By: Sean Crose
“There were no fights of significance on Thursday,” Yahoo’s Kevin Iole wrote in a Friday article, “but the date will go down as one of the biggest days in recent boxing history.” Why? Because relatively unknown “entertainment platform” Triller outbid promotional powerhouses Top Rank and Matchroom for the rights to Teofimo Lopez’ mandatory lightweight title defense against George Kambosas. For those who don’t know, a mandatory title defense is a fight a titlist HAS to take against a ranked contender. This ensures that boxers who grind their way up the ranks get a real chance at success, rather than sitting by while titlists face one glossy and lucrative name after another.
Kambosos, like Lopez, has an undefeated record. Kambosos is not, however, the kind of fighter – at least not yet – who could be considered a high-profile attraction. Lopez-Kambosos will be a mandatory title bout, not a superfight. Why, then, did Triller bid over six million dollars for rights to the match? That’s just a ton of money for a bout of this level. A look at Triller’s highly successful Mike Tyson-Roy Jones pay per view card last November may provide some of the answers. That card, featuring two former greats in their fifties, was the most successful pay per view event of 2020.
That’s incredible. Here were two men who were WAY over the hill bringing in a bigger pay per view buy rate than any other boxing or UFC event in a twelve-month period. Mike Tyson’s seemingly permanent place in American pop culture had a lot to do with Triller’s success, of course, yet something else was in play that late autumn evening – the fact that the card was FUN. There were hip hop acts and a sense of gleeful irreverence to the entire thing which felt perfectly at home in the world of modern boxing. Some of the lyrics to the songs seemed pretty uncool in regard to women, but the overall vibe of the evening was one of rambunctious, innocuous fun. That sort of thing builds a fan base.
What’s more, a personality like the brash Lopez’ appears to fit the Triller mold perfectly. For Lopez is bold, over-the-top and not afraid to use blue language (like those aforementioned lyrics, that language can at times be antisocial). Most importantly, though, Lopez has the aura of a renegade about him. That sort of thing has an appeal to it. Lopez is, in a sense, the anti-Ryan Garcia, the popular rising star who recently cut an advertising deal with Gatorade. And Triller, in a sense, is the anti-Top Rank, Golden Boy or Matchroom, contemporary boxing’s premiere promotional outlets. The pairing with Lopez, then, might make perfect sense – might being the operative word.
For while Thursday’s surprise worked out very well for Lopez, it might not work out as well for Triller. Although he’s outspoken and popular, Lopez has yet to prove himself to be a pay per view level star. There are those who are claiming Lopez-Kambosos will be a co-feature of, or even on the undercard of, another novelty bout, perhaps Tyson-Holyfield III. Yet it’s also being said that Lopez-Kambosos will be the main event of its own Triller card. Will Triller end up taking a bath on Lopez? Maybe. Then again, the outlet has proven it knows what its doing so far, thanks to a colorful presentation and an affordably priced broadcast.
Like Lopez himself, Triller has shown it’s never wise to write off a wildcard.
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