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DE LA HOYA VS. MOSLEY II Super-welterweight championship,
Saturday, 6 p.m., pay-per-view

The Golden Rules

Putting together a De La Hoya fight might seem like money in the bank for the promoter, but Arum has to work all the angles for his millions

September 12, 2003|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — The deal, involving all those millions of dollars, began with a sheet of paper. Or something like that.

Shortly after his last fight in May -- a victory over Yory Boy Campas -- Oscar De La Hoya wrote down the boxers he wanted to fight next, as he always does. Only this time, his wish list stopped after one name: Shane Mosley.

As usual, his suggestion was forwarded to his promoter, Bob Arum, who agreed the matchup could be profitable. Arum also knew that Mosley would hold out for more money if he knew how badly De La Hoya wanted the fight.

Never mind punch stats and judges' scorecards, the numbers that matter to a promoter are written on a spreadsheet. Mention a fight to Arum and he thinks revenue versus expenses, running the numbers through his head, computing profits.

So he began putting this fight together with a bit of trickery, contacting managers about other matchups, getting De La Hoya to talk up other opponents.

Then he got down to work.

Predicating gate receipts and domestic broadcast buys on a De La Hoya-Mosley rematch. Calculating the guarantees. Closing a site deal.

After months of guessing and haggling, the veteran promoter sat in his Top Rank office just off the Strip, feeling content. Everything has come together, he said, waving early reports on closed-circuit sales.

"Most of the business is tedious and aggravating," he added. "What I love is running the big promotions."

He means all the little pieces that add up to a multimillion-dollar fight, the business of creating Saturday's super-welterweight championship at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Guessing Game

As with many sports, television is boxing's 800-pound gorilla, the single largest revenue stream.

Television is the engine that could push De La Hoya's profit Saturday night to $25 million, according to Arum. Mosley could make $9 million. Arum himself stands to walk away with as much as $8 million.

So, with De La Hoya contractually bound to HBO, Arum's first step in arranging this fight was obvious.

"[Arum] comes to us for a projection of the pay-per-view buys and how much revenue the fight might generate," said Mark Taffet, an HBO senior vice president. "He wants to get a feel for the amount of money HBO might advance to Top Rank to help fund the event."

The first De La Hoya-Mosley fight -- Mosley won by split decision at Staples Center in 2000 -- resulted in 590,000 buys and $29.5 million in revenue, HBO said.

At this point it should be noted that, like a split decision in the ring, boxing finances are often disputed. HBO and its rival, Showtime, rarely agree on how much business a particular fight has done. Arum concedes: "Any time you're selling something, there is a credibility gap. Do I embellish and hype? The answer to that is, obviously, yes."

Whatever the actual numbers for De La Hoya-Mosley I, Arum guessed that a rematch could draw at least 550,000 buys at $50 each for a gross revenue of $27.5 million. Subtracting approximately half for cable operators and HBO's 7.5% fee, that left roughly $12.5 million. Arum got to work on the rest of the puzzle.

His people in New York predicted at least $1.5 million in foreign television rights. Joseph Gagliardi, who handles his closed-circuit telecasts in the United States, guaranteed $1 million. Sponsorships and merchandising were estimated at $500,000.

Finally, Arum "sniffed" to see how much a casino or arena might pay for the bout.

"See, I don't have my site deal till I make the fight," he said. "But I talked around. I knew the site fee wouldn't be less than $6 million."

Adding it all up, Arum figured he could afford to offer a combined $21.5 million in guaranteed purses to De La Hoya and Mosley.

"I try to be as conservative as possible so as not to get hurt," he said.

There was still a chance he could lose millions. But if the fight did even moderately well, there was money to be made.

All he had to do was convince the fighters.


The dynamic works like this: Boxers want big guarantees up front. Promoters try to persuade them to take less in exchange for "upside" -- a share of profits -- down the road.

Mosley had earned $4.5 million in the first fight and now wanted $5 million. But he had lost twice to Vernon Forrest in the interim and Arum talked him down to $4.25 million.

At least that's what everyone thought. Then Mosley backed out.

"Mosley was ..." Arum stopped himself. "I don't mean to fault him. Guys should try to get as much as possible. But we had a deal."

In a story frequently recounted, De La Hoya offered to shift $500,000 of his guarantee into a winner-take-all pot.

Even that wasn't enough. Finally, attorney Judd Burstein stepped in on Mosley's behalf. The guarantee was raised to $4.5 million and, more important, Mosley won provisions that could earn him $12.5 million in future fights.

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