Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez bout reaching for historic heights

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS – He's promoting a fight that will generate unimaginable amounts of money in one night, equivalent to the GDP of some countries and roughly the size of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s checking account, yet Richard Schaefer frets.

The chief executive officer of Golden Boy Promotions will likely earn windfall profits for his company Saturday, when Mayweather fights Canelo Alvarez at the MGM Grand Garden in a potentially record-setting pay-per-view bout.

He's used to taking calls from celebrities looking for comps, but for this fight, he's had to say no to a slew of A-listers. Magic Johnson dug into his own pocket to buy tickets, and Kobe Bryant was unable to purchase the prime seats he wanted, but Schaefer is not without fears.

There has been exactly one fight in boxing history that has exceeded 2 million pay-per-view sales, and that number is being talked about as a low end for the final sales figure for this fight.

[Related: 'Money' persona equal parts entertaining, draining]

No matter how much he knows he'll ultimately make, Schaefer is going to swallow hard on Saturday. When the fights end, it will be Schaefer and Golden Boy on the hook for the $41.5 million payday guaranteed to Mayweather, as well as the $5 million guaranteed to Alvarez.

He's also responsible for a slew of other expenses. He paid $2.5 million for a 10-city tour to promote the bout. He has spent roughly $8 million on advertising. He owes Danny Garcia, who fights Lucas Matthysse in the chief undercard bout, $1.5 million. He'll owe Matthysse another $800,000.

When all is said and done, Schaefer will have paid nearly $70 million on Saturday, without getting much of it back.

"I'll tell you one thing: Just Mayweather's money, what Showtime is putting up for the fight, is not enough to pay Mayweather's guarantee for fight night, let alone all the other fighters," Schaefer said. " ... Together, I'll be out by the time the first bell rings probably well over $60 million."

He'll receive Showtime's payment as well as a large portion of the record $19.9 million ticket sales on Monday morning. But the pay-per-view money can literally take years to come in.

The fighters need to be paid on fight night, but Schaefer won't see his full return for months, if not years.

And that's frightening for a guy who's writing so many seven-figure checks.

The fight will be lucrative enough for Mayweather that he can afford to give away a few of the $200,000 diamond-encrusted bags he's suddenly become so fond of, and that right now he only buys after he's won a sports bet.

"I've had to discipline myself," Mayweather said of the bags, and it was hard not to sympathize with a guy who buys handbags that cost more than some people's homes.

The attention and the fabulous wealth comes because Mayweather is clearly the top athlete and the top attraction in the sport. Counting Saturday's bout, Mayweather will have pocketed $153 million in bout guarantees alone since May 1, 2010. He's made much more in pay-per-view bonuses.

Whatever the total number is, it's a lot of money for beating guys up about as well as anyone ever has.

[Related: Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s skill in ring matched by marketing talent outside of it]

Business surrounding the fight has surpassed even the most optimistic projections of its promoters, and might threaten the nearly unthinkable pay-per-view record of 2.5 million, set by Oscar De La Hoya and Mayweather in 2007, in part because of the massive fan base Alvarez brings.

Alvarez has been resolute in his belief that he'll become the first of the 45 men Mayweather has faced to defeat the pound-for-pound king.

"No doubt," he said. "None. I have put in the work and I'm going to win."

Schaefer said that HBO Sports executive Mark Taffet told him several years ago that adding Alvarez to a Mayweather undercard boosted sales by more than 300,000 because Alvarez is so popular among Mexicans and Hispanic Americans.

Stephen Espinoza, the executive vice president and general manager for Showtime Sports, was previously De La Hoya's attorney and negotiated many of the Golden Boy's deals.

But Espinoza said that Alvarez, 23, is ahead of where De La Hoya was at a similar age. He said Alvarez will eventually likely surpass De La Hoya as a draw.

Alvarez is a strapping, good-looking young man with a crop of red hair that is highly unusual for a Mexican, and that makes him easily recognizable. He's quickly become an icon among Mexican-Americans, who are big-time fight consumers.

Espinoza said he can't recall many comparable to him in sports history.

"I think the interesting part will be when he learns English," Espinoza said of Alvarez. "That's the only barrier left to him being a massive star, and a star unlike we've seen before. The only analogy I can make to a Mexican-born star who has come over and made this kind of impression [in the U.S.] is [ex-Dodgers pitcher] Fernando Valenzuela. Fernando's the last Mexican-born star who caught the [American] public's attention.

"And let's be honest here: Fernando wasn't the sex symbol that Canelo is. We're talking a sort of unprecedented personality. We've never had a Mexican-born crossover star of this magnitude."

Alvarez is 42-0-1 and is a big, powerful man. He's knocked out 30 men and he's just growing into his body.

Mayweather is perhaps the toughest man in the sport to hit cleanly, but if Alvarez connects, he could change the course of boxing history.

Those on Mayweather's "The Money Team" scoff at such a possibility.

"Man, go on, get out of here with that stuff," Mayweather's father and trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr. said, when listening to a reporter roll off a list of Alvarez's attributes. "Floyd would beat this guy with one hand if he had to. Be real, man."

Mayweather Sr. has a thoroughbred in his corner, and he knows it. Not only has Mayweather Jr. never lost, he's barely lost any rounds. In his 44-fight career, he only came close to losing twice.

Many felt Jose Luis Castillo deserved the decision against him in their first fight in 2002, when they fought for the lightweight title. And in 2010, Shane Mosley landed a massive right that had Mayweather wobbling on weak legs briefly.

Mayweather survived that round and then went on to win every round the rest of the way in a typically dominating performance.

If he weren't already a believer in Mayweather, that was enough to do it for Hall of Fame promoter Don Chargin. Now 85, Chargin got his first boxing license in 1945 when he was a second cornerman in a fight in California.

He was a personal friend of the great Sugar Ray Robinson, and saw Robinson fight in his prime.

There is no question that Robinson was and is the greatest boxer of all time, Chargin said.

But the thought that some once thought so ridiculous, that Mayweather could compare favorably with the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard, isn't so ridiculous after all, Chargin said.

"This kid is so good," Chargin said of Mayweather. "He does things that no one else in there can do. He knows what punch you're going to throw almost before you do. He's got great reflexes, great technique and he's very smart.

"A fight with him and Ray [Leonard] would have been something. That would have been a tough one [to pick]."

Chargin, though, is picking Alvarez, even though he had a tough time identifying why. Mayweather is one of the sport's elite trash talkers, but he hasn't put Alvarez on full blast.

But he has taken more than a few digs, and noted Alvarez's inexperience against world-class opponents.

"I fought Cotto and Hatton," Mayweather said, referring to former world champions Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton, "not their brothers."

Alvarez faced Jose Miguel Cotto and Matthew Hatton, neither of whom were remotely as gifted as their more famous siblings. By far, Austin Trout is the best fighter Alvarez has ever faced.

Alvarez, though, rose to the occasion, knocked Trout down and won the decision in front of nearly 40,000 fans in San Antonio's Alamodome.

That earned him the chance to fight the biggest name in the sport in front of a crowd that paid a record $19.9 million gate. Floor seats are going for in excess of five times face value on the secondary market.

Celebrities are so desperate for tickets, they're offering to buy. Johnson, the Dodgers' owner, Basketball Hall of Famer and mega-A-list celebrity, had to purchase his tickets.

Bryant was unable to get the seats he wanted, Schaefer said.

"Kobe Bryant was supposed to come, but he wanted center floor seats, and I didn't have center floor seats when the promotion started," Schaefer said, shaking his head. "The celebrity ticket demands are unheard of."

With a record gate and closed circuit sales around the country trending well ahead of any other fight in history, there is reason for promoters to be optimistic.

Espinoza, though, is cautious. Only De La Hoya-Mayweather exceeded 2 million. Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis hit 1.99 million in 2002 and Tyson-Evander Holyfield II did 1.98 million in 1997.

From his years with De La Hoya, Espinoza knows the numbers about as well as anyone.

"I'm skeptical about breaking the record," Espinoza conceded. "One reason is that the audience is much more fragmented. There is so much noise in the marketplace that I don't know we'll ever get to that point. Yeah, there are many more pay-per-view homes by far now [than in 2007], but it's much harder to get people's attention in the current market. I'm not sure we could ever aggregate, just like network television shows aren't aggregating the same [numbers of] viewers they were six years ago."

Even if it doesn't shatter the records, it will be one of the biggest events in the sport's history.

And Mayweather said it is no coincidence.

"I'm the face of boxing," he's said repeatedly all week.

And he's also the best in it. He noted that to Alvarez on Wednesday during the final news conference at the MGM's KA Theater.

"I've been here before so I know what it takes," Mayweather said. "He's 42-0, but he hasn't faced 42 Floyd Mayweathers, because he'd be 0-42. I'm at the pinnacle. I'm the face of boxing and I'm dedicated to my craft."

As great as he is as a boxer, and he's plenty great, his true gift is selling.

And on Saturday, he'll sell, and sell a lot. He may sell so much that even Schaefer, who begins the night with about a $70 million deficit, may crack a smile before it's all over.

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