LOS ANGELES – Floyd Mayweather executed game plans better than any boxer, matchmaker or promoter of this generation.
The undefeated Hall-of-Famer followed those carefully crafted blueprints to winning world titles in five divisions and becoming boxing’s long-reigning pound-for-pound king inside the ring. Following the financial plans he and adviser Al Haymon designed also made Mayweather the wealthiest fighter in the sport’s history by hundreds of millions of dollars.
“You always gotta have a game plan,” Mayweather told a group of reporters after a press conference Thursday at JW Marriott LA Live to promote the Gervonta Davis-Isaac Cruz lightweight title fight Sunday night at nearby Staples Center. “And then a lotta times, the media, y’all be like, ‘Well, what’s the game plan? When he go out there, what’s the game plan?’ I’m not gonna tell y’all the f------’ game plan.
“So what? An opponent can go home and say, ‘Oh, that’s the game plan? Well, I’m gonna do something different.’ So, what I used to do is always give y’all a bullsh!t game plan, tell y’all what I wanna tell y’all. We never gonna tell y’all the game plan. The game plan is to tune in.”
There’s no “bullsh!t” as it relates to Mayweather’s ever-patient plan for promoting Gervonta Davis’ career. They’re not going to do something different than have Davis box B-level underdogs until the lightweights we most want to watch Davis fight come to the negotiating table with what they consider realistic purse demands.
However frustrated fans might become while waiting impatiently for the entertaining knockout artist to fight such contemporaries as Devin Haney or Ryan Garcia, Mayweather, the CEO for his promotional company, Leonard Ellerbe, and Davis himself will remain patient until Haney, Garcia and even newly crowned George Kambosos Jr. show that they’re serious about the dollars making sense. It’s not necessary, in their educated estimation, to overpay for unbeaten opponents who don’t have Davis’ track record as an attraction.
Kambosos obviously has immeasurably more leverage than he had this time last week. And Davis, of course, would welcome the opportunity to beat Kambosos to win the IBF, WBA “super,” WBC “franchise” and WBO 135-pound championships that the unbeaten Australian took from Teofimo Lopez on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.
Regardless, Davis, who turned 27 last month, and his team are unwavering in their belief that Davis is the ‘A’ side no matter which lightweight he fights, Kambosos included. They provide proof in the numbers Davis does at the gate and on pay-per-view.
Davis developed over the past 13 months into a fighter who can consistently produce between 200,000 and 230,000 pay-per-view buys, even versus opponents he is expected to knock out.
The Baltimore native has become one of the few draws among American boxers at the gate as well, primarily because the multi-dimensional Davis knocks people out, often in fantastic fashion. His 96-percent knockout ratio is second among active world champions only to IBF/WBC light heavyweight champ Artur Beterbiev (16-0, 16 KOs).
Davis’ 11th-round knockout of Mario Barrios in his last fight, a temporary move up to the junior welterweight division, drew a capacity crowd of 16,432 to State Farm Arena in Atlanta on June 26 and produced gate receipts of roughly $4 million. Davis previously packed Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore for his second-round technical knockout of Ricardo Nunez in July 2019, when a crowd of 14,686 generated a live gate of approximately $2.6 million.
The card headlined by Davis (25-0, 24 KOs) and Mexico City’s Cruz (22-1-1, 15 KOs) won’t sell out Staples Center, but BoxingScene.com has been informed that a crowd of roughly 14,000 is a realistic expectation. Haney’s defense of his WBC world lightweight title against Joseph Diaz Jr., while an excellent fight, might not sell a third the number of tickets as Davis-Cruz on Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“I’m not gonna overpay a kid when he’s selling half the house,” Ellerbe said in reference to Haney. “You’ve gotta bring something to the table. This is a business. And when I agree with Arum, then it’s like it’s a problem. But Arum’s saying the same damn thing and he’s been doing this for  years. He’s saying, ‘I’m not gonna overpay for something,’ because who’s looking to throw away their money? We’ve worked very hard to get where we’re at, OK? The other guy is over there f------’ off someone else’s money. So, it doesn’t matter.”
The other guy, of course, is Eddie Hearn, whose company, Matchroom Boxing, promotes Haney. The someone else is DAZN, the streaming service with which Hearn has partnered for the past three years.
By bringing Davis to the pay-per-view platform in the United States for each of his past three fights, Mayweather Promotions has absorbed almost all of the financial risk related to those events. While Mayweather’s company has a deep-pocketed television partner in Showtime, Mayweather, Ellerbe and Haymon aren’t about to ask Davis to cut into his guarantee and/or upside to entice Haney or Garcia to get into the ring with him, no matter how much Davis might want to silence skeptics by beating one or more of his rivals.
Davis’ detractors theorize that this is simply the way for him and his handlers to avoid the most difficult lightweight fights for Mayweather Promotions’ franchise fighter. Like it or not, they won’t be swayed by public opinion.
“I don’t think he has to do anything but keep on going out there and doing what he’s doing,” Ellerbe said. “Those guys have gotta step it up and become attractions. Like, for example, Devin Haney is an outstanding fighter. But outside the core audience of fans, it’s unfortunate that many people don’t know who he is. And they say, ‘Well, all the fans wanna see it.’ Well, boxing is a niche sport. We’re trying to grow our base beyond that.
“And again, it don’t matter who we put in there. But one thing we’re not gonna do, we’re not gonna overpay somebody to say we’re doing this and that. Most of the diehard boxing fans thought that Lopez is the best fighter in the weight class. ‘Oh, [Davis] won’t fight him.’ Well, that was proven otherwise last week.”
Unfortunately for Lopez, he didn’t implement much of a game plan once he didn’t deliver on his promise to knock out Kambosos in the first round. The stunning result was his first defeat, a 12-round split decision, which will lead to a move up to the 140-pound division whenever Lopez returns to the ring in 2022.
Lopez’s loss served as a dramatic reminder of why they fight the fights and why we shouldn’t simply discount Cruz’s chances of pulling off another upset.
Still, the game plan for guiding Davis’ career remains very much the same. His handlers expect him to continue knocking out B-level opponents until the lightweights we most want to see him fight come to the negotiating table with what they consider realistic purse demands.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.