Making history by matching Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record? Forget it. Mere boxing considerations no longer are what drives the public to follow the aptly nicknamed Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. (48-0, 26 KOs) as the sport’s most ostentatious cash cow collects another $32 million or so of chump change for cuffing around doomed challenger Andre Berto (30-3, 23 KOs) on Sept. 12 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand.
There is no way, of course, that Mayweather can hope to come within Hubble telescope distance of the staggering numbers he posted for his largely disappointing May 2 conquest of Manny Pacquiao. Even now, those grotesquely swollen figures — $500-million-plus in total revenue, 4.4 million pay-per-view subscriptions, somewhere between $220 million to the winning fighter — must seem like misprints to regular Americans struggling to meet their monthly mortgage payments. But the six-fight sweetheart deal Mayweather signed with Showtime/CBS in February 2013, the last installment of which is against designated fall guy Berto, guarantees that he be paid no less than $32 million even if it’s for little more than a glorified sparring session. As a legitimate boxing match, Mayweather-Berto is of almost zero interest to the average fight fan; Berto is a 40-to-1 longshot, and even those Grand Canyonesque odds would seem to be conservative. Berto, though he is himself a former world welterweight champion, probably has about much chance of claiming Mayweather’s WBC, WBA, lineal and THE RING welter titles as he does of winning the Powerball Lottery.
The 38-year-old Mayweather, in a sense, has already won the Powerball Lottery – several times over. According to Forbes magazine, he again is guaranteed to be the highest paid athlete in the world, having already made $285 million this year before he throws his first punch at Berto. His current net worth is an estimated $500 million, which seemingly ensures that he won’t – can’t – suffer the same financial ruin that befell such riches-to-rags boxing greats as Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Pacquiao lags far behind in second place, at $160 million earned in 2015, with the third athlete on the list, soccer’s Ronaldo, a semi-pauper at $79 million. Even basketball superstar LeBron James, in sixth place, seems like he should be clipping discount coupons and shopping in thrift stores at a mere $64.8 million.
What’s more amazing is that none of Mayweather’s income comes from product endorsements; the last such gigs he had were way back in 2009, when he did minor TV spots for AT&T and Reebok, with neither company electing to renew its association with him in 2010.
“You can’t deny people want to watch him, and people have been waiting a long time to see this fight (against Pacquiao),” Bob Dorfman, editor of Sports Marketers Scouting Report, said earlier this year. “But it doesn’t mean you’ll buy a product he’s endorsing or believe him as a spokesman.”
Not being a compensated pitchman for Madison Avenue, though, does not seem to bother Mayweather in the least. He almost revels in his anti-establishment, bad-boy persona. What you see is what you get, he insists, and if that includes the occasional homophobic and sexist rant, and at least three domestic-violence convictions, so be it.
“I am always the villain,” Mayweather said before his June 25, 2005, brutalization of Arturo Gatti in Atlantic City. “That’s all right. I know how boxing works. You have to have a good guy and a bad guy. I don’t mind being the bad guy.”
Is “Money” actually a villain? Or does he merely play one because it helps embellish his brand? Either way, it doesn’t seem to matter much from a bottom-line standpoint. The way he looks at it, has always looked at it, if someone plucks down enough cash for a ticket or a PPV subscription to watch his bouts, it is of no concern to him if that person desperately wants to see him win or lose. Income streams play no favorites.
For a Showtime special he did last year with former “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” host Robin Leach, Mayweather explained why he’ll never be broke, despite profligate spending habits that make even Tyson’s conspicuous consumption in the 1980s and ’90s, which saw him blow through a reported $300 million, seem semi-miserly.
“I’ve got plans for real-estate ventures in New York and film production in Los Angeles,” Mayweather, who has vowed that the Berto fight will be his last, told Leach. “I’ve invested wisely over the years, and I’m not going to wind up broke. I set a goal of $12 million a year coming in at a million a month in interest alone. We’ve reached that – and I still sign all my own checks.”
The only problem with that is Mayweather, who bets hundreds of thousands of dollars on sporting events (he only goes public on those occasions when he collects on wagers), routinely spends more than a million dollars a month. If he had to subsist solely on that interest revenue, he’d have to cut back, drastically, on the extravagances that have made him more intriguing to fight fans and non-fans than his luminescence inside the ropes. Put it this way: It is Mayweather’s flaunting of his fabulous wealth that has replaced his undeniable ring skills as the cornerstone of his appeal. At this stage of his career, he doesn’t even pretend otherwise.
Keith Thurman, the WBA’s “regular” welterweight champion, admits to being disappointed when he lost out to Berto for the slot opposite Mayweather in which the man with total control, or as close as it ever gets to that in the fight game, adamantly says is his farewell to boxing. Then again, Thurman believes that actual bouts no longer are the primary engine that drives Mayweather’s notoriety.
“Let’s watch `Money’ spend his money on a Rolls-Royce and a Bentley,” Thurman told reporters at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., a few hours before Danny Garcia’s Aug. 1 rout of Paulie Malignaggi. “Let’s watch `Money’ go to a strip club. Let’s watch `Money’ go around with a bag of money and buy some shoes. Whatever he wants to do, America is going to watch; it’s called the `Money Show.’
“So right now at the end of his career he’s making more money than anyone thought was possible in the world of boxing. And to me that is his goal. That’s why he nicknamed himself `Money.’ He’s focused on the money and he wants to make history – not in the way I want to make history – but he wants to make history on (financial) numbers and numbers alone. So once again, enjoy the `Money Show.’ I wouldn’t pay for his next fight, but that’s on you.”
Truth be told, it does appear that Mayweather has received more attention for his latest lavish purchase than he did for attempting to depict Berto, who has two losses to fighters (Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero) that Mayweather dominated, as the guy who might finally smudge the record of the self-proclaimed TBE (“The Best Ever”). Despite the fact that Mayweather already has bought at least 88 luxury cars for himself and members of his unwieldy entourage, he couldn’t resist the urge to fork over $4.8 million in late August for a Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita, a land rocket that can go from zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and has a top speed of 250 mph. It’s the perfect vehicle for those occasions when Floyd is running a bit late for an appointment.
Thurman, who, most would agree, would pose a sterner test to Mayweather than Berto figures to, might have reason to be perturbed, but any suggestion that the most-well-compensated fighter in boxing history has been doing it against a steady stream of bums is misleading at best and simply wrong at worst. Twenty-five of Floyd’s 49 pro bouts have been for world championships, and his list of victims includes such notables as Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, Diego Corrales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Jose Luis Castillo, Genaro Hernandez, Zab Judah and Ricky Hatton. Even though he seemingly was pressed in majority decisions over Marcos Maidana (the first of their two fights) and Alvarez, and a split decision over De La Hoya, the closest brushes he has had with possible defeat came against Maidana (I), Castillo and Emanuel Augustus.
No wonder Mayweather struts around like the cock of the walk. He figures he’s merited his announced position at the top of the all-time heap, and being No. 1 should have its perks.
“No one can get me to say Sugar Ray Robinson or anybody else was or is better than me,” he said before the Mosley fight on May 1, 2010. “No one was better. No one is better. Maybe no one else ever will be better.”
The extent of Mayweather’s greatness as a fighter is a topic that is debated now and will continue to be well into the future. He is, indisputably, a defensive genius. He is also is a technician who doesn’t always deliver much bang for all those bucks; his most recent win inside the distance came against Ortiz on Sept. 17, 2011, and he might not have ended that one early (the fourth round) had not Ortiz made the mistake of dropping his hands and turning his head to look at the referee. The first rule of boxing is to protect yourself at all times and Mayweather, with as free a shot as he has ever had, took advantage of Ortiz’s lapse of judgment with an overhand shot that landed flush. But Mayweather’s last six fights have gone to the scorecards, a streak he vows will end against Berto.
“There’s going to be some knockdowns,” Mayweather said when the matchup was made. “A lot. And there’s going to be blood. A lot.”
Mayweather being Mayweather, though, don’t expect him to toss caution to the wind as if it were so much confetti. If he didn’t do it against Pacquiao, when so much was expected in terms of excitement and so little delivered, it would be foolish to think “Money” has suddenly become a leopard disposed to change its spots.
“My health is more important to me than anything,” Floyd said of the fears raised by the diminished mental capacity of his uncle and former trainer, Roger Mayweather. “It hurts me extremely bad he don’t even know who I am anymore.”
If this is indeed Mayweather’s last rodeo, the decision not to go for win No. 50 might be his and his alone. It also could be that Showtime or his former TV home, HBO, would balk at coming up with another contract the size of a Third World nation’s gross national product, and especially if a precondition to any such arrangement would cede to Floyd total control over, well, everything. It’s highly unlikely that Mayweather would be willing to mark himself down like bruised fruit at the supermarket. He is accustomed to receiving premium compensation every time he laces up the gloves, and it seems reasonable to assume he won’t accept a penny less than what he’s been getting on the about-to-lapse Showtime deal.
But if he really is on the verge of retirement, he soon will walk away with a legacy of opulence that any captain of industry would envy. Consider some of the adventures in spending that Mayweather has engaged in in his relentless march toward membership in the billionaire’s club, a distinction he might already have attained if he were only a bit more frugal:
*He keeps on staff a personal chef who is paid $4,000 a day to rustle up his favorite meals, and at any time of the day or night. Also on staff is a personal barber, which also might seem a tad excessive in that Mayweather shaves his head.
*He signs contracts with a solid-gold pen.
*He maintains three residences in Las Vegas; one in Sunny Isles, Fla., outside of Miami ; one in Los Angeles and one in New York. He keeps a matching set of cars –a fleet that includes 14 Rolls-Royces – at his primary Las Vegas residence (those are white) and the one in Florida (those are black). “I don’t want to get confused where I am,” he said in explaining the arrangement to Leach.
*He maintains a staff of around 20, including four burly bodyguards, who know better than to question any directive from the boss.
*He has “at least” $5 million in jewelry, including a $1.6 million necklace.
*He wears top-of-the-line underwear (boxer shorts) and sneakers (Christian Louboutins, which are priced anywhere from $795 to $3,595 a pair, depending on the model) only once before discarding them.
*The bars at his various residences are stocked with his beverage of choice (Louis XIII Remy Martin Cognac, which goes for $3,500 a bottle).
If it appears that PPV sales for Mayweather-Berto are lagging, despite the angle of Floyd bidding to match Marciano, there is one surefire way to spur interest in a fight that hasn’t exactly caught on like wildfire with consumers who still feel stung for buying into May-Pac.
All it would take is for Mayweather to announce that his trip from his dressing room to the ring will be made as he sits behind the wheel of that Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita and ticket sales would be sure to boom. And why not? Those who have followed Mayweather have gotten used to the notion of his receiving a minimum wage of $32 million. But a chance to see and a $4.8 million car … now that would really be something , wouldn’t it?