Yeah, it’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife (cue Alanis Morissette).
“Yeah, I know it hurts,” laughed Kathy Duva, head of Main Events (which runs this series), when asked about the irony of it all, “but y’ know what? Our goal when we started working with [Rosado] with NBC Sports Network was to develop more fighters that are going to be popular, that people are going to want to see, to help the health of the entire sport and I think this is proof we have accomplished that goal. The reason why I’m not unhappy is I can’t be at both fights. So I’m going to have to hear about what happens with Gabriel when it’s over.”
For the record, while Main Events is in charge of this series (which played to solid critical reviews last year), they do not promote Rosado. That would be J. Russell Peltz, who also advises Main Events. But you could say that Rosado, an honest worker from Philly, is the first guy to graduate from this series. There was never a thought of advising him not to take the fight versus Golovkin.
Duva says, “We want him to be successful. I hope there’s some way to incorporate him back into NBC in the future, even if he’s a world champion. You can fight in Europe and have them shown here in the United States. We’d like to see him win and fight pay-per-view and do all kinds of big things but we’d also like to have him back on, either fighting or just come on and get involved in the show in some other way.”
Once again, “Fight Night” airs on an evening when HBO goes on with a card. And not too long ago, Showtime was going to go forward with a boxing broadcast before shuffling its schedule. Duva, who is given these dates in advance by NBC, now prepares as if these shows will always have competing cards.”Yeah, pretty much,” said Duva, who also has the dates of February 23rd and March 9th (when they will be going up against Showtime and HBO, respectively) on their docket. There is a certain pecking order in boxing. While NBCSN may be in many more homes, cards on the premium cable networks dominate the media coverage on fight week and can completely overshadow any other promotions.
But this is where being under the NBC/Comcast umbrella has its advantages.
“What’s turned out to be really nice is that our shows, they’re staggered a little bit. This one in January is starting early before the HBO show starts. I don’t think Rosado will be in the ring until our show is over because our show ends at 11. So that’s kinda good. We also do a replay at one o’clock in the morning and particularly for the West Coast, it’s 10 o’clock and the HBO show is over. So we’re picking up a nice-sized audience on that replay. There’s TiVo and in some respects, it creates more awareness that the fight’s happening because it’s a big fight weekend,” says Duva. “One of these days, we’re going to be out there on Saturday night by ourselves and we’re going to find out what happens. But we’ve never been alone on a Saturday night.”
(For the record, Main Events’ first NBCSN broadcast on January 21st, 2012, was their only Saturday night broadcast that did not share and evening with an HBO or Showtime telecast.)
If you tune into this network enough, it would seem their fights are on as often as infomercials for the Snuggie.
“They’ve been compiling some information, which I’m sure they’re going to release, but more than a million people have watched each one of these fights as far as I know. When we got to the NBC network, by the time the show was over, there were something like four million people watching, which was spectacular. Our goal, again, was to bring the fights back into the mainstream and to put it on a network where everybody could see it, not just the people who had HBO or Showtime. I think NBC’s done a spectacular job of putting it out there and making it visible for people to watch. I’m told that on some days, our replays are getting the highest ratings of the day on the network.”
It’s been a few years since the glory days of Main Events, when they had the likes of the ‘84 Olympians, Lennox Lewis and Fernando Vargas. But this was probably their best campaign in years. It wasn’t that long ago when Duva, coming off of law school, had thoughts of closing up shop. You could argue that 2012 put them back on the map. No, they aren’t the titans Top Rank and Golden Boy currently are but they have firmly carved out their niche in the industry.
“I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better year and if you think about how it started with our main event falling out less than a week before our first fight, it was kinda interesting,” said Duva. “At first, it was a painful process but it turned out really well. The baby was really beautiful.”
It was a year that ended on NBC. And in 2013, they will have “at least one more” show on the main network. The success of the Tomasz Adamek vs. Steve Cunningham II broadcast (winding up the highest rated sports programming during that time period and built to an audience of 3.8 million at its peak). It’s another example of just how small HBO and Showtime are as platform given the viewing audience on December 22nd for this broadcast dwarfed anything on the cable premium networks for boxing.
Will that perhaps signal a sea-change, not only in the industry but as it relates to the terrestrial networks?
“I sure hope so,” said Duva, who says another key trend was detected - the fact that a younger audience was viewing the show. “The thing that held us back in the past was a couple of things. One was the migration to pay TV, which discouraged the networks from putting more fights on. Another one is sponsors became skittish about boxing for various reasons and our demographics in the past haven’t helped us. One of the positive signs that we’ve seen is that our demographics in young males are actually really strong and we are finding that this is where the prevalence of social media is.”
Yes, Facebook and Twitter are helping push the sport into the 21st century. A sport that for so long was the VHS in a Blu-Ray universe is evolving in its practices.
“It’s having a huge impact on the sport as it does on everything else in the world. In fact, we just found out that we’re going to have our weigh-in streamed through Yahoo now as a result of NBC’s efforts, which is going to be huge,” says Duva. “We know from the Facebook advertising we’ve been doing and the Twitter advertising we’ve been doing that we just started on our last show. We can literally measure the impact it’s having and what we’re finding out, of course, is that if we’re finding an audience through those methods - it’s going to be a young audience.”
During any fight, if you go on to Twitter, you will see chatter about what’s taking place. And on certain nights, boxing is the trending topic. In fact, it’s become a central component of the boxing experience: Comment about the bouts as they take place and have 140-character conversations with the world about them. Honestly, this scribe couldn’t imagine not being on Twitter during fights now. And guess what? It turns out there is sizable audience and it’s not all over the age of 50.
“And that’s the thing that’s held boxing back the most. If you deliver young males, it wouldn’t matter - you could get a [television] deal. You would find sponsors. They’d be chasing you and it’s going to be our ability to deliver in that demographic that’s really going to determine how successful this is going to be going forward,” she states. “It’s not just a numbers game; it’s which numbers you’re getting, which cohort you’re with, which demographic you hit. The news we’re getting is pretty positive and, again, through NBC’s deal with Yahoo, where we’re going to be able to start showing things like our weigh-ins, using those resources to draw more people in. It tends to be a younger audience, so social media may be the thing that saves boxing and I have a great belief it will.”
Duva believes this, combined with getting boxing on more accessible stages, is paramount to the sport’s future.
“Again, every young person doesn’t have HBO. Every young person can see NBC.”
When this series began, Duva spoke of NBC’s insistence that there be lively and engaged audiences for their fights. What they were going to stay away from were stale environments we see far too often in Indian casinos. In other words, they weren’t going to Chumash this over and over again.
So why is this weekend’s card at the Mohegan Sun?
Duva explained, “Because it is, first of all, an arena; it’s not a ballroom. It’s not that kind of dull, sterile setting. There is a big boxing crowd up there. We have Elvin Ayala (who faces Curtis Stevens), who’s a local fighter in the co-feature and we’ve decided that there are certain areas where we want to start exposing the fighters. For example, you’ve got Sergey Kovalev; the Russian community is pretty strong in Connecticut. So these are places we want to bring certain fighters and expose them. The truth is, we are also constrained by budgetary considerations like everybody else and it is more TV-friendly in some of the venues because they simply don’t have a lot of the obstacles that you find in other places. We’re going into arenas; we’ve tried all different kind of places. In February, we’re going to be in Huntington, Long Island in the beautiful little Paramount Theater. This first year or so, we’re feeling out. We’re going to different places. We’re finding out what works.
“As long as we’ve got a big, lively crowd, we’re there. We’ll be back. Some places work better than others and we don’t really find out till we’re doing the shows. NBC may come back and say, ‘We really don’t like this venue; we’d like to try somewhere else.’ So we’re trying Mohegan Sun. I think we’re gonna end up trying Turning Stone at some point. We’re looking for a big lively audience. We’re going to try to put relevant fights into those places. As long as that happens, as long as there’s a crowd of people yelling and screaming, we did our job. And again, we wanted to make this show about going into arenas as opposed to ballrooms because we don’t want that sterile environment. We want people invested in the outcome, yelling and screaming and wanting to see the fight.”