Boxing is dying. There’s no question that the “sport of kings” is but a shell of what it was in the mid- to late 1900s. Heck, boxing has fallen behind mixed martial arts in terms of general interest and, unless it finds a miraculous means of generating interest among a new generation of sports fans, it will soon occupy the same corner of the sports pages as badminton and lawn bowling.
It’s not quite dead yet, though. The rich, old men that grew up with boxing are still around and there’s still an awful lot of money in the sport.
It helps, of course, that most major fights still take place in Las Vegas, the epicenter of sports betting and, more importantly, a city that more powerful and successful sports organizations like the NFL avoid like the plague. Along with the UFC, boxing has a grip on Vegas that’s awfully lucrative.
To those who follow the sport, news of Floyd Mayweather’s potentially record-setting new contract won’t necessarily come as much of a shock. The most notable aspect of the deal isn’t the money — it’s the fact that Showtime swooped in and signed Mayweather away from HBO.
The details: it’s a six-fight, 30-month deal between Mayweather and Showtime / CBS. The dollar figure hasn’t been revealed, but you can bet that it’s gigantic.
For casual boxing fans, the money is the story. Though terms of the deal haven’t been released, it appears likely that Mayweather just signed the richest contract an athlete has ever signed.
Digest that for a moment. The biggest contract in sports (probably) doesn’t belong to Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or even Tiger Woods. It doesn’t belong to Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo. Though those athletes have certainly had a much bigger impact on sports and culture as a whole, boxing is still where the major bucks are.
Mayweather certainly profited from the fact that, by all appearances, Showtime was desperate to make a splash — and hurt competitor HBO in the process — and opened up its wallet in a big way:
— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) February 19, 2013
It also helps that he’s one of the few recognizable names in a sport that’s rapidly running out of them.
Mayweather’s representatives have indicated that the 36-year-old plans on fighting all six bouts included in the deal, but whether he follows through with that is certainly in question. What we do know is that his first fight will take place on May 4 against Robert Guerrero.
We also know that the possibility of a fight against Manny Pacquiao looks as remote as ever.