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Spence vs. Ugas: Does the PPV Help Errol’s ‘Brand’ Proposition?

By Charles Jay

I’m thinking that if there is going to be an American superstar in boxing, Errol Spence Jr. has about as good a chance as anyone. Perhaps the ultimate confirmation would take place if an when he fights Terence Crawford, who holds himself up as another candidate.

He’s got credentials, to be sure – he’s an Olympian, he’s undefeated, he’s got a lot of talent and he has fought the kind of opponents that merit consideration.

On Saturday night he’ll be fighting against Yordenis Ugas in a title unification fight in the welterweight division. It’s slated for Showtime Pay Per View, priced at $74.99.

That’s quite a bit of money. Some people complain that anything good that takes place in boxing is offered only through the Pay Per View (PPV) platform. And then of course you have those who object to certain events being “Pay Per View fights” at all.

So just what qualifies something as a credible “Pay Per View fight”?

The truth is, anything can be a PPV fight. There’s a website out there, in fact, that specializes in offering a wide variety of fights that you can pay for.

As for the idea of financial viability, well, it’s all relative.  A fight  could have 100,000 buys and be a nice success, while another can have a million buys and be a failure. It’s largely dependent on how much in the way of expenses has to be overcome.

For example, what are the guarantees that have to go to each main event fighter? In this instance, at least according to a couple of sources, Spence is guaranteed $1.5 million and can participate in the back end up to $5 million, while Ugas gets $1 million guaranteed up to $2.5 million. These figures may not be completely accurate, but based on those, it doesn’t appear there is a lot of risk of huge financial disaster on the part of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), the promoters of the event.

It’s been reported that Spence made $1.22 million to fight Kell Brook and $2 million for a bout with Shaun Porter, if that offers some perspective. Against Danny Garcia, I have read that he pocketed $8 million, based on 250,000 PPV buys, and that seems somewhat out of proportion to me.

Reports were that he was scheduled to make a guaranteed $7 million for a fight with Manny Pacquiao that had to be shelved because of an eye injury to Spence (which allowed Ugas to step in and benefit).

It would have been nice if for him to have been able to fight Pacquiao, but now the fight that would seem to represent the “pot of gold” would come against Crawford, whose promotional situation is a bit muddled right now.

It’s probably Spence’s best shot at a big score; after all, this is an encounter that might, when the time comes, crown the #1 pound-for-pound guy (it’s a “mythical” thing, so anyone can make a reasonable claim), but is there a championship-level attraction in that matchup?

That’s a question that brings out the cynics, because the answer is…..not yet.

And we say “yet” because there is still an opportunity. It is patently obvious that to Al Haymon and the PBC, this fight is not an end for Spence but rather a means to an end. If Crawford has a lot of magnetism, it hasn’t necessarily been substantiated with whopping PPV numbers. So it would make sense that Spence could be the guy bringing more “sizzle” to the proceedings.

But it won’t be easy. I’m sure that the Spence-Ugas PPV can succeed as an endeavor to a certain degree. But I would have suggested something that might be considered somewhat bold in this day and age.

Put the fight on free, over-the-air broadcast television.

In the present situation, that would mean the FOX Network.

Any promoter who has a special interest in promoting a fighter has to consider themselves in the process of “brand-building.” There is a “product” and you have to sell it. When it comes to someone like Spence, and their aspirations for him, this is very important.

And let’s take a moment to be honest with each other. This is a boxing website, so it stands to reason that you’re going to be following the game more than the average Joe. You are, if you will, living in a boxing bubble, where your perception is that these fighters are bigger than they really are.

So it may come as an unpleasant surprise that there are not many pro fighters who are household names. You’ve got Canelo and as much as it hurts, Jake Paul. There are maybe a couple of others, including the heavyweight of the moment, which is currently Tyson Fury.

The people who have been buying the likes of Spence and Crawford on PPV are more ardent boxing fans than normal. But if you want to hit a grand slam at the nationwide box office, as it were, there is no way to do that unless you pull in the casual fan; the curiosity seekers, the people who may not be boxing fans at all, but are attracted to the magnitude of the event.

So you have to establish the magnitude.

And having said that, wouldn’t it make sense, if you were someone with a special interest in promoting Errol Spence as far as he can go, to put him in front of as many eyeballs as possible, so as to increase his brand equity?

I’d think that would be something to carefully consider.

And from the standpoint, I don’t know that Spence advances himself too much, regardless of what happens against Ugas, because they have chosen the method of delivery with the smallest audience.

If they are able to draw 200,000 PPV buys, that probably means they’d have about double the viewership (as multiple people can obviously watch these things), so let’s be liberal about it and give them an audience of 500,000. The ratings for boxing on FOX have been all over the place, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to expect that, with a nice push, they could get 2.5 million viewers or more across all their platforms.

So they could get five times as many eyeballs. At least.

Some of you may not realize or remember this, but there has never been a method of “pre-selling” a fighter to the public quite as powerful as broadcast television. Sure, some of that come before the cable explosion, but there is still a bigger viewership, because over-the-air TV gets into every home.

It is true that a free FOX broadcast would take the “back end” situation off the table. But are they going to meet the required thresholds anyway? I don’t see any reason why both fighters couldn’t get their guarantees for a network telecast with a lot of viewers.

And if you are a promoter making an investment now that can pay off much bigger later – that is, if you think Spence-Crawford is a “mega-fight” – even making it a loss leader is the kind of thing you would have to give a lot of thought to.

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