How will this weekend’s HBO Boxing PPV draw? If recent history holds true, not well. Get a full analysis and prediction here.
Boxing is dead.
It’s the oldest saying in the sport. For decades, critics have loudly been proclaiming the death of the sweet science, yet here it is, continuing on in the face of this constant death-knell. And yet there’s no denying that, from a business standpoint, the sport is in a slump right now – a slump that can pretty clearly be traced back to one date.
May 2, 2015. That’s the day the two greatest fighters of this generation finally stepped into the ring. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao had danced around each other for years, and here, they met. And completely blew away all expectations from a business standpoint. There’s since been some revisionist history claiming that fight was a business disappointment – nothing could be further from the truth. 4.6 million people bought the PPV, generating an astounding $400,000,000 in revenue. These numbers did not just set new records, they annihilated old records. It will be a long, long time before these numbers are touched.
And yet the fight was indeed a let-down, strictly from an in-ring perspective. The fight of the century was a technical affair that never really heated up. Between the massive hype, the let-down of the fight itself, and the subsequent falls from the spotlight for both fighters, we’ve now found ourselves in a clear post-Mayweather/Pacquiao business slump. Consider these PPV numbers since:
Sept. 12, 2015 – Mayweather vs. Berto: 400,000 buys
Oct. 17, 2015 – Golovkin vs. Lemieux: 150,000 buys
Nov. 21, 2015 – Canelo vs. Cotto: 900,000 buys
April 9, 2016 – Pacquiao vs. Bradley III: 400,000 buys
May 3, 2016 – Crawford vs. Postol: 60,000 buys
May 7, 2016 – Canelo vs. Khan: 600,000 buys
Sept. 17, 2016 – Canelo vs. Smith: 300,000
Nov. 5, 2016 – Pacquiao vs. Vargas: 300,000 buys
Nov. 19, 2016 – Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev: 160,000 buys
In the nearly two years since the mega-fight, no boxing event has surpassed the magical 1,000,000 mark, and that includes two Pacquiao fights and one from Mayweather. (Credit to Canelo and Cotto for coming close at 900,000.)
Which brings us to this weekend. On Saturday night, Gennady Golovkin takes his second step up to the PPV plate. So what can we expect from this fight?
Probably not a lot. Last time out, GGG pulled in just 150,000 buys for his fight with David Lemieux. That’s the second lowest number on this list. GGG supporters can argue that it was sandwiched within a busy PPV season that included Canelo/Cotto, which made a negative impact. There’s certainly validity to that, but it is unlikely it was that much of an impact. This time up, the opponent is Daniel Jacobs, a respectable power puncher (like Lemieux) who brings a great personal story of triumph over cancer to the ring. He’s a worthy opponent, a great story, and an intriguing fight. He also has no more casual fan name recognition than Lemieux.
In the 17 months since his PPV debut, GGG has primarily rolled over out-matched opponents, though he capped it with a win over Kell Brook that drew more eyes than normal. He also gained publicity in his ongoing and failed attempts to draw Canelo into a fight. Is that enough to seriously boost his PPV numbers? At the same time, boxing fans have been subjected to a number of pretty terrible PPV match-ups. The fact that a Pacquiao fight last year pulled in just 300,000 shows how weary the audience is. So any gains in GGG’s own popularity may be offset by general boxing malaise.
Put those factors together – GGG’s first buys, the general trend downwards, the lack of name opponent here – and the picture does not look good for PPV buys Saturday night. If it can hit the 300,000 mark, HBO should take that as the best success possible.
My prediction: 200,000 – though the Ward/Kovalev numbers make me worried for even that. And the Mayweather/Pacquiao PPV slump continues.
Boxing is dead?