The Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto fight was a good fight, and more importantly, a good fight for boxing. But there was a time when the all-time greats, like Muhammad Ali, like Sugar Ray Robinson, like Joe Frazier, once fought on network television before millions and millions of fans.
Mayweather-Cotto probably generated decent numbers, too, possibly in the 1.7 million-1.9-million buy range. But is PPV slowly leading to the death of boxing? Isn’t the sport in trouble already without a more rapidly shrinking fanbase?
We look here into five reasons why pay-per-view (PPV) fights are hurting boxing:
5. The proliferation of slop on PPV
Any Klitschko, Bernard Hopkins or Roy Jones fight. Especially at the career stage of the latter two. The first Hopkins-Chad Dawson bout shouldn’t have been a PPV fight. It’s interesting no one came out blaring what the enormous numbers were from that debacle.
The Klitschko brothers are so dominant, who really wants to see them anymore? But if they’re filling European soccer stadiums, why should they care what anyone in the United States thinks?
Still, any Klitschko fight should be accessible through a standard cable subscription, not PPV. Still, there is a diminishing number of die-hards who buy their fights.
4. Don’t know what you’re buying
Buying any pay-per-view fight comes with great risk. For example, there was tremendous build up for the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield rematch.
All fans really saw for their $50 was three rounds and a bite. Sure, there were fireworks attached to the infamous "Bite Fight,” but many fans (including a college kid and his pals doling out everything they had into a pot to buy the fight) were expecting quite a bit more than what they saw.
Quite a bit more than one man biting another man’s ear in public. I remember someone in my group yelling, “I paid $50 bucks to watch Mike Tyson bite Evander Holyfield!”
Mayweather put on a fine, entertaining performance against Cotto Saturday night, but there are many Mayweather fights that fall into a mundane category where “Money May” opted not to put his foot down on the gas and let his opponent skate.
Every major fight is unpredictable. But why would this be any different on network TV? Easy, you’re not investing $50 or $60 of your hard-earned cash into something you don’t have a firm idea about.
Does anyone out there regret buying the Michael Spinks-Tyson fight? Here’s one laddy with his hand up, who was pulling a little late into the parking lot of an establishment carrying the fight in the hopes of seeing at least the second round. And the $50 anyone spent on that is still wondering if Spinks had Depends diapers on that night instead of boxing trunks.
3. Negating the build-up of younger stars
The undercards of most major PPVs are atrocious. Shane Mosley being in there with Canelo Alvarez was nothing more than a glorified sparring session. Mosley was going to fight back, but there was no real intrigue. There was no real challenge, other than seeing how much more punishment a once-great fighter could take.
The fights on these cards should at least be attempting to build younger fighters, and there were plenty of young fighters in that could have used the attention Saturday night. What did Alvarez pounding on Mosley prove?
These are difficult economic times for many in this country and around the world. The Mayweather-Cotto fight cost $59.99 standard and $69.99 for high-definition. Who can afford that if they’re out of work and a fight fan? How about a younger demographic, that may not have that kind of money to toss around if they’re fight fans?
Many of these fights are terribly overpriced. These PPV megafights are cutting off a large segment of fight fans, which leads us to our next reason …
1. Shrinking an already drying fanbase
How many fight fans do you know under the age of 30? Or 35? Not many because they didn’t grow up on the sport. MMA still gives access to their product with a variety of free shows on cable and regular TV, and it’s a reason why in the next five years there will be even larger numbers watching MMA and why PPV numbers will be down in boxing.
Much of the boxing buying public are getting older and their dollars don’t exactly fall into that coveted 18-to-35 consumer demographic.
Many fight fans are older because they grew up watching Ali fighting Leon Spinks and Jimmy Young in the 1970s, and Sugar Ray Leonard and the 1976 Olympic boxing team on network TV, building a solid homegrown fanbase that wanted to watch as Leonard and the Spinks brothers' careers evolved.
Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler, they all came up on cable TV in the 1980s, boxing’s last great decade. Since the advent of PPV, the number of fight fans have been slipping, because access to watching the game’s greatest stars have been slipping.
It’s simple arithmetic that, regrettably, appears irreversible.