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Fight guaranteed to make history

At this late stage of his career, Oscar De La Hoya is not easily impressed. In 15 years as a professional fighter, he has seen it all.

But now he’s in awe.

Boxing never has seen anything like this, a fight that in three days is set to break almost all records.

In what is shaping up as the largest-grossing event in boxing history, predicted to surpass $100 million in revenue, De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. will meet for the WBC super welterweight title Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden.

“It just feels and it seems that much bigger than any other fight I’ve been involved with, and this is what it’s all about,” De La Hoya said.

For one week, boxing is crossing back over to the mainstream of American sports, and De La Hoya is the main drawing card.

The significance of it all is not lost on Mayweather, who said, “It’s not a black thing. It’s not a white thing. It’s a green thing. And I understand that’s the business.”

The color of money is all over this fight. De La Hoya is guaranteed at least $25 million and Mayweather $10 million, but they could rake in even more green, and they won’t be the only ones to profit.

De La Hoya’s company, Golden Boy Promotions, is co-promoting the fight with HBO, and everyone involved is enjoying a beautiful business relationship.

“This is the way boxing should be promoted,” De La Hoya said.

Aside from Mayweather belittling him every chance he gets, De La Hoya believes he has put together the perfect fight at a time when the sport desperately needs it.

Mayweather, unbeaten and unabashed, is the right opponent for De La Hoya, the most popular fighter of his generation, and the numbers prove it.

All the business aspects that converge to form a monumental boxing event — sellout crowd, media coverage, pay-per-view and closed-circuit sales, foreign TV interest, marketing, merchandising and sponsorships — are falling into place.

“It’s going to be a big, big revenue stream,” said Richard Schaefer, chief executive officer of Golden Boy Promotions.

It starts with the live gate at the MGM Grand Garden, where all 16,700 seats are sold to set a live-gate record of $19.068 million, topping the previous record of $16.8 million for the Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis fight in 1999.

Instead of the MGM paying a site fee in the neighborhood of $10 million, Schaefer said Golden Boy declined a guarantee and is getting about 90 percent of the gate.

“We usually take the risk on the gate because we believe in our events,” Schaefer said, adding that Golden Boy must assume expenses such as state taxes and all venue-related costs, which are many.

Schaefer said in excess of $30 million has been spent on advertising, with major sponsors such as Southwest Airlines and Tecate beer actively doing their own marketing to increase visibility for the fight. In turn, sponsors get more for their money than strategic logo placement.

“What really happened is the sponsors stepped up in a big way,” Schaefer said.

The De La Hoya-Mayweather fight will be shown in more than 1,500 closed-circuit locations in the United States, about 400 more than the previous record, Schaefer said.

Already, closed-circuit sales in Las Vegas are at 15,700. The MGM Grand has sold out its closed-circuit seats at $50 each. Including the Mirage, Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, Luxor, Treasure Island and Circus Circus, more than 25,000 closed-circuit seats are available, and all are likely to be sold.

“When you start adding these things together, it’s unbelievable,” Schaefer said.

Most fights are shown in about 30 to 40 foreign countries, but this fight is going to 176 countries. Each country pays a licensing fee, and HBO gets a cut of that deal.

“I couldn’t even believe it. I asked for a list, and I actually counted the countries myself,” said Schaefer, listing England, Japan, Mexico and Australia as the countries where the fight is most popular.

The pay-per-view numbers are just as staggering. Schaefer said he expects the record of 1.98 million pay-per-view subscriptions for the Lewis-Mike Tyson bout in 2002 to fall this weekend.

The cost for pay per view is $54.95. About 50 percent of that revenue goes to cable operators, satellite providers and to HBO for a distribution fee, while the rest goes to Golden Boy, which also collects 70 percent of the merchandising.

“Very rarely has a fight, or any event for that matter, broken one million homes,” said Schaefer, who is predicting a record amount of gross revenue surpassing $100 million.

“I personally have no doubt about that,” he said.

Add it up and it’s no mystery why De La Hoya decided promoting a fight with Mayweather was a bright idea.

“Oscar is a good businessman. We really appreciate him giving us the opportunity, because he really didn’t have to do that,” said Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather’s business adviser. “But he understands business.

“Oscar understands that he’s going to make the most money that he’s ever made in a fight, and he understands, more importantly, that his promotional company is going to be promoting the biggest fight in the history of the sport. It’s a great business decision by him.”

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