I remember being in the Las Vegas MGM Grand Arena for the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Oscar De La Hoya fight in 2007. The electricity was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Leading up to the fight, Mayweather had put on a “how to talk trash” clinic that even the great Muhammad Ali couldn’t top. He was about as disrespectful to the “Golden Boy” as another man could be to another man. I was cheering for the brother, but there were just too many “boos” to compete with. These people hated him. Then I started calculating the millions of dollars people spent just to come and see him lose. Then he won. Then I pictured him laughing all the way to the bank. It was after that fight that I really started paying attention.\
That night was the last time Mayweather was the “B-Side” of a boxing match. Every single fight afterward he dictated the terms; even choosing his own opponents. He made 20 million dollars the night he fought Oscar. Fast forward to 2015. He finally faced off with the Pride of the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao in a 12 round bout that he won with no complications. The crowd was still booing. I was still cheering. And Floyd was still laughing all the way to the bank. This time, to the tune of over well 200 million dollars made in one night.
If anyone thinks that a Black professional athlete in a sport that has historically exploited Black talent can make 200 million dollars in one fight without some high level of business intelligence involved, you are supremely naïve. There is a method to the Mayweather madness and at the root of it is the principle of ownership. Every Black athlete in America must understand that it is “own or be owned” when it comes to your career. I can’t think of any athlete who has capitalized on his talent the way Floyd has. Hate him, or love him; he has set the bar.
For the first 10 years of his career, Floyd was promoted by Top Rank promotions. When he became disgruntled because he wasn’t being promoted to urban audiences properly he bought out of his contract and, like a true hustler, started his own company, Mayweather Promotions. When you pay money to go to a Mayweather fight, some don’t realize you are SUPPORTING A BLACK OWNED BUSINESS. If you purchase a hot dog, t-shirt or souvenir at a Mayweather fight, that money goes into his pocket. For years he would not accept any major endorsements (from Nike, Adidas, etc.) because they refused to give him a piece of ownership of these companies. When no one would accept his terms, he created his own apparel line “TMT Clothing” and ENDORSED HIMSELF. The line makes millions. I’ve even heard that Floyd Mayweather owns the “masters” to all of his boxing matches. This is unprecedented. Again, it’s all about ownership.
Mike Tyson made hundreds of millions in the sport of boxing and ended up “broke.” People speak of this with shock and awe as if though it isn’t the norm. It’s more difficult to name Black athletes who end up rich than those who end up broke; especially in a sport where you take thousands of blows to the head overtime. Mayweather, like Tyson in his heyday, travels with a huge entourage and lives a very expensive lifestyle. People naturally assume he will end up broke, as well. Only time will tell; but something tells me that Mayweather has something in his corner that Tyson, Evander Holyfield and others didn’t. He has in his corner one of the most ingenious business minds that Black America has ever produced. Enter the ghost himself, Al Haymon.
I think Mayweather is one thousand times smarter than people give him credit. He is ten thousand times smarter than the image he sometimes chooses to portray. However, I don’t think he’s savvy enough to, alone, pull off a 200 million dollar fight night. I don’t know that he is sharp enough to amass the level of power that his brand commands in a sport that has been historically monopolized by White men. Al Haymon, who is also the man behind the new Premier Boxing Champions movement, is the brains behind the Mayweather business blueprint. But it takes brains to surround yourself with brains.
Black America produces the most talented athletes in the world. Too many of our athletes don’t understand their value in the marketplace so they end up destitute, depressed and bankrupt once their careers are over. Black athletes must marry their athletic talent with brilliant Black business minds like Al Haymon so they don’t end up mismanaged and exploited like 90% of today’s jocks. Stop allowing your physical prowess to be used to make everybody rich except yourself and your community. Many of you may not like Floyd because of his personality or some of the mistakes he has made in the past, but no one can argue that he has set precedence as an athlete/entrepreneur thanks to a great team led by Al Haymon.
Black athletes in every sport should do as Mayweather did; start making demands rooted in the principle of ownership. Black athletes should unite like never before and use their collective influence to change the face of ownership on every level. Lauryn Hill said it best when she said “It ain’t about what you cop; it’s about what you keep.” Too many of our great athletes cop much, but keep little because they play for money and not for ownership. It’s time to change the game.