By Joseph Herron: This morning on ESPN’s “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, HBO’s Larry Merchant chimed in on whether or not a mega fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao would ever take place.
“What’s stood in the way of a big Mayweather/Pacquiao fight taking place up to this point is a financial disincentive for both men,” insists the world renowned boxing commentator. “Both fighters are already making 40 and 50 million dollars a year fighting lower risk opposition. There’s no financial urgency to make this fight happen. This is a business as well as a sport.”
While many fight fans and boxing scribes have called for a PPV boycott of both fighters’ events to force the hand of the promoters and athletes involved, Mr. Merchant feels the prospect of that actually happening is highly unlikely.
“Both Mayweather and Pacquiao are the ‘Heavyweight Champions’ of America in terms of reaching the casual sports fan beyond boxing. They capture the imagination the sports world, not just boxing fans. People will tune in whenever they fight regardless of their opposition.”
The two antagonizing sports personalities also brought up the lingering question of whether or not Floyd Mayweather Jr. is afraid to fight Manny Pacquiao. Taking into consideration his previous vocal exchanges with the pound for pound champion, the great Larry Merchant gave a somewhat surprising response.
“Mayweather thinks he can defeat Manny Pacquiao, and he would be the favorite leading into that fight should it ever take place. But what Mayweather is more afraid of than anything is getting that ‘L’ on his record.”
“He has marketed himself as this undefeated and unbeatable fighter. And to a lot of new boxing and unsophisticated fight fans, this is a big, big deal. To anyone who is familiar with the history of the sport, a single loss has never been a big deal. Because if you fight enough good, young fighters, history tells us that eventually someone’s going to beat you.”
“It just happened to Pacquiao this year by way of bad decision, but it happened to a very good, young fighter.”
“The problem is not that Floyd’s afraid of Pacquiao, but he does recognize Pacquiao as being the greatest threat to him at this time. So considering the Risk vs. Reward equation, why take a risk fighting a tough style match-up who will demand an equal amount of money, when you can make 40 million dollars fighting a more favorable style match-up who will only demand maybe 3 or 4 million dollars?”
“It doesn’t make fiscal sense for Floyd Mayweather Jr. to fight Manny Pacquiao. Boxing is a business as well as a sport.”
Although Larry the legend is able to make sense of the incomprehensible, fight fans, just like any patrons or consumers of any business, don’t want to hear about the economics involved with day to day trade issues. It ruins the product and overall consumer experience.
When dining at a restaurant, does any paying customer want to hear the fiscal reasons why the manager or owner of the establishment decided to take their favorite item off of the dinner menu?
“I’m sorry, Mr. Herron. We can’t serve you the ‘filet mignon’ tonight, because the butcher was charging us too much money for that cut of meat. It’s just not cost effective for us, so we decided to take it off of the menu. We’re featuring chicken for tonight’s special.”
There’s a very good chance that no one would pay a return visit to that establishment, and the business would eventually lose their clientele…hence the current quandary of boxing.
In order for the sweet science to flourish among the mainstream once again, the fighters and promoters must be reminded on a regular basis that the customer is always right. The fight fans ultimately sign the paychecks.
It’s going to take a lot more than Larry Merchant paying a visit to ESPN, if the boxing industry hopes to capture the imagination of the sports majority once again.