LAS VEGAS If Richard Schaefer looked a bit nervous standing near his fighters on a massive stage this week at the MGM Grand, he had good reason.
In a city of high rollers, on one of the biggest betting days of the year, the head of Golden Boy Promotions is taking the biggest gamble of all. He has $60 million on the line that Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez will deliver a great fight and deliver at the box office, too.
He's betting the 152-pound matchup Saturday between two unbeaten fighters will be a blockbuster, perhaps the richest fight ever. And right now, there are not a lot of wise guys in this gambling city who would bet against him.
"My goal is to break the record," Schaefer said. "I think we will do 2 million homes."
If it is the richest fight, it will be largely because Golden Boy is charging the single biggest price for a boxing match, a whopping $74.95 if you want to watch in high-definition. That will give boxing fans at home not only the most anticipated fight in years but a 140-pound title fight between Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse that would be a headline bout anywhere else.
Mayweather will make at least $41.5 million for the 12-rounder, bringing his salary this year to $73 million in two fights. Alvarez, the red-headed star from Mexico, won't do too badly himself, with a $5 million guarantee and a chance to make double that if the fight is a big hit.
For Schaefer and Golden Boy, it's a bit more complicated. They get a windfall guarantee from the Showtime network, which Schaefer says doesn't even cover Mayweather's purse. And after splitting with cable and satellite companies, they'll end up with about $35 from every house that buys the fight.
Toss in a $19.9 million live gate plus a few million from sponsorships and foreign rights sales, and it could be a nice payday indeed for the company Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya founded. "I'm going to obviously get some money Monday morning," Schaefer said. "But I'm going to be out by the time the first bell rings well over $60 million."
Schaefer begins to make money at about 1.5 million pay-per-view buys, and the indications are that this fight will exceed that, though getting to 2 million might be a stretch (Mayweather's 2007 fight against De La Hoya is the biggest selling boxing pay-per-view at 2.4 million buys). Mayweather's fight in May against Robert Guerrero was a bit of a box office dud at about 900,000 buys.
The 23-year-old Alvarez is a huge star in Mexico and is seen as the biggest challenger to Mayweather since he beat De La Hoya on a split decision in 2009. Oddsmakers favor Mayweather by almost 3-1, narrow odds by his standards.
"I have my fans, Floyd has his fans," Alvarez said. "I always envisioned it was going to be a big fight."
It will be a big night for boxing. The question is how big.