Roc Nation boxing boss Michael Yormark came later to the Roc boxing party, after the Jay Z arm tried Gary Shaw and then Dave Itskowitch as day to day operations personnel.
The executive, president and chief of branding and strategy, has his hands in much more than simply boxing, as he's knee deep in the wider range of Roc sports. But, he's totally hands on with boxing. And, as he told NYFIGHTS during some time before the Wednesday presser to talk up the Feb 25 Miguel Cotto v James Kirkland event, he is pleased with what Roc boxing showed last year, and more, with Miguel Cotto perceived as a good investment to the company, and their other A list stud Andre Ward getting the W in 2016's most anticipated scrap.
“And I think Jay Z and Juan Perez (Roc Nation sports president) are excited,” Yormark said. “As with any new venture, it's a process. And we're learning every day and we are getting better every day.”
Yormark has an upbeat and exuberant manner in talking up his program; he said that he's extra pleased to be showcasing Cotto in Texas, where he's already enjoying the fruits of Jerry Jones' labors in building up the Hispanic fanbase for his Dallas Cowboys. Five thousand tickets, about 50 percent of capacity, has already been sold for the Cotto event, which should be a showcase event for the 36 year old Puerto Rican.
The tango will unfold in the Frisco, Texas facility which opened this summer, and stands as the NFL squad's practice facility. Yormark said he set upon this facility because he knew buildings are jammed with NHL and NBA dates, so he reached out to a business contact who books The Star. Voila…
Yormark saw how the area responded to Canelo in against a B level foe, so he hoped Cotto could get similar love. So far, so good, he said. “I was down there, Andre had a press event, and I felt the buzz,” he said.
The exec said that it will pay off that this boxing event will be advertised during the Cowboys' playoff appearance, or appearances.
Now, a major subplot to this bout has to do with the shifting business winds of the sport, and how it is presented. This Cotto fight is first in line of pay per view offerings in the pugilism space, and one need only look at comments on my Twitter feed when I mention the showcasing platform.
No way do I want to pay, many fans are saying.
The last PPV of the year, Sergey Kovalev v Andre Ward, did business not up to the hopeful expectations of planners. The previous months Manny Pacquiao bout against Jessie Vargas didn't do gangbusters, and neither, really, did Canelo's fight against Paul Smith. For sure, Terence Crawford wasn't received as warmly as he hoped in his debut on the PPV stage. Yormark could have slipped and moved and blocked the issue, but in chatting with me, and during the full media session after, he spoke forcefully about this Cotto tango, the first in a year, being an ultra premium offering.
“Listen, there's no controversy. This is Miguel's tenth fight on pay per view,” he said, a decibel higher. “Some of the media came out with stories initially, ‘this doesn't belong on pay per view.' I don't believe that. Miguel belongs on pay per view. We've priced this at a very good value, $49.95. It's the first PPV of the new year. And I will tell you what, it's going to be action packed…If I'm a consumer, I don't want to see dancing! ..Anyone that doesn't want it on pay per view, listen, I don't want to hear that! Miguel belongs on pay per view, this is his tenth fight, this is where the fight belongs!”
Roach, Cotto and Kirkland listen while Michael Yormark talks at the Parker Meridien in NYC.
He said he's not “concerned” about the cooling trend in buys, but believes it bears watching. “I think it's something we all need to watch,” Yormark said. “And be very careful as we move forward.”
(By careful, I'm thinking part of what he is referring to is pricing. This event is $49. and that “trend” is also being seen in the March 18 GGG v Danny Jacobs faceoff retails for $55 for the non HD version.)
I appreciated Yormark's candor when I asked him if Ward v Kovalev met expectation. “I was a little disappointed,” he allowed. It didn't maybe come as a slap in the face surprise; he ran the numbers on first PPV outings for PPV perennials and most attractions take time to build the base. It behooves all the players, the suits and the fighters to understand that sub 500,000 PPV outings are to be expected, and even accepted, and not summarily dismissed as evidence of a death spiral to PPV. “If you look at history, I think the Kovalev v Ward results are maybe what we should have expected. And if they were to get in the ring again I think the numbers would be much greater.”
Yormark said that this fight is the last on a three fight deal with Roc, and that he hasn't yet dove into any extension talks. “He is part of our family,” he made sure to mention. I tried to suss out how pleased Roc is with the Cotto (below, next to Roach) investment.
Yormark told me that some of the figures reported when Cotto signed the deal were inflated. “There's been lots of successes in this relationship since day one,” he said. “We'd love to continue. And after this fight we will sit down and talk about it.”