By Steve Kim
It's been 25 days since Floyd Mayweather battled Marcos Maidana in a hard-fought 12-rounder that lifted his record to 46-0. What we don't know yet is how the fight -- part of a publicized six-fight deal between Mayweather and Showtime -- did on pay-per-view.
Right now, the silence is deafening. You get the sense the formula for Coca-Cola would be easier to obtain than the official numbers for this card.
Industry sources say it did between 800,000 and 900,000 buys; some believe it did just north of 900,000.
But again, Showtime hasn't said a peep. Last year, when it pulled in huge numbers for Mayweather's September showdown with Mexican Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, it had no qualms releasing the results within days. But this isn't the first time they've kept mum: When Mayweather faced Robert Guerrero last May in the initial fight of this blockbuster deal, there was doubt among the boxing media over the corporate giant's pay-per-view tabulations. No official statement was circulated by the network over the pay-per-view results, which has become the custom in recent years.
This is a hot-button issue in boxing. For promoters, it's proof of a job well-done. For networks -- in this instance, Showtime -- it's proof that they've made a solid investment in a fighter. If the low end of the estimates are true, Showtime has again taken a significant financial loss on a Mayweather fight.
It's unclear when pay-per-view numbers became so important to those who have no financial stake in the proceedings. Fans, who live vicariously through their favorite fighters, see these tallies as reaffirmation of those boxers' popularity and their own identity -- especially as it relates to Mayweather, whose persona is wrapped up in his monetary value, fueling his power and influence. Go on any social media platform, and the subject of pay-per-view viability is debated with more fire than who won the fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Under the terms of his deal, Mayweather is guaranteed $32 million -- quite a safety against underwhelming pay-per-view figures. The pay-per-view business splits every dollar generated between the promotion and the satellite and cable providers. If the Mayweather fight did a million buys at $70 each, that would represent $35 million in revenue for the promotion. That goes towards paying Mayweather's purse as well as the rest of the card (Maidana, Adrien Broner and Amir Khan all made north of a million dollars on this past card). The site fee paid by the host hotel (the MGM Grand), foreign television rights and merchandising are also part of the revenue stream.
There's two ways to look at this. Based on past results, the totals for Mayweather-Maidana are a disappointment. After all, you're not guaranteeing Mayweather that much based on numbers south of the magic one-million mark. Even if he falls short of 900,000 buys, Mayweather remains the highest-grossing pay-per-view franchise the sport has. There was a time when Manny Pacquiao regularly broke the million-buy barrier, but Pacquiao's last outing against Timothy Bradley, on April 12, reportedly did between 775,000 and 800,000 pay-per-view purchases. (It must be noted that no official numbers were released by HBO Pay-Per-View, which distributed the event.)
Perhaps there is finally a public backlash against Mayweather and Pacquiao, who failed to consummate what would have perhaps been the most lucrative and anticipated bout of the 21st century. While they were able to exist before in separate universes and bank tens of millions of dollars, that well has finally -- at least to a certain degree -- dried.
Both Mayweather and Pacquiao are transcendent figures in the sport and can carry large events by the presence of their names on the marquee, but dance partners still matter. Mayweather's highest pay-per-view numbers have come against boxers who bring their own sizable fan base, like Miguel Cotto (1.5 million buys) and Alvarez. Looking forward, within the current climate of this fractured boxing business, the reality is that the B-sides who bring the most to the table -- Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin and Miguel Cotto, who all fight on HBO's airwaves -- are non-starters. What you have on the Showtime/Golden Boy side of the equation are names like Maidana (again), Amir Khan and Keith Thurman, who don't move the needle any more than his last opponent.
And Pacquiao? Again, don't count on it anytime soon -- or ever.
So these recent numbers for Mayweather and Pacquiao are perhaps the new normal -- and moving forward, the reluctance to announce official numbers will most likely be business as usual.