By Ivan G. Goldman
Here’s a question for you. Will the Showtime pay-per-view bout between Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara on July 12 be a better fight than the HBO showdown this weekend between Terence Crawford and Yuriokis Gamboa? If it is, that will be the exception that proves the rule, because most of the really sensational contests of the last couple of decades were given away to subscribers.
There’s no direct correlation between excitement and pay-per-view dollars. In fact, the pay-per-view economic model is to boxing what a dime bag is to a junky. It’s a quick fix that digs the sport into a deeper hole, driving away both existing and potential fans. PPV cards are just another example of short-term corporate thinking, a rampant disease these days.
Oddsmakers have favored the house fighters, Canelo and Crawford, in both contests.
Interesting that the main events this weekend and July 12 both feature Cubans. You could probably fit all the American fans of Cuban fighters in a Greyhound bus. Canelo is in tough against Lara, 19-1-2 (12 KOs), but don’t expect him to break any PPV records against this opponent. There is no meaningful title on the line.
Canelo’s pay-per-view status is directly related to something you could call the Mexican tax, except it’s not collected by the government in Mexico City. Promoters and premium channels know that in terms of loyalty and sheer numbers, Mexican and Mexican-American fans are tops. Consequently, these fans are willing to pay for fights that other fans wouldn’t even consider buying. The reasoning goes like this: These fans can be counted on. Therefore, let’s screw them.
Promoters love to point out that fight purchasers can get rebates and coupons from beer companies and such. They also tell us that Latinos just love to throw parties and chip in for PPV telecasts. Well here’s a news flash. Latino fans would much prefer to give a party without having to screw around with rebates or coupons or having to pay extra for the telecast. Just because they’re loyal and fervent that doesn’t make them stupid.
Carrot-topped Canelo, 43-1-1 (31 KOs), is, at the tender age of 23, the hottest Mexican boxing star out there. In his last PPV outing, when he stopped powerful but slow Alfredo Angulo in round ten, Canelo pulled in approximately 350,000 buys, which Showtime and Golden Boy termed a big success. It falls short of a typical Floyd Mayweather total, yet earns a profit. In fact, thanks to the crazy terms Mayweather’s advisor Al Haymon pulled out of Showtime in its six-bout contract with Floyd, the network may even make more money from 350,000 Canelo buys than from 1 million buys for expensive Mayweather.
(As my colleague Sean Crose pointed out this week, it’s starting to look like Mayweather’s most recent outing, against Marcos Maidana, pulled in less than 1 million buys. Whatever the figure is, the promoter and the network don’t appear eager to release it)
That Mayweather-Showtime contract that the two parties brag is the biggest such fight contract ever signed may not be so much to celebrate after all. How much does it really accomplish for Showtime? If you want to increase the network’s subscription base, you put attractive shows on the actual Showtime channel. That’s also how you make fight fans out of viewers who subscribed mainly because they were attracted by vampire dramas and the like.
Canelo is a heck of a fighter, but now that he’s a PPV star his ability to increase his own personal fan base in the U.S. will be constricted. That’s true even though he’s personable, handsome, and making real progress with his English skills. Incidentally, when’s the last time you heard one of those defector Cuban fighters converse in English?
As for Crawford, the WBO lightweight champ, he lacks fame but not skill. At 23-0 (16 KOs), he’s in against a Cuban with an identical record who’s got power and a leaky defense. It could add up to fireworks. More fireworks than Canelo-Lara? We’ll just have to see.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.