The decline and fall of boxing's pay-per-view model

By Blake "Racehorse" Chavez


What in the world is up with the recent dreary PPV numbers? The first and foremost reason is Money Mayweather’s retirement. Pure and simple, he was the man you loved to hate. Floyd Jr. was pretty much a dud as a crowd draw for the first decade of his career. He was a bit square and nobody outside of die-hard boxing fans knew who the hell he was. But make no mistake, Floyd Jr. could fight his ass off.


Always could from Day One. Still can. A platinum talent.


But what brought him notoriety and ultimately mega-million dollar purses was when he started talking madness. He was, and still is, somewhat of a square, (he attempts to dance, but strangely, has no musical rhythm-- can’t carry a tune, and can’t find or keep a good woman, i.e. he got plenty of money, but no game) but his constant mantra of cash, money, scrillas, Benjamins, gold, expensive timepieces, luxury cars, and private jets scorched his image into what passes for culture in our day. Social media rewards the shallow and obscene. See: Kim Kardasian, Soulja Boy, Paris Hilton, every single DJ on earth, and Conor McGregor.


May and Conor basically stole the Ali formula and will run it into the ground till the last dollar drops into their pockets. But that formula is a winning Lottery ticket. Black America tuned into Ali’s fights to watch him win and stick it to The Man. Most of the rest of America tuned in hoping to see him get his ass kicked. The more madness he talked; the higher the ratings.


So, for clarity and context, let’s take a peek at the top boxing PPV’s in history.


Combatants-Revenue Generated-Customer Buys-Date of Event


May-Pac $418m --------------4.6m ppv May ’15

May-Canelo $150m ----------2.2 m ppv Sept. ’13

May-Oscar $136m -----------2.48m ppv May ’07

Tyson-Lennox $112m--------1.950m ppv June "02

Tyson-Holyfield2 $102m---1.99m ppv June ’97

Tyson-Holyfield l $77.9m--1.59m ppv Nov. ’96

Tyson-McNeeley $96m------1.55m ppv Aug. ’95

May-Shane $94m-------------1.4m ppv May ’10

Oscar-Tito $64m-----------1.4m ppv Sept. ’99

Holyfield-Big George $80m---1.4m ppv April ’91


It’s telling that eight events out of the Top Ten feature an over-the-top spectacle as one of the headliners. May pulled off four. The Maniac, aka, Mike Tyson also scooped up four, and the re-creation of P.T. Barnum himself, Big George Foreman, claimed a slot. May talks more nonsense than a Chinese Radio, Tyson was a walking meltdown. Foreman was a circus curiosity of sorts. What they all hold in common was that they were flat-out outrageous, and could fight like hell.


May with his money, an insanely vulgar Tyson with his roiling violent propensities, and Foreman with his constant hamburger-loving and win-one-for-the-elderly shtick. The only bout to make the list that drew based on boxing ability and intrigue alone was Oscar-Tito. Consider that Chavez Sr. along with Roy Jones and Larry Holmes could also fight like hell; but they were not considered cutting-edge controversial.


That should color the answer as to what the heck happened to our beloved PPV events, but it doesn’t entirely explain the present slump. A PPV event need not be a historical Top Ten to be successful; far from it. SET (Showtime’s early PPV moniker) and HBO have had a long run. Even closed circuit grabbed a handsome share of PPV monies over the decades. Some shows over the past decade or so have fared decently.


But to truly thrive, PPV needs either a new Wildman of any heritage with the skills to back his shenanigans up, an unrelenting and long undefeated Mexican warrior like Julio Caesar Chavez Sr., or a Black American manic superstar. It goes without saying a White American superstar would fill the ticket, but there hasn’t been one since Rocky Marciano sixty years ago, so no need holding our breath.


The May-Pac fiasco was vomit. It damaged the fight game tremendously when it could and should have served as a platform to drive old fans back into the fold and/or exposed potential new PPV buyers to the electricity and adrenaline charges of a massive PPV event. The biggest money and numbers in history.


So, what happens?


Floyd plays the bitch role despite being paid in the range of 30 million dollars per second of their twelve-round stinker. Pac-Man feinted and bullshitted his way to over 15 million dollars per second his damned-self. Stupid. Putrid. Shameful. At least May slinked away (but still lurks hoping he can fool the public one or two more times with a hapless McGregor as victim). Pac can’t quit. He spends money faster than May, and that’s saying something. They might fight once more. In about ten years, in an alley over some left-over pizza in a battered ashcan.


For that kind of money, they took on PPV, they should have been slugging it out, if not throughout the entire fight, then definitely through major portions of it. And Pac and Roach have the nerve to say they think they won and want a re-match. Blasphemy. Neither Pac nor May will ever see another dollar out of my pocket. That was a righteous fight eight-to ten years ago; perhaps best contested right after Pac stopped Cotto.


Arum, Haymon, and Oscar. You three deserve the matchmaking medals of dishonor for the horrible bouts foisted on the public and trumpeted as can’t miss fare.


Also, don’t forget to blame the shameful HBO and Showtime shills. Max Kellerman actually called the Ward/ Kovalev fight "Amazing" and "Incredible." You have zero credibility Max. You sold out. Jim Lampley continues to be the head cheerleader for the HBO stable. Chocalotito got lumped up and Lamps ooohed and ahhhed about his skill level. Cuadras didn’t even get a scratch. Lampley conveniently calls the punches of the house fighter as being more effective, no matter what. He just flat-out ignores the underdog landing missiles. It’s hilarious. And sad. And the refs at the big fights perform as if it’s their first bout. The media needs to grill their ass when they allow one-sided rough tactics and excessive holding.


In all too many big fights the refs look like the fix is in. Stop it. Everyone is watching. Until, finally... they are not. Which brings us to the multi-layered World Champion sanctioning bodies. How many champions can there be? Who the hell knows? Who the hell can even name them all? Give the fans some credit. Sooner or later they’ll just throw their hands up in disgust. They can watch Luche Libre if they want crooked judges and pretend bouts. All too often the judges give Oscar caliber performances that shock human decency. Harold Lederman makes certain to get "The House" fighter up on points early so Lampley and Max can have wiggle room. I heard Max say the other day on a broadcast, "I’ll have to watch the tape" to give his opinion on who won. Max, you are ringside and are an expert paid to convey your opinions---on the spot. Do you think nobody’s watching? Well... maybe soon enough.


What about Triple "G"? The Eastern Euro’s just won’t cut it, as their popularity barely registers, see Kovalev vs Ward. The PPV buyers--Americans, Mexican-Americans and Mexicans just aint feeling them.


The Klitchko Bros. had a long run but for the most part built their bank accounts based on huge cuts on the site fees and a nice broadcast slice of the Euro networks. Germany and other such venues adored them. Triple "G" is not the "A" side in a match vs Canelo nor in a bout vs Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. GGG’s popularity and audience numbers just don’t match his abilities. His talent and power are amazing, but let’s face it, had he not uttered the words, "Mexican-style" and "Big drama show" to describe his approach in the ring, he’d just be another Kovalev, who also is not burning up the box office anywhere in the world. As the Eastern Bloc increases their domination in pro boxing, the PPV’s will wane even further. Hardcore fans will watch, but won’t be smitten.


Vasyl Lomachenko has mad-skills but he should also be spitting mad-game, and in English. Put some baggy pants and gold chains on him, and have him trash-talking like Eminem and you might have something. Otherwise, all these good fighters from the East will hold many belts but never be true superstars in the sport of boxing, in the arena that counts: their bankbook and PPV drawing power, which go together hand in glove. That leaves Canelo. He has cement in his shoes, so he can only do so much and take it so far.


Great footwork renders him neutralized.


The only other way to resuscitate boxing PPV is to kick every promoter in their rear-end and force them to make compelling fights. Quit buying the garbage and they’ll soon serve quality. Part of the formula is that A-side PPV fighters and their opponents will be required to get their heads out of the clouds and accept that monstrous purses demands won’t be met. Period. Unless you bring a May/Tyson/Big George resume and publicity plan. Even Canelo is a bit out there with his flaming red hair. He needs to start talking jive and throwing shade in English for $$$.


Fans must demand battles of Canelo vs ’GGG’, Mikey Garcia vs. Loma or Crawford, Loma vs Crawford, Broner vs. Crawford, or Broner vs Danny Garcia. How about Errol Spence vs. Kell Brook, or either of them facing Thurman? Broner or Canelo vs. Brook, Khan vs. Brook, Leo Frampton vs. Gary Russell Jr., Frankie Gomez vs. Porter, Canelo vs Porter or Andrade, Brook vs Andrade, Kovalev vs Stevenson, Charlo vs Andrade, Cotto vs Charlo, Cotto vs Thurman, or maybe "Chocolatito vs Inuoe or Ward vs "GGG"? Whoever survives and also strives to catch the public eye... can be a PPV King. The truth is that there can only be one king at a time.


Upcoming bouts:

Triple G and Cotto both have PPV’s. Neither will burn down the house with the numbers they generate. The Frampton gets to hammer Santa Cruz again. Leo, get back to Super Bantam, as that’s what Mares truly is. Gary Russell. Fight Loma again or shut the hell up. He drubbed you stinky young man. Zlaticanin tells us if Mikey is truly all the way back. If so, look out. Lee Selby getting fed Barros. Vasquez vs Collozo? Collozo was dead five years ago. Robert Easter? Show me. Broner vs Granados? Haymon continues to wear Broner out on lesser lights and lesser monies after letting Maidana and Porter feast on the talented blabber-mouth. Broner sells tickets. Get him super fights or leave him be. Cotto gets a monster check courtesy of Roc Nation, but beware James Kirkland until round four. At least Kirkland comes to rock it, baby!

Rigo who? Try the Olympic track team.


Blake "Racehorse’ Chavez answers all his emails:





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