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Azad Championship Report - Is the Price Right?

(Image by icheehuahua, MaxBoxing)
(Image by icheehuahua, MaxBoxing)


You may have heard there was this little nationwide press tour to promote the September 14th pay-per-view battle from Las Vegas between WBC/WBA junior middleweight titlist Saul Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather. This barnstorming concluded on Tuesday night in Los Angeles in front of thousands of fans (10,000, according to a Golden Boy Promotions press release) at L.A. Live. The same clichés and platitudes stated on June 24th were equally stated on a warm summer night on July 2nd.
 
But what wasn’t revealed through all the announcements of sell-outs at the MGM Grand and brisk closed-circuit sales (at an eye-opening $100 per ticket) was the actual pricing for this pay-per-view telecast, carried by Showtime.
 
The reality is that with tickets at a premium (just check what they will cost you on the secondary market) and hotel room costs in “Sin City” being jacked up, for many boxing fans, pay-per-view was their only real option to view this highly-anticipated clash.

There was plenty of speculation that in an era when pay-per-view prices have been steadily creeping up a few dollars at a time, a full-scale gouging would be taking place. But Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s Executive VP of Sports and Event Programming, said to Maxboxing on Tuesday night, “Suggested retail is $64.95.”
 
Honestly, this seems pretty reasonable for a card of this caliber (which could be stacked). The usual going rate for premium pay-per-view events is $59.95 (plus a $10 fee for high-def and various taxes, which are included). The reality is that most boxing fans - and even casual ones who will watch any event featuring Mayweather - would have paid an exorbitant amount for this event. In this instance, some actual restraint was shown.
 
“I read stories where we were going to charge 90 bucks, 100 bucks and so on and it doesn’t mean we couldn’t get away with it - but I don’t want to get away with it,” stated Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy CEO, after the press conference had concluded. “We want to have it priced where people can afford it because you see that this is a fight for the masses. We’re going to keep it at $64.95.
 
“When we mentioned that, the cable systems, Dish and DirecTV, they were pleasantly surprised because they felt as well that we could definitely charge more but we decided we were not going to do that.”
 
It’s clear that everyone involved wants to work in volume and grow the fan-base (a concept often lost in this business) and perhaps they even break two million buys.
 
Espinoza stated, “I think we got a very good shot. The record, 2.5 million mark (for the 2007 battle between Mayweather and Oscar De la Hoya), it was sort of a perfect storm. I don’t know if we’ll ever see that again. But before this press tour started, I said it might have been iffy that we get to two million but seeing the enthusiasm - and not just from the Mexican fans but across the board - I think we’re just scratching the surface right now.”
 
Mayweather’s last pay-per-view was thought to be a disappointment, depending on whom and what you believe. It did anywhere from 830,000 to around a million buys. Regardless, those figures paled in comparison to his past performances while under the HBO banner. But that promotion, which took place on May 4th, had a few variables working against them. First, with the tectonic shift that took place with Mayweather (and later on Golden Boy) moving over to Showtime, that event was announced relatively late and Mayweather-Robert Guerrero didn’t have an introductory press conference, much less a national media tour.
 
For this event, Mayweather (who wasn’t the most willing participant with the media for his last bout) and Alvarez dutifully fulfilled their obligations throughout the country the past week when they hit 10 cities.
 
“The One” is big; there’s no doubting that.
 
And Showtime/CBS will be using all its platforms to push it.
 
“The question is: how much is too much content?” asked Espinoza, rhetorically. “But on this one, I don’t think we’ll have that issue. I don’t think we can give people enough of this and if I could do an ‘All Access’ series just on the press tour...maybe I should just expand a few more episodes because there’s just some incredible experiences there. I mean, Mexico City was just absolute pandemonium.”
 
UNDERCARD
 
Yeah, yeah, “Money” and “Canelo” are going to fight on September 14th but on the minds of the hardcore fan was this: Was the junior welterweight showdown between Lucas Matthysse and junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia going to get consummated for September the 7th? 

The last couple of weeks you heard rumblings that this match-up was falling apart for various reasons.
 
But Espinoza said on Tuesday night, “I think it’s likely that we see it in September.”
 
OK, what exactly does “in September” mean?
 
“That was pretty clear,” said Espinoza, with a Cheshire Cat grin. “I think it could move but it will be in the month of September.”
 
Schaefer stated just a few minutes later, “We’re getting very close, veeeery close. Almost as close as you and I are standing.” (OK, we were pretty close near the podium area. Hey, it was crowded. What can I tell you?)
 
“But look,” he continued, “my main focus was obviously on this press tour, a lot of hard work and dedication. So I say, ‘hard work” - OK, I’ll play along, “Dedication” - “and my focus was really on this and now in the coming days, I will be working with Al Haymon on trying to finalize that. I have a particular idea where I want to put it and I’m trying to pull that off and I am working on it and it’s my number one priority. But the fact is, we’re talking about September. I need to get it done now. So I think were a few days away.”
 
There is rampant speculation that this bout could end up as the semi-main to Mayweather-Alvarez. Yes, you read that correctly, a bout that could easily headline on Showtime’s “Championship Boxing” series might be on this card. It almost seems too good to be true but it’s clear that Golden Boy and Showtime are looking to make a bold statement. Schaefer added, “It could switch. By the way, I’m definitely going to do a fight September 7th.”
 
Unfortunately, forgettable pay-per-view bouts are the norm nowadays. We’re a long way from the era of Don King, who would put on such appealing bouts like Azumah Nelson-Jeff Fenech and Simon Brown-Maurice Blocker as appetizers before the main course. We may not get Butterbean and Mia St. John anymore but oftentimes, you still get a series of house fights and mismatches before the main event.
 
The thinking is the top names on the marquee are the ones who will drive pay-per-view sales. This may be true but you wonder if it’s a short-sighted approach given these nights are the sport’s most important stage. But frequently, as budgets are set by the promoters (who don’t have the usual safety net of a network license fee), attractive match-ups simply aren’t in the cards.
 
“It is [the responsibility of the promoter] on a pay-per-view, a lot of the controls that the network normally has go over to the promoter,” Espinoza affirmed. “Having said that, because of the relationship Richard and I have, Al Haymon and [adviser/manager] Leonard Ellerbe and I have, they’re not looking to do anything I’m opposed to. I’m not going to do anything they’re opposed to. Ultimately, we’ve had a lot of discussions. Literally, we’ve spent 25, 30 hours discussing the undercard and we’re talking about three more fights.
 
“So there have been hours and hours of discussions of the different permutations we can put in there because we want to make this a valuable part. Make it something that’s worth the $64.95”
 
SHO BIZ
 
The reality is that other than September 14th, Showtime still has a boxing franchise to take care of. Much of it has been put on the backburner the last week or so.
 
“To be candid, yeah, especially on the press tour because there’s a lot of business that gets done behind-the-scenes. That’s where a lot of the discussions about an undercard happen, on the plane or over lunch in-between tour stops,” explained Espinoza. “So yeah, there are times like this that some of the parts of the business suffer but the good thing is, we’re sort of in a lull. We haven’t started ‘Inside the NFL’ and the other things are on hiatus. We’re in good shape otherwise.”
 
CBS
 
Will we see boxing back on CBS, as we did last December? It looks like it but under the right circumstances.
 
“I think the key for me, in terms of building boxing on the network, is the lead-in,” explained Espinoza, “I think to train fans and bring in people who don’t know that they’re fans yet. You gotta attach it to another major sport.”
 
Last year before Leo Santa Cruz headlined at the L .A. Sports Arena, CBS aired a college hoops game (which, predictably, went in to overtime and frustrated boxing fans across the country). “It worked pretty well with college basketball and I think that’s something we’d like to do again. NFL would make sense too but anytime coming off an NFL game, you’re going to be competing with another NFL game. So that’s probably not the best,” lamented Espinoza.
 
 
“But I think college basketball, college football, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did something this fall in our third or fourth quarter.”

IMO

I think the price tag for “The One” is very reasonable (and really, it’s $74.95 because - let’s face it - you’re getting the HD version of the broadcast) especially if Garcia-Matthysse is part of that bill. But I do think the business has to be very careful of going past that tipping point where too many fans will be priced out of boxing altogether.

It wasn’t too long ago that pay-per-views like Mayweather-De la Hoya were in the $50 range.

But honestly, I find a more troublesome issue to be that for these mega-events in casinos, the average fan simply does not have a fair chance to purchase tickets at face-value and are immediately forced to go onto the secondary market. And dovetailing that, those who want the Vegas atmosphere of fight week were then faced with a $100 price tag for closed-circuit. 

Hey, you don’t have to explain to me about supply-and-demand but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that there is at least some semblance of a level playing field for those who support boxing on a year-round basis.

Then again, maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic.

4TH OF JULY FLURRIES

Here is the latest episode of “The Next Round” with special guest Larry Merchant, who goes into various topics: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thenextround/2013/07/02/the-next-round-episode-436...Today, Fox Deportes will be airing a Mayweather and Alvarez marathon. Check your local listings...Mayweather said on Tuesday night, “I don’t know about Oscar De la Hoya but Richard Schaefer issssssss Golden Boy.” There seems to be some lingering tension between the two...Whoa, Brad Stevens to the Celtics. I don’t think anyone saw that coming...So did Urban Meyer let Aaron Hernandez get away with everything but murder while at Florida?...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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