything else. As long as he had that 0 in his loss column, the sport would see him as the best fighter and pay to see him.
After beating Ricky Hatton, he retired for nearly two years before fighting and nearly shutting out a much smaller Juan Manuel Marquez. He then nearly pitched another shutout against Shane Mosley. That lead him to this fight with Ortiz. Ortiz is the type of fighter who can be a scary opponent for someone trying to protect their draw like Mayweather. He’s young, left-handed with fast hands and power in both of them. But to Mayweather, he was just someone with holes in his game. Mayweather dominated the four round fight before Ortiz decided to blatantly head-butt him while being caught up in the moment. After being docked a point, Ortiz decided that he needed to apologize in an over-the-top manner, as if to tell everyone watching that he made a huge mistake. But in the boxing game, there is no forgiveness. After the referee called for them to fight again, Ortiz decided that he still needed to hug Mayweather. Mayweather decided that he was done hugging and knocked Ortiz out with a left hook-straight right combination. And yes, it was all legal. It wasn’t sporting, but it was legal.
It wasn’t the most valiant way for Mayweather to win and he really didn’t need to do that as more than likely, he was well on his way to beating Ortiz up. But as someone once said, controversy creates cash. Without the head-butt/sucker-punch antics, people wouldn’t have been talking about the fight several days later like they did. Mayweather’s name was back on top of the sports world for the day.
Now, back to a possible fight with Pacquiao. Mayweather cares deeply about the 0 in his loss column. The key to Mayweather’s drawing power is that 0. If he loses it, his drawing power diminishes. He cares about being a businessman-boxer rather than being a boxer-businessman. And he also believes Pacquiao takes performances enhancing drugs. Is Mayweather far more scared to see his first loss than he is concerned that Manny Pacquiao takes steroids? Maybe. But it doesn’t take away the fact that he doesn’t believe Pacquiao is clean.
When negotiations first started for the fight, it seemed like it was a done deal as long as Team Pacquiao agreed to Olympic style drug testing. Regular state commissioned drug testing is pretty easy for dirty fighters to beat. Taking performance enhancing drugs is all about science and math. If the state athletic commission drug tests one week before the fight, you simply have to make sure whatever you are taking is out of your system a few days before that test. With Olympic style drug testing, it’s much more random and rather than just administrating urine tests, WADA, the outside testing organization, also administers blood tests, which are more effective. But Team Pacquiao didn’t want blood drawn initially and then didn’t want to be tested up to two weeks before the fight. Anyone with half a brain raised a side-eye to that excuse.
If Mayweather didn’t always play the bad guy, fans would applaud his commitment to making sure that his fights were clean. Olympic style drug testing was administered for his last two fights with Mosley and Ortiz. While Pacquiao’s team has stated that they’ll take the drug tests, Mayweather doesn’t believe them. Chris Mannix wrote about Mayweather’s concern and by the tone of the article, he doesn’t seem to believe him.
He wants to take the test but for a whole month he doesn’t want to take the test. He wants to take the test but he wants to be notified when the people are coming. This sh– will drive you up the wall. He really don’t want to fight. They are tricking you all. How do you think he got this big? By being connected to my name. Arum says he is an alltime great. For what? For beating my leftovers? Antonio Margarito had just gotten beat by Mosley when he fought Margarito. Mosley just got beat by me when he fought Mosley. Margarito beat Cotto with a cast, then he goes and fights Miguel Cotto. He hasn’t done anything.
I don’t know if Pacquiao is taking anything. And before I get some flack for being a Mayweather guy rather than a Pacquiao guy, I love both fighters. But just for the sake of the argument, let’s just say that Pacquiao is suspicious. And let’s say he wants to train in the Philippines for a month before coming to the US. He can take whatever he wants to take there without being tested by WADA, be strong enough to finish out his enhanced training before the fight, and pass all the blood tests. Mayweather may be using it as an excuse, but at least he knows how the system works.
(I have no idea if Pacquiao is taking anything. I’m just using that scenario as why Mayweather is so adamant that this happens.)
It’s my belief that unless Manny Pacquiao agrees to all of Floyd Mayweather’s demands, much like Marvin Hagler did for Sugar Ray Leonard 24 years ago, the fight won’t take place. Mayweather can continue to fight guys who aren’t at Pacquiao’s level and make nearly as much money without any of the risk. If Mayweather were to beat Pacquiao, because of Pacquiao’s fan base and just his overall respect from hardcore boxing fans, his drawing power won’t be hurt in the least bit. But if Mayweather were to lose to Pacquiao, his drawing power would take a major hit because that 0 would be gone. I don’t think he believes it’s a risk worth taking.
(I’m also the lead writer and editor for Fight Game Blog where we cover MMA, boxing, and pro wrestling. We’ll have coverage of UFC 135 on Saturday.)