• Boxing in the red

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    Ed C. Tolentino

    There was a time when the bulk of professional boxing’s profits emanated from live gate attendance. The introduction of the pay-per-view system, however, raked in a whole lot of dough and totally altered the approach of fight promoters to the punch-for-pay business.

    Simply put, pay-per-view is a type of pay television service in which a subscriber of a television service provider can purchase events to view in the comfort of his home. In layman’s term, you pay a certain amount to watch a big event beamed through your television in real time. Through the years, marquee fights in boxing have realized gargantuan profits in terms of pay-per-view subscriptions. The record holder is the May 2015 showdown between Manny Pac­quiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., which generated 4.6 million pay-per-view buys and a whopping revenue of over $400 million.

    Of course, we all know that Pacquiao-Mayweather fight turned out to be a huge disappointment, with Mayweather winning a lackluster decision over an injured Pacquiao. The fight that was supposed to save boxing instead gave it a huge black eye that remains visible to this day.

    Since the Pacquiao-Mayweather fiasco, pro boxing’s pay-per-view buys have seen a sharp, noticeable decline. Pacquiao, once boxing’s premier attraction, has seen his pay-per-view buys dwindle in recent years. In fact, HBO, one of the biggest pay-per-view service providers, declined to pick up Pacquiao’s recent fight against Jessie Vargas, apparently seeing way ahead that it was not going to make money. One can almost sense the same lukewarm reception as Pacquiao heads to a probable July showdown with an unknown Jeff Horn.

    A few weeks back, boxing’s most exciting fighter, Gennady Golov­kin, took on Danny Jacobs in a middleweight unification showdown that was expected to rake in pay-per-view buys. The fight attracted just 170,000 buys, a huge disappointment from the standpoint of business insiders in boxing.

    As can be discerned, pro boxing is taking a backlash from boxing fans who are now fed up with the repeated failure of promoters to bring into fruition the fights they really want to see. Truth be told, nobody wanted to see Golovkin-Jacobs, everybody wanted to see Golovkin taking on Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Consequently, Alvarez’s marketability has also taken a hit with the way he has been trying to dodge a fight with Golovkin.

    Alvarez’s high-profile showdown with Miguel Angel Cotto in November 2015 did not even crack the 1 million pay-per-view barrier. Alvarez’s last fight against Liam Smith generated barely 300,000 pay-per-view subscriptions.

    There are other big fights boxing fans crave, but the politics within the sport and the refusal of rival promoters to work together have made these fights mere figments of the imagination. Alas, boxing fans are now putting the pressure on promoters by way of staying away from fights that really do not deserve pay-per-view treatment.

    Aggravating the problem is the soaring price of the pay-per-view subscription that has turned away the regular, minimum wage earning boxing fan. In sum, the cost of the pay-per-view subscription, the failure of the promoters to put up the coveted fights, and the disappointing fact that some of the big fights that were actually put up failed to deliver the fireworks have placed the business of pro boxing in the red.

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    For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@yahoo.com.

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