By Ivan G. Goldman
Tickets to the Sept. 14 Floyd Mayweather versus Saul “Canelo” Alvarez super fight will be offered to the public this Tuesday, and they won’t come cheap. Some third-party brokers are already taking orders.
The cheapest nosebleed seats at the very back of the MGM Grand Garden Arena will go for $350. What the promoter dubs “ringside” seats (and almost none of them are actually in the front row) go for an eye-popping $2,000 apiece. This is without doubt the highest-priced boxing event in U.S. fight history, and scalpers will be all over it.
The arena seats about 16,800, depending how it’s configured. The worst of those Himalayan seats in the back of the arena have no line of sight to the jumbo monitors, so fans back there will view only mouse-sized fighters way down below without any screen to help. It can still be a fair deal for those fans as long as they know what they’re getting. They’ll experience the incredible energy that fills a super fight venue, but to actually get a good view of the action they’ll have to watch it on TV some other time. More about the Showtime pay-per-view telecast below.
Big Las Vegas fights truly reflect the economic world we live in. There’s no attempt to mask inequality, which is on raw display and even celebrated. Not only do wealthier customers get better seats; in many cases they don’t have to pay for them. The MGM Grand will allocate some of the choicest spots to high rollers who will be comped in packages that can include air travel, a suite of rooms, food, booze, and other swag in exchange for big-time action on the casino floor. Standard practice is to also make some sort of arrangement with other casinos so they can offer similar deals to their best customers.
For lowly non-comped customers, the law of supply and demand also makes hotel rooms scarce and more expensive. And on big fight weekends, smaller minimum bets are squeezed off the tables. Good luck finding a blackjack table where you can wager only one green $25 chip on a hand.
The house gaming edge of about 2 percent is huge when it’s multiplied by thousands and thousands of bets every hour. The volume of wagering allows the law of averages to smooth out the action in the house’s favor — especially at the slot machines, where technicians can engineer the take precisely.
Now about television. Promoters and cable companies are always secretive about the actual retail price of a pay-per-view fight until they make the official sale announcement. But whenever they raise the price, it’s always for a super fight like this one. As fans know, the prevailing pay-per-view cost now is approximately $70 plus tax if you want to see it in high definition. We have yet to learn whether Showtime and Golden Boy will opt for yet another hike or stand pat on this one.
The broad financial math isn’t hard to figure out. 16,800 seats at an approximate average of $1,000 per seats brings in about $16,800,000 at the gate, which won’t even pay for half of Mayweather’s purse. That’s where pay-per-view comes in. If the fight attracts, say, 2 million buys at $70 each, that adds $140 million to the pie. This gives us some idea of what a blow it was to HBO when his advisor Al Haymon took Mayweather, 44-0 (26 KOs), over to Showtime. The numbers are so high that they significantly affect the bottom lines even of huge global corporations such as Time Warner, which owns HBO, and CBS, which owns Showtime.
The pay-per-view record stands at approximately 2.4 million buyers — for the mostly dull Mayweather-versus Oscar De La Hoya match-up on Cinco de Mayo (May 5) in 2007. Floyd’s outing against Canelo, 42-0-1 (30 KOs), will be his eighth straight bout at the MGM Grand and his tenth straight in Las Vegas. In his last nine consecutive outings he scored two stoppages — against Ricky Hatton and Victor Ortiz. In Canelo’s last nine outings — against significantly weaker opposition — he scored five stoppages — over Josesito Lopez, Kermit Cintron, Alfonso Gomez, Ryan Rhodes, and Carlos Baldomir.
These are some of the facts fans will examine as they try to calculate whether the fight will be worth its considerable cost to them.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, is due out this month. It can be pre-purchased here.