Floyd Mayweather Jr. is far more than a boxing genius. He is a marketing genius.
On Sept. 14 he will face largely untested 23-year-old junior middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez. Despite Alvarez’s gruel-thin resume, the fight sold out in less than 24 hours, is already guaranteed to produce the largest gate in the history of Las Vegas boxing and is likely to be among the highest grossing pay-per-view shows in the sport’s history.
But will it be a fight?
Many people in boxing don’t think so but many who buy tickets don’t seem to care. How can this be?
“(Mayweather) figured out a shtick and his shtick works,” said Carl Moretti, the long-time boxing executive now working as Vice-President of Boxing Operations for Mayweather’s former promoter, Top Rank. “The Money Team works. Being the guy in the black hat in the opinion of a lot of fans works. People get into that.
“Roy Jones was just as dominant and he never got this big. He didn’t figure out what Mayweather did, which was that the way to sell himself wasn’t to try and be a clone of Oscar (De La Hoya). He came up with this “Money” thing and look at him. You need a big name in boxing. Floyd is that.”
Mayweather is such a draw that in 2012 Forbes magazine named him the highest-paid athlete in the world. Because he fought only once in the time period (May 1, 2012 to May 1, 2013) Forbes uses, Mayweather dropped to No. 14 on this year’s list, but he will earn an estimated $40 million minimum in September, lifting his total earnings in 2013 to at least $74 million, according to the magazine’s figures.
On a similar list compiled by Sports Illustrated, Mayweather was the highest-paid athlete in 2012 and 2013 with estimated gross earnings of nearly $90 million this year. Under their projections, despite having few if any endorsements, Mayweather’s estimated income nearly doubled SI’s estimates for his closest competitors: LeBron James’ $56 million, Drew Brees at $47.8 million, Kobe Bryant at $46.9 million and Tiger Woods’ $40.8 million.
Internationally the same is true. In SI’s projections for 2013, Mayweather’s income blew away the international competition, nearly doubling the projected incomes of David Beckham ($48.3 million) and Roger Federer ($43.4 million). Forget about soccer superstars Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. They couldn’t carry Mayweather’s money bag. Or is it money bags?
Mayweather addressed the station he now holds on the final leg of a 10-city, nine-day promotional tour with Alvarez that traversed the U.S. and Mexico to hype the fight. That tour cost its promoters and cable network Showtime over $1 million but produced large crowds that made it worthwhile at every stop. Although the majority who turned out boisterously favored Alvarez, what did Mayweather care?
Long ago the man considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world figured out that popularity can make you rich but so can polarity. If you can create both, you become considerably more than rich. You become Money Mayweather, someone who cashes in whether people love him, hate him or simply think he’s taken leave of his senses.
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