While the Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather camps have been working to make a deal for their proposed May 2 megafight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, there is more to it than just getting the fighters to agree to terms.
It will also require Showtime/CBS, which has Mayweather under contract, and HBO/Time Warner, which has Pacquiao under contract, to make a deal for what is expected to be a joint pay-per-view telecast if the fight is finalized.
At least that ball is rolling.
HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler and HBO Sports President Ken Hershman joined Showtime chairman and CEO Matt Blank and Showtime Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager Stephen Espinoza on Wednesday at an undisclosed restaurant in New York to discuss the framework of a deal, a source with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.com.
There is a long way to go according to the source.
"If this was a 100-meter dash, it's at about the 40-meter mark," the source said.
Both networks declined to comment.
Showtime and HBO are fierce rivals in the premium cable business when it comes to boxing, original programming, documentaries, you name it. This is not an easy deal to make.
There are a slew of issues, including critical aspects such as which company would do the actual production, which company's announcers would call the fight and which network would get the delayed broadcast rights. There are also aspects not nearly as significant but which also must be dealt with, such as which network's ring announcer would handle the fight, Showtime's Jimmy Lennon Jr. or HBO's Michael Buffer.
But it has happened once before -- in 2002, for the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight championship fight, when Lewis was signed to HBO and Tyson to Showtime.
That was a brutal deal to negotiate but it did get done. So there is a blueprint of how to make a deal already in place.
My thought is that they should simply bust out that contract and do it the same way for Mayweather-Pacquiao with whatever tweaks might need to be made.
In the 2002 deal, for example, Lennon and Buffer each introduced their network's fighter. Since Lewis won by knockout, Buffer announced the decision. Had it gone the distance they would have both read parts of the scoring.
In terms of the announcer team, the networks meshed their broadcast teams for a fight-night PPV telecast and each network also had its other guys call the fight as well for the possible replay.
The deal was that whichever network's fighter won, that network would get the delay rights. Lewis won and HBO showed the replay, and the fight was forever branded an HBO fight. The Showtime replay that was produced never aired.
So the deal can be done. It's just not easy.
Right off the bat, I'm told that HBO is reluctant to handle the delay the same way as in the 2002 deal, preferring instead to have any delay air simultaneously on both networks. Perhaps HBO was OK with the 2002 arrangement because Lewis was such a huge favorite over Tyson and it was worth the risk. In a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, Mayweather will be the favorite.
So whether Mayweather and Pacquiao themselves can come to terms -- and Pacquiao's side claims he has agreed to terms negotiated by Top Rank promoter Bob Arum with CBS boss Leslie Moonves, who has been serving as the go-between with Mayweather's camp, while Mayweather has not yet -- the network deal is just as important as any agreement the boxers can come to.
In order for there to be a fight of this magnitude on May 2, any deal would almost certainly have to be wrapped up no later than early February and the clock is ticking.