Buying or Selling Boxing's Top Young Talents as Future Pay-Per-View Stars
Every boxer strives to reach the pay-per-view level, but very few are able to reach the top, much less sustain that elite status.
Of course, you have to be an extremely talented fighter to even have a chance at reaching that level—no one is paying to see guys who lose—but it's about more than just wins in the ring. Excitement in and out of the ring also has to be a part of what a boxer brings to the table.
Andre Ward and Guillermo Rigondeaux are no doubt top-10 pound-for-pound fighters, but neither will ever reach that elite status in terms of TV dollars and PPV because their style of fighting puts many fans to sleep.
Fairly or unfairly, how well you can talk smack while selling a fight and how often you let your hands go, even if it's at the expense of defense, will normally trump better all-around skill in terms of selling a big PPV fight.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., the current top dog on PPV, doesn't often fight an exciting style in the ring, but being the unanimous best fighter in the world and also the most polarizing fighter in the world has more than made up for his defensive style.
I say all that to say this: This is not a list of the best prospects or the best pound-for-pound fighters. As I mentioned earlier, Ward and Rigondeaux would both make that list.
This list will be about not just talent and skill but the ability to bring in money and get ratings for big PPV fights. I will also only consider boxers under the age of 30, as this is about the young guys who could potentially become PPV stars and not guys who are established at that level.
So while Gennady Golovkin has many PPV fights in his future, his age will keep him off this list. Canelo Alvarez is also not on this list despite meeting the age requirement because he's already become a PPV star.
Buy: Adrien Broner
Adrien Broner has every attribute necessary to potentially become the biggest PPV star in boxing within the next three to four years. The only thing that will hold him back is Broner himself.
The former three-time world champion is extremely gifted and skilled and has the same type of polarizing personality of Floyd Mayweather that has made him the sport's biggest PPV star. Broner could possibly already be a PPV fighter if not for his own lack of maturity and preparation holding him back.
I'm not sure how many people will remember this, but his fight against Marcos Maidana was originally scheduled to be a PPV card, so Broner is very close to reaching that level. Well, or at least he was until Maidana beat him up for 12 rounds.
Like with Mayweather, TV networks understand that Broner has that perfect mix of fans who like him and fans who hate him. It seems funny to say, but often the fans who hate you will go more out of their way to watch you perform in the hope of seeing you fail.
Broner is very close to becoming a big PPV star. If he can tack on a few big wins and maybe grab another championship belt, he'll reach that elite level by the time Mayweather's contract with Showtime runs out.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Broner opening up and becoming a more offensive-minded fighter would also help his development into becoming a top PPV star.
Sell: Mikey Garcia
When I said that style trumps skill level in terms of becoming a PPV star, I was talking in large part about Mikey Garcia.
Garcia is without a doubt one of the most skilled boxers in the sport under the age of 30, but his style often isn't very exciting. Boxing fans in general—and especially Mexican fans—like to see action in the ring and cheer the hardest for guys who are true blood-and-guts warriors.
Despite being from Kazakhstan, Gennady Golovkin fights more in the "Mexican style" than Garcia. There's nothing wrong with fighting a defensive style if it works for you, and I enjoy watching Garcia, but few fans are willing to pay 50 or 60 dollars to watch him in the ring.
In the past, Bob Arum of Top Rank has mentioned wanting to move Garcia up or fast-track him into reaching that level, but that plan will never be successful until Garcia fights a more TV-friendly style.
Arum talked about making a match between Garcia and Manny Pacquiao as kind of a handoff of the torch, so to speak, but with Garcia fighting with Top Rank over his contract, that plan appears to be dead for now.
Garcia has a long career ahead of him and will probably win more titles in more weight divisions, but I doubt any of that will come on PPV.
Buy: Keith Thurman
He's in the shadow of bigger stars in the welterweight division, but Keith "One Time" Thurman has PPV star written all over him.
Thurman is extremely skilled and isn't afraid to express his mind with a mic in front of him; that's the perfect recipe for an elite-level TV fighter.
Also helping his cause is his association with Al Haymon and Golden Boy, where the majority of the best fighters at welterweight also work. I'd love to see Thurman face Timothy Bradley or Manny Pacquiao, but there's no doubt that the stable is more loaded with his current promoter than with Top Rank.
Thurman will need a few big-name victories before he can reach that level, but I think he's close. If he's able to pick up a big victory either this fall or in the spring of 2015, he'd be a top candidate in the Mayweather sweepstakes for the fall of 2015.
While he's not a household name by any means at this point, Thurman is already a must-see fighter for most of boxing's hardcore fans. He has a chance to stick at the elite status if he's able to land a bout with one of the sport's top stars.
Sell: Terence Crawford
Terence Crawford is a very talented fighter, but at this point he doesn't have the personality or style in the ring to become a major PPV star.
That's not to say that you can't become a big PPV star without a personality like Floyd Mayweather—as Manny Pacquiao has proved—but while Crawford is very skilled, he isn't skilled enough to make up for his professional attitude.
It sounds funny and counterintuitive that a professional attitude and demeanor would be negative, but acting in that way doesn't sell fights. You don't have to mimic Mayweather exactly, but you need to be a little brash or arrogant to sell the hype and drive up the PPV orders.
In the immediate aftermath of Crawford's terrific and exciting win over Yuriorkis Gamboa back in June, Bob Arum of Top Rank started to talk about moving Crawford up and potentially putting him against Pacquiao in a year or two.
It sounded like a more realistic plan than the one to move up Mikey Garcia, but even if the fight is made, it won't be enough to make Crawford a PPV linchpin.
I'll compare Crawford in that way to Timothy Bradley.
While Bradley has fought on PPV three times in recent years, that's been mostly due to his opposition. Like Bradley, Crawford is capable of becoming a guy who fights on PPV, but not as an A-side or a guy who can sell a PPV no matter who is standing across from him.
Bradley has made a lot of money, so reaching his level is nothing to dismiss, but that is Crawford's ceiling.
That's very good in terms of bringing in TV dollars but just not elite.
Buy: Danny Garcia
Like the other two boxers I bought on their PPV potential, Garcia has everything you need to reach that level. He's young and exciting in the ring, has an engaging personality and is with the right promoter to make the biggest fights possible.
Well, if his promoter Al Haymon is willing to make those big fights.
If Garcia had moved up and fought other legit elite fighters, he might already be at the PPV level, but fighting Mauricio Herrera and Rod Salka in 2014 did not get him even an inch closer to that goal.
Had it not been on the undercard for Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez, I would have paid money to see Garcia's fight against Lucas Matthysse. I would also pay money to see him fight Adrien Broner at 140 pounds or Marcos Maidana, Keith Thurman and, of course, Mayweather, if Garcia ever moves up to 147.
He's close—the only thing that's holding him back is the opposition in the ring with him.
It doesn't matter how talented a boxer is—no one is going to pay to watch him fight boxers at the level of Rod Salka. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but fights like that are holding Garcia back.
Once Garcia steps up and takes on some of the guys I mentioned, he'll be a PPV star in no time.