Saturday saw a slam bang ending to the Canelo vs Khan clash in Las Vegas, and now speculation abounds whether the show, a pay per view offering, was also a slam bang success, or something less so.
The sport mirrors the economy; it is in transition, with companies existing in a state of flux, uncertain of how speed of light technological changes will affect them. Uncertainty plagues, to a degree, the pay cable space, which is so instrumental in the content delivery side of pro pugilism. Boxing is a red light district sport, with a bad boy image which makes it unable to secure the sponsorship and advertising money infusions which help propel the other non niche sports in America. Put that mish-mash of elements together and you get the state of the sport we “enjoy” today. Whereas two years ago there seemed to be a recognition in many circles that the growth of the sport was being decelerated by keeping the best bouts behind a PPV paywall, today there is full on belief that the A grade fare will be placed on PPV. Why? Because the athletes, the topmost handful of practitioners, expect and demand premium pay. The budgets of the funders don't allow for the XXL payouts, unless the money pot is enlargened by the multiplicative power of buyers who press P, for purchase. Those 400,000 or more, or maybe less, hardcore fanatics vote with their wallet, and accumulated votes enable the Mayweathers and Canelos to gross outsized sums. But as we noted, the flux….
Rumors have the Canelo/Khan show underperforming, coming in under expectations. Being that no number has leaked to top level media, that seems a foregone conclusion, some posit. If the buy number was something to be shouted from the rooftops, it would have been shouted already, the thinking is in some spaces.
Matchmaker/booking agent Rick Glaser, who's done a lot of work for Don King over the years, has a healthy Facebook following. He posted this afternoon that he was told #Khanelo did 332,000 buys.
I reached out to Golden Boy exec Eric Gomez and messaged him that Glaser laser. He laughed and said, “Not true,” so we surmise the final tally will be healthier. (UPDATE: An hour after this story posted, ESPN's Dan Rafael Tweeted that a GB source told him the fight did just under 600,000 buys.)
My take: All this focus on this issue isn't mere chatter or aimless gossip. The direction of the sport and content delivery and continuation, or not, of grand paydays for the top grade players is in play. There is no guarantee that this system holds. So a rigorous and continuing examination of all these practices are simply due dilligence if you cover the sport.
Me, I don't hide my desire to see fewer shows sent to PPV, as I know in speaking to fans that they aren't awash in discretionary income and would rather not see inflated cable bills six times a year. The funneling of Terence Crawford's next fight to PPV is part of this new math equation. None of us on the outside know exactly what that means, beyond hearing vague references to a boxing budget cut at HBO. Do more with less is a frequent refrain at many a company these days and we seem to be seeing that at HBO.
And then again, we could head into the second half of the year with two fights that really wouldn't general much blowback from the budget conscious: Ward v Kovalev and Golovkin v Canelo are both pairings which generate organic interest. These matches don't have to be sold with a hard sell to consumers. Stellar outcomes in those two tangoes could maybe propel us into an era of re-invigoration, anoint stars who could perhaps edge out of niche player status, onto a wider array of radar screens. And if Al Haymon's PBC A siders continue in the vein that Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter are, demanding elimination showdowns, we could finish the year on a higher note, out of a state of flux, to a position of relative strength. Speaking of strength, I have been citing the next Deontay Wilder fight, which Showtime should be locking down, and then that Thurman-Porter clash as two events I'm very much looking forward to when people ask what I'm excited about in the near term. Showtime flexed their budgetary health with the Anthony Joshua long term deal, so their current state of vibrancy, which would be bumped up that much more with the return of Floyd Mayweather, positions them high in the saddle as we look to the second half of the year in boxing 2016.
Yes, the health of the sport mirrors our economy as a whole. Unsettling transition is mixed with grounds for some optimism.