Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao Fight: How HBO, Showtime Teamed for Upcoming Bout
The matchup at the MGM Grand could gross $400 million as the pay TV networks join forces to jointly produce and distribute the PPV presentation.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The deal for the possible fight of the decade -- the May 2 bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao -- was kick-started when CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves sent a message to Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer. Moonves used an unlikely intermediary. His waiter at Craig's, the popular West Hollywood eatery frequented by celebrities, had a son who trained at Roach's Wild Card Boxing Club, who told Roach that Moonves wanted a meeting. And so the Wednesday after Memorial Day last year, when Los Angeles is a ghost town, Moonves and Roach met for dinner at Scarpetta. There they strategized a path to finally bring Pacquiao and Mayweather together. A few weeks later, Moonves, Roach and Roach's longtime agent Nick Khan of CAA, met at the Beverly Hills home of Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum.
Moonves and Arum have known each other socially for years. But they fell out in 2011 after Arum brought Pacquiao to CBS-owned Showtime for only one fight before returning to HBO. But consummate dealmaker Moonves knew what a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight could mean to boxing.
"It would be a tragedy [if] the two best fighters of their generation missed an opportunity for a great fight," Moonves tells THR, calling the long-awaited match "a fight that boxing needs badly." Moonves downplays his role in the living-room detente, saying the camps simply needed to "break the ice."
In fact, the two sides had been flirting with a fight since 2009, and boxing fans have been clamoring for one even longer. Showtime is four fights in to a six-bout, $250 million deal with Mayweather, whose September 2013 fight against Canelo Alvarez generated 2.2 million pay-per-view buys, grossing a record $150 million, with total fight revenue closer to $200 million including sponsorships, international TV rights and a blockbuster $20 million gate. But three other fights have underperformed. At 47-0, the welterweight champ has signaled his aspiration to surpass the late Rocky Marciano's 49-0 record before he retires. That would put what could be Mayweather's last, record-breaking fight outside of the Showtime deal.
"I think Floyd knew for his place in history that he needed this fight," observes Moonves. "He realized that he could be undefeated, but if he didn't have this fight there would be a little asterisk next to his name. And I think he got that."
The matchup at the MGM Grand could gross $400 million, with Mayweather taking the larger portion of the 60-40 money split. Showtime and HBO will jointly produce and distribute the PPV presentation (expected to cost $89.95, with $10 more for HD). Ringside seats are expected to go for $5,000.
The joint PPV deal was negotiated among Moonves, Arum, HBO CEO Richard Plepler and Mayweather's powerful manager, Al Haymon (who had his own rift with Arum). And it follows multiyear deals to bring Haymon's Premiere Boxing Champions series to Spike TV, NBC and CBS. The deals with NBC and CBS put regular live boxing back on broadcast primetime for the first time in over a decade and are further proof of the desirability of live programming, and especially sports.
"We're trying to build the sport," adds Moonves. "Five years from now, I would love to see 10 guys who we really want to see fight as opposed to two today. That is definitely a goal, and I hope that can be accomplished. And there are millions of boxing fans who are hoping for the same thing."