Many people think of boxing as a function of brute force, but boxing is also a function of strategic planning. The events inside the ring as well as outside of it are ruled by those with the most effective strategies.
The Mayweather–McGregor fight was, in many ways, an example of great business practices. First, it had to be one of the greatest promotional accomplishments in the sporting history of the United States. Mayweather’s Manager Al Haymon, Stephen Espinoza of Showtime Sports, Audie Attar of Paradigm Sports Management may enjoy less camera time than other personalities surrounding the fight promotion, but they should be commended for working together to present a successful entertainment product to the public.
Second, the amount of revenue generated is astonishing. We just witnessed a sporting event that helped Mayweather and McGregor earn a combined guarantee of $130 Million. As of press time, each fighter’s official share of pay-per-view revenue has not been released. They are expected to surpass the $400 Million mark in combined take home earnings and the number could be higher than that preliminary estimate.
Let us put those numbers in perspective: In professional football, the 2017 salary cap is $167 million per NFL team. That means the two boxers earned more in one boxing match than the New England Patriots roster will earn in an entire season.
The business book, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene proved to be a handy framework while watching the fight and the business acumen in promoting the fight and negotiating earnings.
Here are 12 business laws from Greene’s book that could apply to this boxing event (and the sport of boxing) and of which all entrepreneurs should follow for business success:
1.Conceal Your Intentions
“If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelop them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.”
Floyd Mayweather Sr. told his son that he should be on him “by about the 4th round” after observing the action of the initial round. The course of action early in the fight surprised many fans. The unusual nature of the fight led Showtime boxing analyst Al Bernstein, who announced the fight, to exclaim “It’s not the way Floyd Mayweather fights!”
2. Always Say Less than Necessary
“The momentary satisfaction you gain with your biting words will be outweighed by the price you pay.”
To paraphrase an answer to a hypothetical question posed to one combatant back in January: What’s understood doesn’t need to be talked about. The other combatant, however, had many things to say about his opponent: “His little legs, his little core, his little head…I’m gonna knock him out inside 4 rounds, mark my words.” McGregor also stated, “I will put the pressure on him and break this old man. Trust me on that.” When asked about the result with 8-ounce gloves, he said “I don’t see him surviving.”
3. Court Attention at All Cost
“Court controversy, even scandal. It is better to be attacked, even slandered, than ignored. All professions are ruled by this law, and all professionals must have a bit of the showman about them.”
2017 has been a banner year in the sport of boxing. Many of the best fighters in the world have risked their titles and winning streaks to face each other across several weight classes. Boxing superstars such as Andre Ward, Terence Crawford, Anthony Joshua, and Keith Thurman have already won significant championship fights against other top stars. In spite of this fact, most people did not see any of them fight. The public has ignored them in spite of their tremendous abilities. Hopefully, their respective management teams will attract the same type of attention in the future. Nothing says court attention like a four city international press tour across three nations.
4. Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument
“It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.”
Former fighters, current trainers, and media experts were happy to share their opinions in the weeks leading up to the fight. The fighters fielded questions and discussed their respective strengths. The fight itself answered the most important question. The actions inside the ring spoke louder than any promoter’s words ever could.
5. Re-create Yourself
“Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than let others define it for you.”
Floyd Mayweather has an image of a patient, defensive boxer who is content with winning round after round without getting hit very often. This methodology has led him to an undefeated career. Some viewers, however, dislike his style. In an interview with ESPN before the fight, he said “This can’t be a defensive fight.” When asked why, he replied “I owe the public for the Pacquiao fight.” He won by knockout, despite scoring one knockout in his past 10 contests.
6. Enter Action With Boldness
“The best place to begin is often the delicate world of negotiation, particularly those discussions in which you are asked to set your own price.”
The Money Team has written the book on setting their price in the sports world. The Showtime partnership with Floyd Mayweather has set the three largest pay-per-view boxing matches in the history of boxing. This track record enables him to control negotiations in a manner unlike any other athlete in the world. He consistently said that he would not come out of retirement for less than “nine figures.” It is safe to say he earned his nine figures.
7. Play to People’s Fantasies
“…people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.”
Conor McGregor has an enthusiastic base of loyal fans. Some fans chose to support him in this bout because they have always supported the UFC. The UFC promotes his Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) contests. He is a superstar in his sport, and the fans love him. McGregor knew how to work the press conferences and play to the emotions of his fans. His promotional savvy had a positive impact on the live gate and pay-per-view sales.
8. Master the Art of Timing
“Always seem patient, as if you know everything will come to you easily…Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.”
In order to set the record breaking totals, the market must have a strong willingness to pay. The attention was on Manny Pacquiao. This fight would not have worked at that time. The dynamics were not in place yet. The younger fighter had time to grow in popularity and the older fighter had two years of retirement-induced inactivity to seem more vulnerable. The fight also took place when interest in the sport of boxing has been as high as it has been in years.
9. Create Compelling Spectacles
“People love what is grand, spectacular, and larger than life. Appeal to their emotions and they will flock to your spectacle in hordes.”
The unique nature of the fight, along with huge personalities of the combatants, appealed to the curiosity of the public. The show in Las Vegas was truly grand. So grand that the fight attracted stars from many aspects of the entertainment world. The tickets were priced at a premium, and the event attracted plenty of movie stars, comedians, recording artists, and athletes who could afford the prices.
10. Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others
“Aim at the primary emotions—love, hate jealousy. Once you move their emotions you have reduced their control, making them more vulnerable to persuasion.”
The sheer magnitude of this fight told me this was about more than boxing. MMA fans wanted recognition for their fighter, and they were anxious to see this fight. I always get the feeling that many other fans just purchase the Mayweather fights just to see him lose. He has flaunted his success to the public and he knows that his “Money Mayweather” character drives many sports fans to cheer for his demise.
11. Do Not Go Past the Mark You Aimed for; In Victory, Learn When to Stop
“There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. When you set a goal, and when you reach it, stop.”
There seems to be no satisfying some fans. The competitive phase of the match was over early in round 10. Referee Robert Byrd mercifully put an end to the fight before there was a risk of serious harm. Many fighters have suffered from the effects of absorbing vicious beatings in the ring. There was truly nothing left for Mayweather to prove that night.
12. Never Outshine the Master
“There can only be one sun at a time. Never obscure the sunlight, or rival the sun’s brilliance; rather, fade into the sky and find ways to heighten the master star’s intensity.”
This is the first lesson from Robert Greene, but we saved it for last. McGregor tried to out-talk, out-dress, and out-do Mayweather at his own game during many promotional events leading to the main event. By the end of the main event, it became clear who the brightest star on the stage really was.
From a business perspective, the event generated record money for the key investors. Their success also increased the potential future market for two rival organizations by attracting disparate audiences. I don’t know if history will repeat itself to the same extent, but I anticipate many others will try to recapture this success. The invisible hand of capitalism will likely push someone else in that direction. Time will tell.