by Charles Jay
There is no question that boxing can still occupy a very prominent position in the sports landscape, and the tremendous Google trending figures that related to the Mayweather-Cotto fight prove that.
In case you’re not aware, Floyd Mayweather fought Miguel Cotto on May 5, and the phrase represented by the fight itself – “Mayweather vs. Cotto” – was the third-highest trending search phrase Google had registered during the month.
That’s around the world. In the United States, the #2, #3 and #4 terms were associated with the fight.
And it’s not as if there were not other things going on in the world of sports last month. The Euro 2012 soccer championship has been running all through the month. The NBA playoffs had been taking place. The same held true for the NHL. In the U.S., baseball is obviously in full swing, with millions of fantasy players. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were held. The NFL has mini-camps. We could go on and on.
The results show that boxing, when it is contested at its highest level, is a “world” event, and that there is considerable interest in a marquee fight. Undoubtedly, when all the numbers are in for June, the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight is going to rank very high on the list.
When it comes right down to it, there is tremendous interest, even from casual sports fans, for a major fight. That’s never changed all that much. In fact, when you go down the list of the top-selling pay-per-view events, most of them are related to boxing. The injection of combat plus personality is a driver for the mainstream sports viewer.
That means it is imperative that new stars are found and developed. Mayweather and Pacquiao will only be around for a handful of fights, and there have to be people waiting in the wings to take over. It appears that Cotto can carry a pay-per-view, to some degree, and Canelo Alvarez is going to generate some pay-per-view dollars on his own, although some doubt may exist as to whether he can do that on the scale of Floyd or Manny. There are others like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. who will be given every opportunity to demonstrate that they belong in the upper echelon.
Of course, the cream has to rise to the top, and in a sense, that means anyone who wants to occupy the lofty position has to earn his way there. In the model that boxing has evolved into, that “proving” ground has been the HBO Championship Boxing series. That’s fine, but sometimes those bouts are looked upon more like a stepping stone, to “set up” an eventual pay-per-view showdown.
How can more fighters be brought into the whole “mega” pay-per-view sphere? Well, one of the ideas could revolve around bringing the fights back to network television, which is something that has been tossed around this week out of the Golden Boy camp. Will Alvarez’s next fight be on CBS? If that’s a possibility, that’s a good thing. No doubt, you’re going to say “Everybody has cable now.” Yes, but not everybody buys HBO. The fights on ESPN are relatively meaningless, and not everyone has the NBC Sports Network either.
On the other hand, everybody can pick up the network affiliates locally, even if they don’t have cable. The universe for that is mutually inclusive of the households with TV sets. Sure, households without premium cable, may not by pay-per-view. Not now anyway. But they could buy it in the future. When boxing was going strong on the networks, the PPV access was not nearly as large as it is now, but if you go back and look, you’ll see that buy rates were very strong indeed.
The bottom line is that there are great ways to “pre-sell” fighters that should be explored further. And let’s hope NBC, which now has an investment in boxing through its cable sports channel, is listening, as there are potential stars who will emerge out of the Olympics and they aren’t going to generate much interest coming into the pro ranks if they are shown at three o’clock in the morning over here.
Certainly boxing has to clean up its own house in many ways. But some of the guys who have had nothing to do with whatever shenanigans have taken place over the years could really use a fighting chance.