Floyd Mayweather is about to do something he never has done before, sell a pay-per-view fight that desperately needs an angle with a hook unlike any he has thrown before: the last match of his illustrious professional boxing career.
That’s how his Sept. 12 welterweight title fight against Andre Berto will be billed — and it’s something you only can do once without leaving the public feeling hoodwinked — because for all the speculation about how Mayweather would conclude his CBS/Showtime contract, and with which of those entities televising, two things didn’t happen this summer:
One, there never was serious consideration given to televising Mayweather-Berto on mainstream CBS, nor even a sufficient advance time window for scheduling any such plans;
Two, the 48-0 Mayweather never discussed extending the three-year, six-fight CBS/Showtime contract which expires after his next bout, nor wavered from his stated plan to make his 49th fight his last.
There does not seem to be any ulterior motive, any wink-and-nod plan to build up a bigger next fight with this lesser one, nor extend Mayweather’s career for a 50th fight in the new Las Vegas arena opening next spring, nor create a 2016 bidding war between HBO and Showtime for his future services.
There certainly is no plan for a Manny Pacquiao rematch, an ordeal that won’t be duplicated for a windfall that can’t be replicated.
Oh, Mayweather’s future services remain for sale — his nickname is still “Money” — but with no indication that they include the 19-year pro fighting again after Berto.
Mayweather’s fight against oft-sidetracked Berto won’t please boxing insiders who are weary of the big pay-per-view price tags on his bouts, this time $64.95 plus $10 high-definition upcharge, or $25 less than for his tactical win over Pacquiao in the richest fight ever May 2.
The richest-fight-ever part wasn’t the disappointing part of Mayweather-Pacquiao.
The tactical part was.
To that end, Berto provides a foil for the 38-year-old Mayweather to look good. The native of Winter Haven, Fla., has lost three of his last six fights, including two against opponents who lost to Mayweather, Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero. The Ortiz bout was one of 2011’s best.
Berto also lost to Jesus Soto Karass in 2013 despite injuring his right shoulder early in the bout. He was stopped in the 12th round of that fight, then underwent surgery afterward.
“Andre Berto has been through a lot, but one thing we know about him, he will fight with one arm,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, a jab at Pacquiao, who claimed a shoulder injury limited him against Mayweather and likewise underwent post-fight surgery.
Whether that’s worth enough to lure pay-per-view buyers again is debatable.
On paper, Mayweather is about to compete in his least-competitive pay-per-view fight since he demolished Arturo Gatti in a 2005 athletic mismatch.
That doesn’t always mean much. Mayweather-Pacquiao looked good on paper, after all.
But Berto (30-3, 22 KOs), a former Olympian and ex-welterweight champion who won his first 27 pro bouts, has pedigree, and isn’t a markedly inferior opponent to several Mayweather has fought in pay-per-view main events, including Ortiz, Guerrero and Carlos Baldomir.
Berto also is ragged defensively, athletically faded, too slow and plodding for Mayweather, and hits hard but shouldn’t get there enough for it to matter.
Some of those elements are common to all Mayweather opponents, merely as a product of lesser men fighting the pound-for-pound king, though Berto seems particularly well-suited to making an all-time great counterpuncher look great going out the door.
It won’t be an easy sell after Mayweather-Pacquiao shut down cable and satellite ordering systems on fight night, delaying opening bell while the 4.4 million domestic pay-per-view buyers clogged phone lines.
Berto has been on Mayweather’s radar for years. The fight almost certainly would have occurred in 2011 or 2013, before Berto’s losses to Ortiz and Guerrero derailed him, and realistically won’t look much different in 2015.
The speculation that Mayweather-Berto would land on free television won’t make spending $75 to watch it any more palatable.
The marketable element to the fight, besides the twice-yearly opportunity to see the world’s best boxer ply his trade on live television, is that it probably is the last chance to do so.
Despite the portrayals of Berto as a benign opponent, pay-per-view buyers and boxing historians will take that opportunity to heart. There are not fewer of them now than there were three months ago, and regardless the value of the upcoming fight when balanced against those of previous Mayweather pay-per-view bouts, when those viewers are asked to push the “buy” button one last time, they will.