A pay-per-view born from necessity
As WBO junior welterweight titlist Terence Crawford faces WBC counterpart Viktor Postol in a title unification matchup at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a central storyline this week will be about how this fight will be on pay-per-view and not on regular HBO airwaves. There’s no doubt that this is one of the more intriguing fights on the boxing calendar and the kind that needs to occur more often.
But, years ago, this kind of match-up would have been part of the “HBO World Championship Boxing” series. Both Crawford and Postol are accomplished boxers and there are high stakes involved this upcoming weekend but neither is a transcendent star nor has a pay-per-view track record.
Many fans are looking forward to this fight, as are many media members but the fact that this will add another $50-60 to your next cable/satellite bill bothers many and has been often discussed.
Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank Promotions, has had enough of that rhetoric, “I just think it’s ridiculous. I don’t know what they’re talking about. I mean, obviously if you can grab money from an HBO or Showtime as a promoter – you grab the money. But if that money isn’t available and if you have a fighter like Crawford, who says he wants to fight three times a year – not twice a year – what are you supposed to do?
“I can’t go to HBO and say, ‘Give me three dates for Crawford,’ then they’d say, ‘What about this guy; what about that guy?'” said Arum, referring to IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin and IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight beltholder Sergey Kovalev, who have deals with the network. “I can’t grab all of the dates, so I have to be innovative and one of the ways to be innovative is you match pay-per-view dates with HBO dates.”
There’s really nothing innovative about going pay-per-view in the sense that this platform has existed for years and, in the past, when Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto (among many others) needed to fight and HBO dates weren’t available, Arum has been more than willing to put up his own dime to stage pay-per-view cards to keep his clients active.
Crawford-Postol will be a tough sell on pay-per-view. Arum has admitted as much by stating anything over 100,000 buys would be considered a success (unlike a Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. event, the overhead isn’t nearly as high) and there’s a reason there aren’t a lot of pay-per-view cards held in the summer months. And there still seems to be a lingering backlash to May of 2015’s super-dud between Pacquiao and Mayweather.
Those involved are certainly doing their best to drum up interest in this event, specifically Crawford, the definitive A-side in this contest and being counted on as a pillar of Top Rank and HBO’s boxing franchise. The networks recently produced this half-hour feature on him in the lead-up to July 23:
And Top Rank produced its own “Countdown” show for this fight:
Whether Arum wants to admit it or not, there would be much different tenor to this promotion if were on a premium cable network instead of one pay-per-view.
There is now a new reality that exists with Premier Boxing Champions, Showtime being a closed shop to Top Rank and the much discussed HBO Sports budget for boxing, which has affected the ability of the network and promoters in making certain fights. But Arum states, “It has nothing to do with HBO, nothing to do with it with anything other than Time Warner. If Time Warner loosens up the budget restraints, and so forth, there’ll be plenty of money for boxing. If they don’t, there wont be.”
Not too long ago, Arum said he was told by the HBO higher-ups that boxing was in their DNA, “That’s certainly what the chairman told me.” OK, but is that still true?
“Yes,” answered the veteran promoter, who added, “but that may not be where HBO officials have the say anymore. There’s a lot of corporate shit that goes on that’s beyond boxing, that’s beyond you and me and so forth. It’s just like what happened when England voted for the ‘Brexit’ and the (Jessie) Vargas-Kell Brook fight became unaffordable.”
And, for the time being, Crawford-Postol is unaffordable to HBO.
Much is being made out of Adrien Broner and then Danny Garcia turning down opportunities to face the Filipino senator in the fall. Word is Broner wanted in the neighborhood of $6 million to face the “Pac-Man” and rejected an offer of $4 million. Over the weekend, Garcia stated he eschewed the same type of offer (although Arum denies he was ever in talks about “Swift” facing Pacquiao.
OK, it’s not my place or job to tell fighters what to take financially. After all, it’s their lives and careers and they are the ones taking the punches in there, not me. But it has to be noted that when the Pacquiao pay-per-view business was much more robust than it is currently and regularly averaging more than a million buys, the B-sides to Pacquiao – who were not marquee names like Cotto – got right around that same amount being offered to Broner.
The last Pacquiao fight versus Tim Bradley did 300,000 (or less) buys and Top Rank was swimming in red ink like they were in the Pacific Ocean. What’s really problematic in now making a successful Pacquiao pay-per-view is he is guaranteed $20 million a pop (something he was able to negotiate through his past accomplishments and revenue he generated). This is something to which Arum agreed and something he has to live with, for better or worse. (And there’s no need to throw Pacquiao a benefit; he knows where his next meal is coming from, regardless.) After the debacle of May 2, 2015, both Floyd and Manny saw huge dips in their pay-per-view figures for their last outings before their “retirements.”
At this point, Arum is only in a position of having to make fights to mitigate his losses. Match-ups against Broner or Garcia would most likely do better than the third Tim Bradley fight, last April, but the days of Pacquiao doing a million buys (short of a rematch with Mayweather) are most likely in the rear view mirror.
Much has been made if Broner and/or Garcia deserve more than what they were offered by Arum. If you are inclined to believe the $4 million, then there is an argument that it’s more than twice what they have made in their career-high paydays. (Then again Al Haymon is prone to cut second under-the-table checks to his fighters, as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. tweeted out last year.) Beyond earning that amount, the exposure from facing Pacquiao in an event that would get worldwide coverage, and perhaps being the one to really push Pacquiao into retirement, should be considered priceless by those involved.
Pacquiao became a superstar by punching Oscar De La Hoya into retirement in 2008, right?
What promoters offer pay-per-view B-sides doesn’t really have so much to do with what they “deserve” (a word too many fans believe is overused in this business) but what they forecast, the pay-per-view will generate. The pay-per-view formula is very simple math: You take the number of buys and multiply the retail price and then divide that by two (as the cable/satellite operators and the promoters split the revenue) and that’s how you divvy up that portion of pie (and there are still the foreign rights, sponsorships and the site fee).
So if Broner got his preferred amount (let’s round it off at $6 million) and Pacquiao got his contracted amount at $20 that’s $26 million. OK, at $75 a pop on pay-per-view that’s nearly 700,000 buys to get about that amount.
Does Pacquiao-Broner procure 700,000 buys in this current climate?
On the surface, it seems like an easy call for anyone to take a career-high purse to face an iconic name in the sport at the very tail end of his career (who has not scored a KO since 2009, which was 12 fights ago, and is now 37 years old) but perhaps the risk-reward ratio – which this business is really based on, in terms of what fights are made – still doesn’t balance out for Haymon and his clients. Both Garcia and Broner are still banking seven-figure paydays for facing much safer foes in the meantime and there is always the chance (or is it “threat”?) of a Mayweather return.
Perhaps they are being advised for that opportunity to arise.
And one must wonder if Haymon and Showtime want their PBC stable being used as B-sides across the street at HBO/Top Rank. Yeah, there may be a truce between the Arum and Haymon but it’s as tenuous as those brokered between the Bloods and Crips over years past. They may not being doing drive-by shootings at each other but they aren’t exactly breaking bread either.
To test this theory, they should offer up the same deal to WBA welterweight titlist Keith Thurman (who has tweeted out that he would love this fight) and see if they can strike a deal.
But is “One Time” maybe a bit too risky for Pacquiao and Top Rank?
And would that jeopardize a potential – wait for it – rematch between Mayweather and Pacquiao?
Yeah, this just might be business as usual for everyone involved.
Chris Arreola, all he has left are his guts. Everything else is gone…So is it safe to say that Deontay Wilder, with his torn biceps muscle, is out for the rest of 2016…Would have been a shame if Felix Diaz didn’t get the verdict against Sammy Vasquez Jr…Why isn’t Top Rank exposing Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas more?…Why does the PBC continue to schedule three fights in two-hour windows (like they did on FOX this Saturday)?…Love what Mark Richt is doing in the off-season as the head coach at Miami…Got the mophie charger for my Samsung. This thing is a Godsend. Where has this been my whole life?! A case and a charger in one!…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.