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A Golden Delivery on Pay-Per-View

Richard Schaefer
Richard Schaefer


Last month at the Star Plaza at LA Live, where a public press conference was held to officially announce the September 17th pay-per-view bout between WBC welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz and Floyd Mayweather, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer promised me that they would be featuring the greatest undercard of all-time. For the record, the “Illmatic” of all pay-per-view undercards is “Revenge the Rematches” that took place in 1994, featuring return bouts like Julio Cesar Chavez-Frankie Randall and Gerald McClellan-Julian Jackson. That card will be the one all others are measured against now and forever.
 
Well, “Star Power” has a bill that includes Saul Alvarez facing Alfonso Gomez, Jessie Vargas taking on Josesito Lopez and Erik Morales battling the hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse. Y’ know what? From top to bottom, this is a pretty damn good card, any way you slice it. Every single fight on this undercard figures to be a fun, entertaining scrap.
 
No Butterbean or Mia St. John for your $54.95.

"It’s the biggest card we have ever promoted; frankly, it’s the biggest I can remember," said Schaefer this past Wednesday at Olvera Street, where an open air press conference was held for this undercard. "Certainly it’s the biggest in the past ten, 12, 14 years or so. We wanted to give a great card and I’m happy to combine all these stars from Morales, ’Canelo’, to Mayweather-Ortiz, emerging stars like Vargas, on one card. It really is for the fight fans, sports fans, general public. If you ever want to watch one fight card, that’s the one."
 
Here’s the thing; it’s a belief in the boxing industry that whatever headlines the marquee on a pay-per-view card is responsible for about 99 percent of the buys. Most successful shows are reliant on big names- like a Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao- to drive interest with the general public (who often doesn’t care what is on the screen for the first two hours of a pay-per-view show). They believe the hardcore loyalist will purchase the card, regardless, so with that, undercards have suffered in quality.
 
You would think, though, while the sport is in the spotlight just a few days out of the year, promotions would put their best feet forward on these occasions. Perhaps there needs to be more emphasis on offering lineups that aren’t just reliant on the main event to carry the day. To a certain degree, these fights shouldn’t just be the filler or something that you sludge through. At least one fight should be of- at the very least- “Boxing After Dark”-quality and, above all, provide some real entertainment.

"I agree with you," said Schaefer, whose card is a split-site affair from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the Staples Center in Los Angeles. "I think Mayweather-Ortiz is certainly one of the best match-ups you can make. I know everyone is talking about Mayweather-Pacquiao but short of that, I think at this particular time, at this particular weight class, this is the single best match-up that can be made. I really don’t see any other combination whatsoever. It’s the biggest fight. It’s a dangerous fight for Floyd. So it’s certainly a pay-per-view which is going to be on its own, I would assume, in the 1.5 million-range or so. Mayweather against [Juan Manuel] Marquez did like a 1.35 million, so Mayweather is in that range. So here, you’re talking about a million-and-a-half homes. Now we really feel we have loaded this card with - since its Mexican Independence weekend- the best young Mexican star who commands huge audiences in Mexico and here as well. We went on sale with tickets at the Staples Center and on the first day, we sold like 3,000 tickets. That’s unbelievable. We put ’Canelo’ on the card in what will be a very, very entertaining fight with Gomez, who is a character and a heckuva fighter.

"And then add to that, Morales against Matthysse, which is one of the best 140-pound fights you can make. Most media people and others have Morales and Matthysse ranked in the top eight or so in that particular weight class. Those two guys fighting each other is one of those fights that you know going into the fight, it can only be a great fight. It’s like [Robert] Guerrero-[Marcos] Maidana, y’ know; it can be ’Fight of the Year,’ the same here. If you put all of those together on one card, we really feel we are really making a statement. This is a statement card for Golden Boy, Mayweather Promotions, for all of us and it is a statement card, most importantly, for the sport of boxing."
 
One of the hindrances in putting on stacked undercards is the budgets for these shows hover right around $750,000 to a million dollars, depending on what is allocated. So if you want to put together boxers who are staples on HBO or Showtime and have consistently earned high six-figure purses, they might automatically be priced out of the picture. So unless you’re the infamous Harold Smith with someone else’s money, “dream cards” are really just that.
 
Schaefer gives the breakdown, "You put together a budget, where you put one side, like everyone else that makes budgets, you make the income and you make the expenses and on the income side, the big question is, ’How many homes are you going to do on a pay-per-view?’ You don’t know. If you have a bigger pay-per-view, you have more money to spend on the undercard and if you have a smaller show, then you have less money to spend on the undercard. So you sort of have to find a medium. Now, it’s logical that obviously we have a bigger pay-per-view; you’re going to have more money to work with, therefore you can afford a bigger undercard budget. Because some people think that HBO is paying for these fights and you have fighters on pay-per-view fights up there thanking HBO. I mean, they’re not paying a penny. They’re actually making money because they’re getting a distribution fee.

"So it is us, the promoters, who are 100 percent at risk and that sometimes depends on what kind of cards you’re going to see. But in boxing, you can actually make good fights as well. It doesn’t have to be all world championship fights, which are expensive. You can do interesting significant match-ups for less money as well. That’s the thing we want to do. We really want to make fights where, going into the fight, you really don’t know who is going to win and that is exactly what you’re going to see on this card here."
 
Case in point is the bout between Lopez and Vargas, a hook-up of two young, up-and-coming junior welterweights who are fighting to move up the division’s food chain. Lopez is always in fun fights and Vargas is taking his first real significant step-up. This figures to be a well-contested bout.
 
“Star Power” got some help from the INS as Jorge Barrios was denied his visa and therefore, the hard-hitting Matthysse will face Morales. So Golden Boy went from taking a lot of deserved heat for playing alongside the WBC in getting this fight sanctioned for their junior welterweight crown to now just having a fight that looks to be an old-fashioned slugfest, regardless of what malfeasance took place.
 
"Last night, was I reading on some of the blogs. I spent about an hour, hour-and-a-half. There was not one bad word about the fight, about the fact it’s a title fight," said Schaefer. "Everybody is generally excited about that fight and knows that if Erik Morales wins that title, he earned it the hard way."
 
Yes, Schaefer admits, he does look at what is said and written about his company and the fights they stage. "I do read," he admitted freely, "I mean, I don’t read frequently, sometimes, like when I have press tours and things like that, I have a tough time catching up. When I have time in the evening or so, I sit outside, smoke my cigar; I have my laptop there and do read through the blogs and I do listen to what the fans say. Because I read some other promoter said that he doesn’t really care what the fans are saying or thinking. I do like to know what the consumers, the fans, are actually thinking because I think it’s important. You need to listen to the voice of the consumer and give them the product they want."
 
Schaefer added, "Honestly, for the last year, year-and-a-half, as it relates to Golden Boy cards, I hadn’t really read any criticisms because I really believe- and you guys from the media and the fans should be the judge on that- and I said then that I was going to make a commitment to really put together good, compelling undercard fights. I think we’ve done that."
 
The goal here is to hit two million buys. If they fall short, it won’t be for a lack of trying.
 
"In all of our pay-per-views we’ve done in the last 12 to 18 months or so, I did not get any complaints and I think we delivered. I think with this one here, I have to say we are setting a standard which is going to be very, very, very difficult to surpass."
 
WBC
 
As for the Morales-Matthysse bout, the only bummer for me is that this is taking place in Las Vegas and not the Staples Center (yeah, I’m staying close to home for this one). But I’m still hearing folks say that the stench of the WBC’s machinations put a stain on this match-up. Huh? Really? So if this thing turns into the fight we think it might be, or “El Terrible” can pull one more great performance out of his satchel, you’re telling me that in the middle of this, you’re going to be thinking, ’Geez, I just can’t get out of my mind what the WBC did here.’?
 
Seriously?
 
Folks, just enjoy the fight for what it is: a damn, good fight. It will be violent and bloody, so just ignore the ancillary issues that accompanied this bout. Me, personally, I can’t wait to see Morales’ attempt at history at becoming the first Mexican to win major world titles in four weight classes (I kid, I kid).
 
SEPTEMBER 17TH
 
After a bunch of hemming-and-hawing, it is now official; Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will face Ronald Hearns in Mexico on September 17th. This whole process was bizarre as you had Bob Arum who, shortly after the fight with Sebastian Zbik, was stating how important it was to get Junior back in the ring as soon as possible. He then flipped his position when an HBO date was basically taken from them on September 24th. Then it became the stupidest idea ever for Chavez Jr. to fight because he wouldn’t have a full camp with trainer Freddie Roach. Never mind that Chavez has never truly had a full camp with Roach. The real issue might have been the fact they had a November 19th date on HBO that they didn’t want jeopardized.
 
Throughout it all, you literally had differing answers, within minutes of each other from Top Rank, Zanfer Promotions and Chavez’s management, led by Billy Keane. Everyone was like Sgt. Schultz on “Hogan’s Heroes.” Nobody knew nothing.
 
What the bigger issue could be is the disconnect that is brewing between the aforementioned parties involved in Chavez’s career. They all seem to have differing agendas. Personally, I’m glad the kid is staying busy and I know some will shout and scream that the Hearns fight is a mismatch and all that. Yeah, it might be but guess what? If it’s not taking up any of the HBO or Showtime budget and they’re going off the gate and Mexican TV money, it’s good by me. Fights like this used to take place all time in an era when boxers performed much more than just once every eight months.
 
And please, spare me the whole, ’Well, it should be a non-title fight’ spiel. C’mon, like it really matters either way.
 
PPV
 
Going back to the original subject, you can always tell at a pay-per-view gathering who the real, hardcore fans are. The people who are as close to the television screen from 6 PM (9 on the East Coast) and watch from the first fight on are the diehards. Now, the folks who are just milling around and talking about every other subject under the sun except boxing are the casual fans who watch boxing about twice a year.
 
They couldn’t care less about happens in the first three fights of a pay-per-view show (and they are invariably the ones who ask the dumbest, most inane questions about boxing as they sit next to you, right before the main event begins) but it is this group that really determines the success of a pay-per-view show, unfortunately, for the real fans. I’ve theorized that there is probably a group of around 300,000-400,000 that will purchase every single card. They simply can’t help themselves (and God bless ’em) but the shows that reach over a million buys, well, that’s where you break far beyond this demographic. And if they don’t care about the undercard, well, the promoters, believing that undercards don’t affect the overall buy rate will put on dreadful cards.
 
I applaud Golden Boy for placating both the hardcore and casual fan in this instance.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
I think Golden Boy is on the right track for the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson card on October 15th with Jorge Linares-Antonio DeMarco and Kendall Holt-Danny Garcia. Let’s see what Top Rank puts underneath Pacquiao-Marquez III and Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II...No word on if the Chavez-Hearns fight in Mexico will be televised in the States. I know “Top Rank Live” has a show from Arizona that same night headlined by Mercito Gesta and Jose Benavidez...An interesting point was made to me by a prominent boxing insider; while HBO Pay-Per-View is greatly aided by the return of Manny Pacquiao, HBO Boxing still has huge problems. Bottom line, Pacquiao’s fights are on HBO but HBO Pay-Per-View, huge difference...Vernon Paris-Tim Coleman highlighted the type of year ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” has had in 2011...Some great Hall-of-Fame speeches from Marshall Faulk and Shannon Sharpe and “Primetime” with the bandanna on his bust was a classic moment in Canton...Can Stephen Morris really get the ‘Canes’ starting quarterback gig from Jacory Harris?...September 17th is not only loaded with boxing but the college football slate has Miami-Ohio State, Oklahoma-FSU, Auburn-Clemson and Texas-UCLA...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stvemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.


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