The American boxing landscape was completely altered this afternoon with an announcement that Floyd Mayweather has signed a new deal to fight up to six times in 30 months on Showtime. This moves him away from his lengthy relationship with HBO and starts with a May 4 bout with Robert Guerrero on Showtime PPV.
Here's the press release:
Undefeated eight-time world champion Floyd "Money" Mayweather, boxing's pound-for-pound king and the highest paid athlete in the world (Forbes, 2012), has entered into a groundbreaking pay-per-view deal with Showtime Networks Inc. and its parent company, CBS Corporation. Under the new deal, SHOWTIME PPV® will collaborate with CBS Corporation to comprehensively promote Mayweather's events on the CBS Television Network and via the corporation's expansive media platforms.
The deal-a unique revenue-sharing arrangement between SHOWTIME PPV and Mayweather-will enable him to fight up to six times over a period of 30 months, with the first mega-event taking place on May 4, 2013, when Mayweather will fight Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero. More details of this upcoming event will be announced shortly.
Mayweather's new deal is by far the biggest in the sport of boxing (specific financial details are contractually confidential). Mayweather is the PPV king and averages over 1 million PPV buys per event, which is the highest PPV buy average of any boxer in history. At this record-setting PPV performance level, if all six fights contemplated by this deal occur, it will be the richest individual athlete deal in all of sports.
There have been a number of major stars jumping between networks, but this is obviously the biggest case yet. Manny Pacquiao jumped from HBO to Showtime for his bout with Shane Mosley and the move was one of the major motivations in a change of leadership at HBO Sports. But that was a one fight deal where this is six fights over thirty months, a major long-term commitment.
With Pacquiao having been violently knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in his last fight, there is some question over how much of a draw he remains. Marquez is aging and in his last few fights. Andre Ward defected from Showtime to HBO giving them a top star, but not a top draw. That places guys like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Brandon Rios and Adrien Broner as men that will have to carry the HBO brand. And given Broner's ties to Golden Boy Promotions and Golden Boy's ties to Showtime, I wouldn't put it past Broner to jump to Showtime in the near future as well.
This move cannot be oversold. This puts HBO's back to the wall in a major way, and is an incredible, downright shocking move from Mayweather, who has been an HBO loyalist over his career, and made himself a superstar via their "24/7" vehicle, which he helped launch in 2007. Since then, he has been, along with Manny Pacquiao, the face of boxing, and the face of HBO boxing specifically.
Leonard Ellerbe tells Dan Rafael that HBO made a substantial offer, but Showtime/CBS simply offered a lot more, saying HBO brought a knife to a gun fight.
CBS is likely a big factor here. It's difficult to envision Floyd ever moving off PPV for a fight on the network, but there are now tons of new avenues for promotion of his events. But of course that whole part from the press release about this being the richest individual athlete deal in all of sports is probably a big factor too.
With Showtime having a much better year than HBO in 2012 in terms of boxing programming, it looks like CBS and Showtime are ready to try and make the move to being considered the premier home of boxing. With moves like this it's hard to say they can't make it happen.