By Sean Crose
Here’s the deal: boxing fans are sick of paying obscene amounts of money for pay per view events. It’s that simple. Don’t believe it? Take a look at the evidence. Manny Pacquiao’s last two fights have underperformed in the pay per view department. And Floyd Mayweather? Well, let’s just say Showtime seems to be unwilling to release the numbers for his latest pay per view fight. What’s more, word on the street (that means Twitter) is that the Mayweather-Maidana bout may have gotten well under a million buys.
Need more proof? It’s been announced this week that the pay per view numbers for Miguel Cotto’s blowout victory over Sergio Martinez were decidedly below expectations. Promoter Bob Arum claims there’s simply too many pay per view fights out there right now. He’s right. The irony is that three of the four instances of disappointing pay per view results I’ve mentioned in this article were bouts which were promoted by Arum’s company.
What promoters and broadcast giants like HBO and Showtime need to understand is that the American economy is not strong right now – at least it’s not as far as the vast majority of Americans are concerned. People simply don’t have the better half of a thousand dollars to cough up on pay per view boxing matches per year. And the way 2014 is trending, that’s about how much fans would have to pay to catch every pay per view fight.
Fight writer Adam Abramowitz has rightfully pointed out that it’s greed which has led the fight game to this point of diminishing returns. Gordon Gecko may have famously claimed greed is good in the movie Wall Street, but it’s not good for the boxing business. The sport is now marginalized, despite the fact that great fights, and interesting characters abound. The public at large won’t embrace those elements, however, if it has to pony up close to one hundred dollars a month to.
Seriously, is Canelo-Lara really a pay per view worthy fight? Of course it’s not. What it is, really, is a quality Showtime matchup. Just because two very good fighters are actually challenging themselves doesn’t mean people should have to pay extra for it with their hard earned money. I admire Canelo for being a true competitor and for taking a risk on this one, but it still isn’t a superfight.
A superfight, after all, emerges from genuine interest, not from a marketing department. Perhaps if Bob Arum decided to think big he might get big results on his investments. For instance, Arum claims that whites are not interested in fighters who aren’t white. Apparently, Arum’s forgotten about the huge interest boxers like Leonard, Hagler and Tyson once generated within white America. He’s also apparently forgotten about the huge amounts of money many white Americans were willing to pay to see those men in the ring.
My recommendation to Bob would be to try to include white America in his marketing strategies. If he continues ignoring a huge segment of the market, that segment is going to continue ignoring him. Remember, if we white sports fans were like Arum believes we are, all we’d watch is hockey. And I, for one, don’t watch hockey (though I heard this year’s Stanley Cup battle was pretty impressive).
Yet my guess is that all audiences, regardless of race, are now growing tired of this pay per view nonsense. Okay, maybe not all. Boxing’s new breed of fan wants to see fighters on pay per view because he or she cheers for earning potential, not ring skill. This new breed of fan is in the clear minority, however, as the numbers indicate.
So what are men like Arum, Oscar De La Hoya, and – yes – Al Haymon to do? Well, what they should do is cool it on the pay per views, expand fan bases and give audiences more than just tune-up bouts on cable television. They probably won’t, though. It’s hard to see fighters like Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez suddenly going back to HBO and Showtime now that they’ve headlined pay per view fights of their own.
And that, my friends, is the problem in a nutshell.