Mayweather-Pacquiao: Corporate Greed

By Adam Berlin on May 4, 2015
Mayweather-Pacquiao: Corporate Greed
The fight we saw wasn't emblematic of the state of boxing. It was decadent spectacle.

Before Saturday night, a deal was made. With that final bell on Saturday night, the deal was completed. If this was the fight of our century, I’m cashing out…

What happened last Saturday night was predictable. Floyd Mayweather, the superior athlete with the superior skills and the superior ring-knowledge, defeated Manny Pacquiao with ease. 

Also predictable was how the pre-fight hype started swaying so many—boxing fans and aficionados alike began listening to their guts instead of their brains. It’s a pattern that keeps bookies in the black. In the minutes before the first bell rang, with the music blaring, with the richest crowd in sports history buzzing, even the most ardent non-believers started thinking maybe, just maybe, the richest fight in history would also be great. 

Surprise is the X factor in boxing. When a fight is surprisingly brutal, we feel a catharsis. When a favorite is surprisingly upset, we watch in awe. When a decision is surprisingly unjust, we express our outrage. It’s surprise, the unexpected, good and bad, that fills seats at arenas as decadent as MGM’s, or sits us down on our modest couches to watch less-expensive cards. 

The Mayweather/Pacquiao fight held no surprise. And we shouldn’t have been surprised about that—Money May is an expert at carefully choosing opponents when the time is right. He controls when, he controls where, and, for this fight, he controlled how much. A bout that should have been fought half-a-dozen years ago was postponed so skillfully, that this dull fight grossed more than the previous top-four boxing money-makers combined. This was a lesson in Economics 101 waged on a grand scale. By not supplying the fight for so long, demand skyrocketed, and as demand skyrocketed, zeros begat zeros, six figures begat seven and eight. Like millions of others, my family ponied up the $100 to watch a fight we knew, going in, would be dull, but hoped, going in, would surprise.

That the fight was dull can be chalked up to Mayweather’s genius-knack of turning exciting fighters pedestrian, of turning volume punchers into underachievers. But beyond the predictable lack of excitement, something else was operating, something that, days later, still feels dirty, tainted. Days later I realize this fight highlighted everything that’s ugly about capitalism. Mayweather flaunts his money like a Gordon Gekko in boxing trunks, burning Benjamins with greed-is-good gusto. But for this fight, the Money Man surpassed himself. As a young braggart, Mayweather built an empire on haters, yet there was something almost endearing about the bravado he’d earned in the ring. Now, he’s cooler, colder, less passionate, more measured. Gone are Pretty Boy’s swagger, his offensive words, his in-your-face antics like wearing an absurdly-gigantic sombrero to fight Mexican American Oscar De La Hoya on Cinqo de Mayo. The kid has grown into a businessman who wears suits to press conferences, whose entourage is called a team (as in corporate team), and whose ultimate goal is not to be the greatest fighter, not to really be the best ever, but to be the richest ever. Mayweather is a gym rat, and I give him great kudos on his discipline—he’s never out of shape. But these days he spends less time worrying about ring strategy and more time figuring out how to milk the most money from a deal, to take as much as the market will bear.

For those die-hard capitalists, who believe the free market should indeed determine who lives or dies, who fails or thrives, you can stand proud that this fight was the pugilistic equivalent of the Horatio Alger myth. Both men came from rough beginnings. Floyd Mayweather grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Manny Pacquiao grew up dirt poor in the Philippines. Both men worked hard. There’s no harder work than training to fight and fighting for a living. Both men deserve to reap the benefits of their hard work. (And to be fair, Floyd Mayweather worked hard to turn this fight into a money-generating bonanza; he played the long game, the waiting game, perfectly.) But there comes a point when too much compensation becomes obscene. In the same way I believe no corporate executives deserve the outrageous bonuses they get, bonuses usually built on the backs of hard-working people, I believe no fighter deserves the kind of money these two received (nor does a promoter). Six and seven and eight-figure paychecks should be taxed like crazy. Even on the most basic level, think about a kid from a not-so-well-off family who loves boxing. He won’t love boxing for long. $100 pay-per-views? Exorbitant Time Warner cable bills? Boxing, like all the corporate sports, is creating a class system of spectators. There are very few haves—those who can afford the price of a ringside (or courtside or field-side) ticket. There are too many have-nots. The price to watch boxing for the genuine boxing fan is often not in the realm of possibility. 

For all those Reagan fans, what about Trickle-Down economics? Maybe Manny gives back to the Philippines, and he certainly donates his time and service, but what about the man with Money in his name? Yes, there are stories of his generosity. Just as there are stories about Wall Street gifts and endowments. But there’s a reason they call it trickle-down—it’s just a trickle from an ocean of money. If Mayweather and Pacquiao took their obscene purses and paid it forward to boxing, many of boxing’s ills could be solved: A pension fund for boxers. Medical insurance for boxers. Start-up money for a national boxing commission that sets safety standards and protocol. In an ideal world sprinkled with socialism, this could happen. But that’s not the American way. No, I see the millions generated on Saturday night going into the purchase of a few more Bentleys, a few more Patek Phillipes, a few more displays of nouveau-riche, conspicuous consumption. 

My anti-capitalist sentiment says forget Horatio Alger. It’s mostly a myth. Just in boxing terms, for every Money May there are thousands of fighters getting their brains scrambled for purses that, spread out over a year, add up to less-than-minimum wage. They may dream of making it big. But they won’t. What we saw on Saturday night wasn’t emblematic of the state of boxing. It was decadent spectacle, history-making by money standards, not fight standards.

The boxing fan in me is even more outraged because in this fight, money was not only part of the pre-fight deal and the post-fight check; money entered the ring. If you watched the fight, you saw two fighters without passion. They touched gloves to start the fight. They touched gloves at the end of several rounds. They touched gloves after several of Kenny Bayless’s warnings. Pacquiao smiled frequently. Mayweather smiled more frequently. Most nauseating was how Round 12 began. Instead of the customary glove-touching, these two supposed warriors went one step further. In some ways, they had to—there had been so many handshakes, they needed to do something more significant in the closing round. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao embraced. Their slow dance in the middle of the ring wasn’t one of fatigue and pain and spirit spent. It was a money dance. These weren’t two warriors primed to wage one last stand. These were two corporate executives, holding each other in a putrid hail-fellow-well-met pose. Some calculations put the pay-out per second of fight time at 130K. This seven-second embrace, worth about a million bucks, was, like too many greed-inspired ventures, built on the backs of suckers. These precious seconds should have been filled with boxing action. That’s what the ringside crowd had paid exorbitant prices to see. That’s what the viewers at home who’d shelled out ridiculous pay-per-view dollars had paid to see. 

Round 12 was a farce. For all the fighting Mayweather and Pacquiao did in the twelfth, they should have just been honest. The two boxers-turned-businessmen should have sat down on a couple of deck chairs. They should have lit up a couple of expensive cigars. They should have cracked open a bottle of Glenmorangie, aged 25 years. They should have touched glasses. And then, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao should have leaned back and looked into the horizon, not a gold horizon of boxing glory, but a green horizon of capitalist greed.

This was not a fight. This was a money-generating event, plain and simple, conducted by two men who have lost their edge, who would prefer to don suits and ties than boxing trunks, who both signed on the dotted line, not to fight hard, but to cash a check unscathed. The round bell wasn’t a call to arms. It was Wall Street’s 9:30 a.m. signal that the market was open for business. 

Before Saturday night, a deal was made. With that final bell on Saturday night, the deal was completed. If this was the fight of our century, I’m cashing out.

Adam Berlin is the author of the recently published boxing novel Both Members of the Club (Texas Review Press/winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize). His other novels are The Number of Missing (Spuyten Duyvil), Belmondo Style (St. Martin’s Press/winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award) and Headlock (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). For more, please visit

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  1. Al Rios 04:49am, 05/16/2015

    Since I saw Mayweather at Pacquiao hotel room that night at 1:00 am I knew something was about to get fix

  2. Darrell 01:56am, 05/12/2015

    Haha, what a load of shite.

  3. Bart 10:33am, 05/11/2015

      As a boxing fan most of my life (until the last few years as boxing has declined),  I would NEVER blow my money on that fight.2 guys,past their prime looking for the big payday.A joke.I told a friend who actually thought Pacman was going to win by KO,it will be a boring fight with Mayweather winning a boring decision. I think any real boxing fan could figure that out. It’s sad. I hope the sport can make a comeback,but I’m skeptical.

  4. Kid Blast 11:24am, 05/10/2015

    Huh. Boxing has a new business model and has had it for quite some time. You try to make the most amount of money the fastest you can with the least amount of risk. Corporations do this all the time. It’s no big thing and it sure beats getting your brains scrambled like Toney by fighting too many times. It’s just no big deal and if we want to walk down the moral path, then we all (me included) should stop writing about it.

    These moral proclamations and anti-business stuff is a bit much. This is 2015. This is capitalism. This is the US where one can still make his or her fortune by being entrepreneurial. Kudos to Floyd.

  5. Georgicus 06:45am, 05/10/2015

    I agree with much of what you said, and this fight was a farce, as I knew it would be, but it seems to me, Alan, that you are missing an important point.
    It is not Floyd’s relentless cherrypicking or Manny’s concealment of injury that let boxing down, or their mutual caution during the fight that let fans down.  The failure does not belong to the fighters.  The failure belongs to the sporting media, and to boxing itself. 

    Over the last decade, with one exception, Floyd has made a fortune fighting smaller men.  Manny, Hatton, Marquez, and even Cotto. Floyd’s reach is a 72”. Manny has a 67” reach, Hatton 65”, Marquez 67”, and Cotto, 67”.  Out of 47 professional fights, Floyd has faced 3 (THAT’S ONLY THREE) opponents with equal or greater reach.  To put it another way, Floyd has selected opponents with less reach for 94% of his professional fights.  Now look at his more obvious and egregious ducks.  Paul Williams, welterweight champion for three years, 6’1” tall with a 78 inch reach.  The largest fighter in welterweight history, labeled by the boxing press “THE MOST AVOIDED FIGHTER IN BOXING”.  If you Google that phrase today, years after his accident that ended his career and left him paralyzed, his name still comes up.  Why? Because Floyd, and almost everyone else significant in the welterweight division, avoided him for 3 years. 

    Then when there was no way for Floyd to avoid the obvious and embarrassing questions anymore, Floyd “retired”.  That is hardly Floyd’s fault.  Would YOU want to face a taller man with a 6” reach advantage if you didn’t have too?  OF COURSE NOT. But that is exactly what almost every one of Floyd’s opponents have had to do.  So whose fault is that.  Not Floyd’s.

    Boxing has an obligation and a responsibility to define, control, and regulate who fights who, and that is a responsibility boxing has entirely abdicated with its superstars.  The “fight of the century” pitted a 5’6” man with a 67” reach and several recent defeats against an undefeated 5’ 8 1/2” man with a 72” reach.  Waiting in the wings was Golovkin, a 5’ 10” tall fighter with a 70” reach, undefeated with 32-0 record and 29 KOs, a man much closer to Floyd’s size than either Floyd or Golovkin were to Manny’s size.  Golovkin has been offering to meet Floyd at 154 since early 2013.  Floyd has refused, just as he refused for three long years to fight title holding undefeated welterweight Paul Williams.  But is that Floyd’s fault?  Floyd is NOT a boxing regulator.

    Floyd has won 4 titles at 154.  If Golovkin can make the weight, which he claims he can, that fight makes perfect sense.  Less than 1.5 inches in height separate the two men, and Floyd has a 2” REACH ADVANTAGE, which means everything to a defensive fighter like Floyd.  Of course, this fight will not happen.  94% of the time, Floyd chooses to face men with less reach.  But it is not Floyd’s responsibility to select his opponents, it is BOXING’s responsibility. 

    But Boxing chases the money every time. Anyone Floyd decides to fight means a HUGE payday for boxing, and Boxing has sidled up to Floyd’s money troth over and over again, with no care for whether Floyd was facing the most qualified opponent. Floyd is honest: FLOYD SAYS HIS ONLY GOAL IS MONEY.  Boxing’s goal is supposed to be to regulate the sport, keep athletes safe, and match the most qualified opponents to produce the most entertaining and competitive fights. So Floyd has been succeeding in his publicly stated goal.  It is boxing that has totally failed. 

    Golovkin vs Floyd at 154 would be the fight of the century.  It will never happen because boxing is no longer strong enough to make it happen, and Floyd’s sense of self-preservation leaves him no incentive to face a difficult and dangerous opponent.  Why should he take a risk of fighting a dangerous opponent when he can achieve his financial goals fighting smaller men with less reach and less skill?  It is Floyd’s job to protect Floyd and to make money, and he has succeeded better than anyone in the history of the sport.  It is boxing’s job to see to it that every fighter faces the most eligible and qualified opponents available.  It is BOXING that has failed, and it is the boxing press that has looked the other way while boxing completely abandoned its regulatory mandate.

  6. Don from Prov 11:22am, 05/08/2015

    Great—and accurate—article, Mr. Berlin.
    (No need to say anything more about Saturday night.)

  7. Jethro Tull 02:41pm, 05/06/2015

    ‘Taxed like crazy’ is the operative phrase in this Marxist screed.

  8. Peter 10:46am, 05/06/2015

    I’ve liked to Watch Mannys fights. He is entertaining, But he couldn’t harm Mayweather.
    I’ve seen other fights where less skillful men than Mayweather has lost a lot of brain cells - and they didn’t have to.
    If you want blood and slugfest you have seen the wrong match.
    Id rather be Mayweather retiring than anybody else in the sport.
    I’m sure he wont suffer from Parkinson’s
    If boxing is the noble art of self-defense, Mayweather is at true artist.
    I’m learning to appreciate that.
    please excuse my english

  9. lx3dEMONxl 01:49pm, 05/05/2015

    First boxing match I ever paid to watch, and will be the last. MMA is a much better sport if you like fighting sports. UFC has egos exactly like Mayweather only the fighters actually fight and not just “entertain” as he calls it. Boxing is dead to me.

  10. Ted Spoon 01:27am, 05/05/2015

    Hara, you make your case well, but you’re missing the real issue. Where the disappointment stems from is millions of non-fans (who have never watched Mayweather and don’t know what he’s like) departed with their money to see boxing strut its stuff. On that premise, yes, it was the fighter’s responsibility to pull out the stops and they both failed. Millions have now vowed never to watch boxing again.

  11. beaujack 09:00pm, 05/04/2015

    Mr. Berlin, no one stuck a gun to your head demanding you to plunk down $100 to watch the man you rail against FMM ... No sir…It is not the system that is at fault, it is the foolish choices you and others made to enrich Floyd Mayweather by shelling out your dough. I DID NOT and would not give one buck to PPV., unless it was the Dempsey of Toledo against Joe Louis…
    As far as Capitalism, Churchill as usual said it best, ” Democracy is the worst form of government except for all others “...

  12. Kid Blast 11:42am, 05/04/2015

    Hera has the beat

  13. Hera 11:23am, 05/04/2015

    This roils in its own bitterness.  So many decadent and despotic charges are being leveled against Mayweather here that one might forget his motive has always been laid bare.  His name is “Money.”  It is the image he chose.  He is a businessman first and foremost, true; but why should he be slighted for excelling at his work?  I agree with Clarence George who agrees with Churchill.  This is not complex economics.  No one in Grand Rapids is poor because Mayweather is rich.  In this diabolical world of capitalism, he is merely a man who is doing his job, selling his labor for the highest price possible.  What does it matter that the price is astronomical?  If people are willing to pay it, he is not overpaid.  Berlin calls the fight dull - perhaps also true - but attributing it to Mayweather’s “genius-knack of turning exciting fighters pedestrian,” is a compliment wrapped in an insult.  Mayweather’s style is brewed from defensive alchemy.  If he renders his opponent unable to attack effectively, he is accomplishing what he is supposed to accomplish.  It is his opponent who falls short.  Precision inside the ring is a beautiful quality, and one Mayweather possesses abundantly.  The money was spent for a display of it on Saturday night, and if Berlin admits it to have been a foregone conclusion all along, there is nothing for him to feel dirty about.

  14. Clarence George 07:00am, 05/04/2015

    I agree with Churchill, who called socialism the “philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”  OK, that said, I think we’d all be less outraged if Mayweather-Pacquiao had even slightly lived up to its hype.  It’s one thing to pay good money for caviar, another to pay good money for caviar and get canned tuna instead.  But who’s to blame here, the men who know that a fool and his money are soon parted, or the fool who soon parts with his money?  Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of boxing should have known that Mayweather-Pacquiao would be Fancy Feast, never mind Bumble Bee.  Unfortunately, we’re living in a time when “knowledgeable boxing fan” is about as oxymoronic as it gets.

    I got nothing more to say about this embarrassment.  As far as I’m concerned, the importance of May 2 in boxing history is that it marks Stanley Ketchel’s pro debut (in 1903).  He knocked out Kid Tracy in the first somewhere in Butte, Montana.

  15. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:48am, 05/04/2015

    Not to worry Mr Fancy Schmancy Anti-Capitalist….Mayweather will end up broke and alone owing $100,000,000 plus in back taxes with barely enough to pay for the costs of his gender transformation.

  16. NYIrish 05:50am, 05/04/2015

    For a hundred bucks a pop they should have at least had a couple of competitive fights on the undercard. So you fill the house with friends and have a few laughs but the bullshit merchants have gotten tiresome.

  17. NYIrish 05:21am, 05/04/2015

    So, any of this was a surprise?

  18. Aztec Warrior 05:21am, 05/04/2015

    We can only blame ourselves. The boxing world, the sporting world and the casual fans asked, even demanded, that this fight be made. We hung on every word or hint that it would happen. Then the deal was made. We knew with some certainty what the outcome would be yet we fed the beast.

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