Amid a great media spread, is Miguel Cotto-James Kirkland really that nourishing?
At Friday afternoon’s media luncheon officially announcing Feb. 25th’s HBO Pay-Per-View main event between Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland, the closing statement by Roc Nation Sports President Michael Yormark was the lasting impression of an otherwise cut-and-dried press conference.
“We need your support on this fight. We need your support. This is an industry that has a lot of challenges and if the media doesn’t get behind it and help promote it – and help sell the good things about this industry – there will be no fights down the road. So we need you as a partner to support us, to encourage fans to get behind this fight. You’ve heard from these two fighters. This is going to be a great night of entertainment. This is going to be a great fight. These two guys are gonna battle so hard on February 25th. It has all the makings of an epic fight, so we appreciate what you will do over the next seven weeks.”
In the Academy Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the media were greeted to a wonderful lunch that somewhat served as a precedent to its final moment. The options were seemingly endless: Caprese salad, minestrone soup, Alfredo pasta with shrimp, an eggplant Parmesan, short ribs and even plenty of choice desserts. It isn’t out of the ordinary for media events to have some sort of catering but, for this one, Roc Nation Sports set a standard for its premium event set at the brand-new Ford Center in Frisco, Texas – the $1.5 billion practice facility for the Dallas Cowboys.
“Over 50 percent of the inventory in Dallas has already been sold for this fight with seven weeks left. That’s a real strong indication that people are excited about this match-up,” proclaimed Yormark in his opening statements. “We’ve got a great promoter and partner in Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. They are promoting this fight very aggressively and, again, to have over 50 percent of our inventory sold during the holidays is absolutely tremendous and, quite frankly, it’s exceeded our expectations.”
Dubbed as “The Return” for Cotto’s 15-month absence from the ring, this fight is the first pay-per-view event of 2017 and the 10th of the Puerto Rican’s illustrious career. For a price of $49.95 (non-High-Definition), the undercard for the HBO Pay-Per-View will be announced early next week and the tickets are readily available on ticketmaster.com.
Fought at a catchweight of 153 pounds, the 37-year-old has already said this year will be his last as a fighter. “This fight is going to be the newest chapter in my career,” said Cotto, a five-time world champion. “I’m going to handle it in the best way possible. I’m going to do my best first with (trainer) Freddie Roach in the gym and then, the night of the fight, to make my family proud. I can’t control my legacy. I can’t control what people say about me after I retire. All I do in life is for my family and my kids. That is going to be my legacy – what they think about me.”
Cotto, 40-5 (33), said he’s already started camp down the road at the Wild Card Boxing Club, and gave a quick assessment on how he feels. “It’s good to be back. It’s good to be sweating. I know that Freddie has everything set for our training camp. I rested a lot. I healed and now I’m ready to fight.”
“This fight is gonna be all about entertainment,” said Yormark boldly. He isn’t wrong – especially considering Kirkland will have a peculiar motivator training him for this fight. Ann Wolfe, a former women’s world champion in three weight divisions, will be busting Kirkland’s hump in the weeks leading up to Feb. 25, and barking in his corner come fight night.
Kirkland, 32-2 (28), hasn’t lost a fight under the direction of Wolfe.
“I feel like it’s a lot different with Ann,” said Kirkland. “They say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Dealing with Ann, we have a certain trust factor with each other, when it comes to the training and the techniques and things that we prepare for any fight. Bringing someone who knows me from the beginning back to the fight game and training me, it’s overwhelming on both ends. She’s a person that you feel in this atmosphere, the boxing game, who can push me to his ultimate limits.”
Aside from her success with Kirkland, Wolfe’s compelling personality alone is unabashed entertainment and, as HBO’s Tony Walker explained, she will be a part of the build-up of this event. “There will be some programming that’s going to be produced for a showing on HBO that will look at the training camps and the fighters. I’m not sure what we’re gonna name it yet but there will be some new stuff that you guys haven’t seen before.”
On facing a potential Hall-of-Fame fighter in Cotto, Kirkland is grateful for the opportunity and hopes to take advantage of it.
“I’m more focused than ever,” said the 32-year-old from Austin, Texas. Cotto is somebody who has fought all of the greats, so I know that he has many tricks up his sleeves and that he prepares well for his fights…Cotto is someone I look up to. For me, to be able to get the opportunity to show what I can bring and take my boxing skill to the next limit is definitely something I can put down in things I have accomplished in boxing. My career needs to get back on the rise and show not just fans but to the sport of boxing itself that James Kirkland is definitely someone that can put on a great show.”
Both Cotto and Kirkland have a common opponent in former WBC middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and both are coming off a loss to the current WBO junior middleweight titleholder. Cotto still feels like he did enough to beat Alvarez in November of 2015 on HBO pay-per-view but the effort wasn’t enough in the eyes of the three judges who unanimously – and widely – awarded the fight to “Canelo” On the other hand, Kirkland was brutally knocked out in the third round in front of 30,000-plus at Houston’s Minute Maid Park and 2.1 million subscribers watching live on regular HBO – the network’s highest-rated show in close to 10 years.
The subject of pay-per-view has been a hot topic among boxing circles because of their overwhelming abundance. The last PPV event was co-promoted by Roc Nation Sports in November when IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward edged Sergey Kovalev and, in an interview with RingTV.com, Yormark said he’d be upset if it wasn’t the biggest PPV in 2016. It would’ve had to surpass roughly 600,000 buys in order to accomplish such a feat and the final numbers for Ward-Kovalev were well short of 200,000.
One reporter brought up the underwhelming promotion of Ward-Kovalev to Yormark and asked him what the media and he could do better in elevating the promotion of Cotto-Kirkland.
“That’s the best question of the day,” Yormark immediately replied before going into a soliloquy inspired by the many questions he’s had to answer in the start of this promotion.
“I think you need to accept these fights for what they are. No transparency, when the first story came out about this fight from a reporter back on the East Coast, they were very negative. For what reason, I don’t know. There was discussion about if this is a pay-per-view-worthy fight. This is arguably gonna be the best entertainment of the year in the sport. You’ve got two guys that have a lot to prove. Two guys that, when they get into the ring, they’re gonna battle and throw punches. They’re not gonna dance around. They’re not gonna hide. And when you think about why people buy pay-per-view or why they buy any form of entertainment, they want to be entertained. It’s about the value proposition, right? $49.95 (non-HD) to see two great fighters battle for as long as the fight lasts, that’s a great value proposition. To answer your question directly, that’s what the media needs to talk about. They need to talk about great entertainment at a great value. The return of Miguel Cotto – one of the greatest fighters that we’ve seen over the last 10-to-15 years – that’s what the focus needs to be on. The focus doesn’t need to be on whether it’s pay-per-view-worthy. That’s not the question. That’s not the issue here, OK? That’s for another day.”
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when it comes to this fight, on paper, Yormark makes good points of this being an attractive match-up. However, the choice to buy this PPV – or any, for that matter – will always be in the hands of the consumer, especially when there are a wide array of PPVs to choose from, these days. Much like the arrangement of foods scattered around for the media to choose from, this writer would’ve turned down those spare ribs – no matter how delicious they were – if there was a price tag attached.