By Ivan G. Goldman
The death of boxing has been predicted many times, and the predictors were always wrong. They’re still wrong, but it’s in a bad way and sinking. Here are some indicators.
* The Sept. 14 Floyd Mayweather-Canelo-Alvarez pay-per-view show will be the most expensive ever at $75 per high-def hookup, yet the promoter basically admits the viewing audience won’t be all that big — certainly less than 2 million buys, very possibly less than 1.5 million . It will almost certainly set a record in terms of dollars, but extracting more dollars out of smaller audiences is a recipe for long-term failure. What are we looking at in 10 years? A die-hard audience of 100,000 paying $150 apiece? At that point boxing won’t even be a niche sport anymore. It’ll be a quaint curiosity, like a saddle shop.
Mayweather’s bout with Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 set a pay-per-view record of 2.4 million buys that looks more and more like it won’t be surpassed. In other words, the best is back there in the rear-view mirror. And the fight stunk.
* Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao — the match-up that had everyone excited, never got made. Dumb.
* Wladimir Klitschko, running out of guys to fight, apparently will get no U.S. TV network to carry his Oct. 5 bout against Alexander Povetkin in Moscow. When no one will pay to send a camera crew over to cover the current heavyweight champ defending his title against a former super heavyweight Olympic gold titlist, that pretty much says it all.
* Why, pray tell, is Timothy Bradley-versus-Juan Manuel Marquez on pay-per-view? It could be a good little welterweight battle, so shouldn’t we let more folks see it on Oct. 12 and build up the sport? Of course. But greedheads want to eke more money out of the fight than it’s really worth, and gouging the public is the simplest and also worst way to do that.
* Pacquiao versus Brandon Rios, Nov. 23 out of Macau, China, will be the third highly publicized pay-per-view card in three months. That’s too many, and that particular fight will be seen free or for much less money overseas, which generates ill will in the U.S. Are we supposed to be everybody’s chumps?
Some fans will buy all three shows and be disappointed. Others will buy just one or two and decide they chose poorly, that they missed the good stuff and paid for the dull stuff. More ill will. We’re told fans don’t mind paying to see fights on TV because they can throw pay-per-view parties and share the cost. Parties are fine, but when you’re forced to throw them they’re a pain in the butt. Sometimes we just want to see the damn fight — without making any elaborate plans.
* This last weekend, in its first induction ceremony ever, the Nevada. Boxing Hall of Fame inducted Don King, a promoter who once organized a fixed tournament and got caught, getting the entire sport thrown off broadcast channels. It was like a Black Sox Scandal, only with the perpetrators later being honored for their swindle.
Fighters King has been caught cheating include Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Terry Norris, Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon … heck, why go on? The man’s a thief. You’ll note that these are all gifted fighters, but some, notably Witherspoon and Tyson, suffered not just financially, but in other ways because they were guided by a wicked, wicked man. These organizations all know about King, yet they keep heaping honors on him. Disgusting.
* We’ve all watched boxing, over the last year or two, split in two, with Showtime, Golden Boy, and secretive manager Al Haymon in one camp and Top Rank and HBO in another. Their fighters can’t face each other. It’s as though the Mets and Yankees will never play each other because their respective management teams are too immature to do what’s best for everybody. Used intelligently, rivalries are healthy. Boxing uses them stupidly.
* And the last indicator that boxing is in a bad way? Just when the sport needs comic relief in the worst way, there’s no Butterbean around.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in June 2013 by Potomac Books. It can be purchased here.