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Less, is More



By Steve Kim
(Photo © Chris Farina/ Top Rank)


It was announced on Friday by HBO Pay-Per-View that the November 14Th clash between Manny Paquiao and Miguel Cotto procured approximately 1.25 million buys, garnering $70 million in revenue. This on the heels of Floyd Mayweather’s return against Juan Manuel Marquez back on September the 19Th getting over a million subscriptions, totaling $52 million.
 
Not bad for a dying sport, right?
 
But this column isn’t about that issue.( Because quite frankly, I’m sick of that tired storyline. Just because members of a dying form of media have suddenly woken up and discovered nirvana as it relates to the state of affairs in boxing, doesn’t mean what they were spewing for so long was ever true to begin with.) And this story certainly isn’t dedicated to arguing about who’s the bigger draw as it relates to a possible showdown between ’the Pac Man’ and ’Money’. Bottom line is, none of us should really care, it’s not like we’re getting broken off anything by the participants. That’s the job of Bob Arum and Richard Schaefer to divvy up the percentages.

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But the point I’m trying to make here is that when it comes to major pay-per-view events( which doesn’t include anything like ’Latin Fury’ or involving anyone with the last name Camacho) that less, is more. There have been two events distributed by HBO Pay-Per-View in 2009 and both have hit the magic million mark. What’s even more impressive about this figure is that it was done with four separate fighters involved( three of whom, don’t speak English as their first language) and they came in back-to-back events, which is unprecedented.

(Editor’s note: There has actually been three events distributed by HBO Pay-Per-View in 2009. I had completely forgotten about Pacquiao’s destruction of Ricky Hatton which had just over 800,000 buys. I guess that fight was so short, I had completely forgotten about it. My sincere apologies.)
Hey, there is life after Oscar De La Hoya!!!( I may not have to get a new gig, after all.)
 
Boxing has had a bit of a renaissance in 2009 and I think one of the main reasons why is that only the true marquee events have been put on this platform. There seems to be a misconception- especially among clueless fighters and advisers- that somehow pay-per-view is the promised land. Well, it is if you’re a guy like Oscar De La Hoya or Mike Tyson, who enjoyed transcendent appeal and could attract large audiences no matter who or when they fought. But the reality is, this is the smallest stage that a fighter can perform on and the opportunities to really build your brand is limited. But in recent years, the bar had been lowered as to what really constituted a major pay-per-view event. Lowered to an extent that Verne Troyer could’ve had Fosbury Flopped over it.
 
And truth be told, even the hard-core fans got sick of shelling out an extra $54.95 nearly every month to their cable bill to see a fight( with a mediocre undercard, to boot) that was really just an HBO fight in disguise, yet because of the bungling of this networks own budget, was put on pay-per-view.
 
Don’t believe me? The numbers don’t lie.
 
 In 2007, these fights were on HBO Pay-Per-View:
 
- Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Juan Manuel Marquez
 
- Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather
 
- Miguel Cotto vs. Zab Judah
 
- Bernard Hopkins vs. Winky Wright
 
- Manny Pacquiao vs. Barrera II
 
- Cotto vs. Shane  Mosley
 
- Mayweather vs. Ricky Hatton   
 
(  And if you recall, a bout between Marquez and Jorge Barrios was supposed to anchor a pay-per-view event on Mexican Independence Day weekend that year before Barrios had to scratch himself from the card. Yeah, Marquez-Barrios was going to be on pay-per-view, I still have a hard time believing that.)
 
2008 saw these match-ups on HBO Pay-Per-View:
 
- Roy Jones vs. Felix Trinidad
 
- Kelly Pavlik vs. Jermain Taylor II
 
- Pacquiao vs. Marquez II
 
- Pacquiao vs. David Diaz
 
- Antonio Margarito vs. Miguel Cotto
 
- Joel Casamayor vs. Marquez
 
- Pavlik vs. Hopkins
 
- Joe Calzaghe vs. Jones
 
- De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao
 
( Mosley was scheduled to take on Judah on a pay-per-view show before Zabdiel got all tangled up with his shower door and then his fight with Ricardo Mayorga was originally slated to be on pay-per-view before everyone thought better of it, and it ended up on HBO.)
 
So what’s the point, here? Well, if you examine the performances of these 16 events, take away the ones featuring De La Hoya and Trinidad( two guys with storied track records in this realm) the large majority of these events did in the range between 250,000 to 400,000 buys. Which means that outside the hard-core constituency, the general public was not forking over their cash to see fights that were once on regular HBO or Showtime. Hey, it was bad enough that the powers-that-be, decided to make a deal with the devil long ago and take their product off of terrestrial airwaves and go with the premium cable networks and the large licensing fees( some would say welfare checks)  that they receive from them. But now, that wasn’t even an option.
 
That genie is now out of the bottle, there’s no going back, and for all the talk of getting boxing back on the ABC’s, NBC’s and CBS’s of the world, it’s just a pipe-dream. It ain’t happening.  But y’know what? That may not matter as it once did. The world of television programming and broadcasting has completely changed. This three-headed monster is no longer the monopoly it once was in having the ability to create stars. In the age of the internet and Youtube, the paradigm has shifted. And icon’s like ’Monday Night Football’, lo’ and behold, are now on cable. But where boxing went off the deep end was putting too many events that simply didn’t belong on pay-per-view. In what is an ever-expanding technological universe, boxing was was BETA in a Blue-ray world.
 
To their credit, though, in promoting these last two events, both promotional outfits, Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank utilized more digital outlets than ever. They actually promoted as if it were 2009 and not 1999. They finally realized, the internet, is not they enemy. In fact, it could be the greatest marketing took that they have ever had at their disposal. And in turn, perhaps they can finally  cultivate a younger demographic.  It’s ’not just the internet’ anymore. And they should remember that as they pant breathlessly because the New York Times decides to really cover a fight for the first time in decades.
 
But I still contend that a significant factor in the success of these last two pay-per-view shows is that there wasn’t an over-abundance of cards that the fans had to pay extra for this year. The business model that is so reliant on pay-per-view may work for the UFC( and some believe that they have already hit it’s apex) but it certainly wont work with boxing.
 
The boxing fan is willing to shell out an extra 50 bones every six months or so. They’re not willing- or able- to do it every other. And the last thing this business needed to do was to make it even more difficult and expensive for it’s remaining fan-base to view their events. Forget about growing and nurturing an audience, this is precisely the way to kill it. And do I really need to get into the current state of the economy?
 
One of the reasons why boxing has had a strong 2009 is that both HBO and Showtime have had strong campaigns, where fights that would have once ended up costing them extra just a year or two ago, were back to where they belonged in the first place. Make no doubt about it, pay-per-view is here to stay. To pay the amounts of money that will satisfy men like Pacquiao and Mayweather, this is a necessary evil that boxing will have to contend with.
 
But guess what, I don’t think fans have a problem paying for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, the numbers will eventually bear that out. It’s entirely  another thing when you ask them to shell out for Hopkins-Wright in the middle of summer. The numbers bore that out, already.
 
Some believe that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while hoping for different results. I’ve also heard that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
 
Have those in charge learned anything?
 
Remember, less, is more.
 
WARD
 
I have to admit, I didn’t think Andre Ward had it in him but he thoroughly dominated WBA super middleweight titlist, Mikkel Kessler on Saturday night at the Oracle in Oakland, California, to conclude the first round of ’the Super Six’. He completely rendered Kessler’s vaunted jab ineffective by beating him with his own jab and his movement riddled him all night.
 
While Kessler looked to be under water with his belabored movements, Ward was quick and agile throughout, and beyond that, he looked to be the much stronger fighter between the two. Kessler could never get on track and Ward proved to be an elusive target. And when the 2004 gold medalist got his hands moving, he was able to back up Kessler and sting him consistently.
 
Ward looked like he could’ve boxed all night at this pace. He looked to be in great physical condition. I think he’s clearly one of the favorites now in this tournament.
 
PINOY POWERS
 
A week after Pacquiao’s destruction of Cotto, it was a mixed bag for a pair of Filipino boxers this weekend. Rodel Mayol proved that the fifth time is the charm as he took the WBC jr. flyweight title by stopping Edgar Sosa in two rounds in Mexico. But this result comes with some controversy as there was a clash of heads that clearly dazed Sosa and had him down on his knees for a time. I think a rematch would be in order and it wouldn’t stun me to see the WBC mandate a return bout.
 
As for Marvin Sonsona, he lost his WBO jr. bantamweight title on the scales as he failed to make weight for his initial defense versus Alejandro Hernandez in Canada. The fight ended up as a majority draw, with the scores of 115-113, 113-115 and 114-114.
 
DRAWING POWER
 
The other big news coming out of Oakland, besides Ward’s sterling performance, was the announced crowd of just over 10,000 at ’the Oracle’, home of the Golden State Warriors. Who knows if they ’papered’ the house, but 10-grand, is 10-grand anyway you slice it. And in a city that has the Raiders, Athletics and Warriors, this area is thirsting for a winner.
 
After drawing over 7,000 back in May against Edison Miranda, I don’t think it’s outlandish to say that Ward is now a true ticket-seller. Let’s hope he becomes a staple of the Bay Area. In addition to having less pay-per-events, this sport also needs to get back into the business of developing local attractions.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
I can’t believe that the final full weekend of college football is already upon us. Where did all the time go?....I will have a follow-up story to Ward this week....Saw the HBO replay of Cotto-Pacquiao, all I can say is that Pacquiao’s ability to punch while moving his feet and changing angles is unreal....Yeah, Charlie Weis can pack his bags at South Bend.....The AFC West is now the Chargers to lose. As for the Broncos, that’s reality hitting them in the face.....Just when you start to have some faith in the Bengals....You know the economy is tough when even the some of ’the Housewives of the OC’ are having financial problems....Last weeks edition of ’the Main Event’ featured Golden Boy Promotions, CEO, Richard Schaefer. This week we will try and get Bert Sugar and Andre Ward( cross your Thanksgiving drumsticks)....Any questions or comments, please email me at k9kim@yahoo.com....Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing....


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