Back when George Foreman was making his infamous comeback, a teenage me approached my boxing mentor after hearing that some of Big George’s early opponents had been accused of taking a dive.
“I don’t see it,” said a wide-eyed me. “There’s too much money involved to have these fights fixed.”
The response I got stuck with me.
“There’s too much money in play for them NOT to be fixed.”
As I got older and dipped my toes into the deep, dark waters of professional boxing, one of the lessons I learned was that a legitimate sportsman on the businesses end of boxing will soon be forced from the sport, busted and broke.
Nobody with any smarts or experience risks losing a multi-million dollar property on a fair and even playing field.
There’s every reason to believe that this Saturday’s Mayweather-Pacquiao fight could be fixed in one way or another. With so much on the line for everyone, it’s naive to think otherwise.
Most likely, the bout would be fixed against Mayweather, thereby necessitating a rematch.
If Mayweather wins, it’s almost a sure thing that there is no rematch and no second half-a-billion dollar windfall. With a victory, Mayweather would give the world a gigantic “I told you so,” then head on to his last Showtime fight in September and off to retirement.
So, a Mayweather win is only good for Mayweather.
A loss or draw, though, will likely bring Mayweather back to the table, put another 80 million in Team Pacquiao’s pocket as well as hundreds of millions into the hotels, casinos, and all fight-related revenue streams.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), which is entrusted with maintaining the legitimacy of the contest and its outcome, also stands to gain a small fortune should Mayweather not emerge victorious May 2.
Promoters are obligated to provide each member of the NSAC with six complimentary tickets for every card held in Nevada, with two of those six tickets having to be ringside. Given the enormous demand for Mayweather-Pacquiao tickets and secondary market ticket prices skyrocketing to five digits, even for nosebleed seats, each member of the commission stands to earn up to, possibly, $100,000 for their seats. Of course, there’s supposedly a rule in place about the commission not selling their tickets, but who’s going to pursue justice– a commission investigating itself? Or, maybe, the rich fat cat getting tickets to the most exclusive event in sport’s history?
A May-Pac rematch means another six-pack of highly-coveted tickets for the commission and another easy six-figure score.
The MGM Grand would be ecstatic over a May-Pac part two, preferably scheduled for the spring when they debut their brand new 20,000 seat arena.
Even Mayweather’s adviser, Al Haymon, stands to gain more from a Mayweather loss or draw than a win.
A rematch brings another cut of the mega-loot for Haymon. A win leads to just one more regular Mayweather payday (a cut of 30-40 million instead of about 100 million). At this point, although he’d never say it aloud, Mayweather means increasingly little to Haymon as the end of his career approaches. This would be the right time to cash in the chips, if he were inclined to do so.
All indications are pointing to a screw job with Mayweather as the patsy.
But this doesn’t mean that it must be this way. The event is so big and Mayweather, even near the end of his career, wields fearsome power in Nevada. If Mayweather were to smell a rat and truly press the issue, encouraging his huge and stupid-loyal fan base to figuratively burn down the town, administrative heads would be rolling down Las Vegas Blvd.
Talking about the possibility of a fix, spreading the word and letting it creep into the mainstream discourse, also serves as a mighty deterrent for anyone interested in firing up the shockingly easy fix mechanism.
“Actually, the thing that makes it [a fix] less likely to happen is that so many people have been opening talking about its happening,” former fight manager Charles Farrell recently told me. “If lots and lots of people are saying, ‘This is the bank that they’ll be robbing from–just you watch,’ a bank robber might decide that that’s not the bank to rob, or at least not on the day people expect him to.”
Farrell, who has been around the boxing block and on both ends of many a fixed fight, agreed about the risks involved in making Mayweather the fall guy.
“If Mayweather gets robbed,” Farrell said, “it’s likely that he won’t have been a party to it. So everyone has to worry a little bit about how far those who feel victimized will be willing to take things.”
Media cheerleaders scoff at the idea of fixed fights. They’ll tell you with a straight face that everything is on the up and up and that any egregious controversies can be chalked up to incompetence and/or subjective opinion.
A humorously naive article on CBS.com from March 20, entitled: “Sources: No truth to Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch conspiracy” sought to nip in the bud the growing rumors of a fix by quoting, of all people, an active matchmaker and a retired commissioner. That’s the equivalent of asking the CEO of Exxon to comment on his company’s oil spills.
“Do you really think Bob Arum or Al Haymon would go out of their way and think that they could approach a judge to arrange something like that?” Boxing business insider Rick Glaser asked Lyle Fitzsimmons of CBS.com. CBS, by the way, is the parent company of Showtime, co-presenter of the Mayweather-Pacquiao pay-per-view and home network to Mayweather.
Well, nobody has to approach a judge to arrange a fix in a system where those with the greatest monetary interest in the outcome of the fights (the promoters) are also in charge of paying the judges. Notice how few “bad” decisions go against the lead promoter’s fighter.
With the sanctioning bodies consulting with the promoters on who gets appointed to what fights while a hapless commission tends to paper work, it’s understood that only judges who “play the game” are going to get the choice assignments. Rock the boat and don’t deliver the outcome that’s expected of you, and your days of paid vacations, per diems, free hotel suites, and the best seat in the boxing house are done.
This administrative structure guarantees that boxing can never be a truly honest sport.
But on May 2 we’ll all be watching– from the nerds on the message boards to the pipe-smoking intellectuals at Time Magazine. This time, fans are getting fair warning about the sleight of hand that could be in store.
Maybe, if we’re all watching the bank vault, the robbers will abandon any plans they may have had to make a quick buck.
If this is all paranoid talk and the May-Pac fix was never under consideration, then it’s all no harm, no foul. But one thing you learn in boxing is that it’s better to be prepared for the worst than dependent upon the best.
You can email your hate letters and fake job offers to Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also buy his book, Notes from the Boxing Underground! Paul is a full member of the Burger King Kids’ Club, a born iconoclast, and an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.