By Sean Crose
Let’s face it, as boxing fans things like ratings shouldn’t concern us all that much. What should matter is that competition is being fostered and good fights are being made. Here’s the thing, though – when good fights aren’t being made and competition isn’t being fostered, fans are left in a tough position. Do we keep watching mismatches or less than high quality bouts featuring top names or don’t we?
Saturday’s battle between Danny Garcia and Robert Guerrero in California is proving to be an interesting study. Why? Because it’s a decent fight rather than a good one and it’s possibly indicative of the direction the entire sport is heading. Guerrero, you see, hasn’t looked good in ages. Ages. Garcia, on the other hand, is a very good fighter who is apparently content to truly challenge himself as little as possible.
Garcia is, of course, a top Al Haymon fighter and, well, it’s been argued that superadvisor Haymon promotes the kind of strategy that team Garcia openly endorses. Yes, Danny’s father Angel has come out and openly endorsed the low risk/ high reward strategy bemoaned by many fans. Oh, he espouses competition too, but it’s clear where the elder Garcia’s heart is.
All of this, naturally, takes us to ratings – as in TV ratings. That’s right, Al Haymon’s television broadcasts (under the PBC banner) are apparently literally bought and paid for with hedge fund money. The problem with hedge fund money is that it runs out, which means at some point Haymon’s broadcasts will have to sink or swim on their own. And that means bringing in viewers.
If the less than stellar Garcia-Guerrero bout, which is being aired live on Fox this weekend, does good or great numbers, it will be clear that the business first model of boxing might well work. If the ratings are a disappointment, however, then it might indicate that fans have had enough. One suspects Haymon and company don’t care much for current fans, only new ones that might be lured in – but a whole lot of fresh eyeballs would have to watch on Saturday in order to make the card a success.
Again, boxing fans are in a tough spot here. Having the fights on what is essentially free television on a regular basis is a good thing. However, the Garcia way of doing things is clearly unsportsmanlike and will eventually start to drain boxing of its traditional fan base. If we traditionalists see that the things we love about boxing are gone, why will we continue to love it? We tune in to watch a sport, after all, not sadistic, one-sided beat downs or fights that can be considered merely decent at best.
Capitalism has been taking a lot of criticism lately, but one thing that can’t be argued is that it’s often good that the market decides what models stay and go. If the market rejects the business first model of boxing, then things will clearly have to change or those who embrace it will be left high and dry.
If the market actually shows it’s love of the business first strategy, however…