The Soapbox: A necessary evil
This Saturday night from the “West Coast Boxing Mecca,” the StubHub Center in Carson, California, a championship tripleheader takes place featuring Top Rank Promotions’ “Three Amigos”, Oscar Valdez, Jessie Magdaleno and Gilberto Ramirez, who defend their WBO titles. In addition, highly-touted 2016 U.S. Olympian Shakur Stevenson will make his professional debut.
While Magdaleno, the super bantamweight titlist, and Ramirez, the super middleweight beltholder (who face Adeilson Dos Santos and Max Bursak, respectively) have lay-ups, Valdez is facing his toughest test as a pro against the strong and sturdy Miguel Marriaga, in defense of the belt he won last summer.
It figures to be a fun evening at the fights for fans in Southern California and tickets have been priced very affordably. (Ringside seats can be had for $128.) But if you’re not in the area, well, you’ll also have to pay for it as this card is an independently produced pay-per-view show from Top Rank.
This is the problem for many fans, who have simply reached their boiling points. Here’s an email I received not too long ago from a such a denizen of the sport:
“Hi Steve, it’s been a while since I last wrote, but, as always, I’ve been reading right along, through the months and days. In your latest Undisputed Champion Network article, I noted the (Andre) Ward-(Sergey) Kovalev rematch would once again be a pay-per-view and it ticked me off, hence this email to you.
“As someone who has been a Sweet Science fan for 45 years, I subscribe to HBO and Showtime because of their coverage of our sport. Back in the day, my subscription gave me a front row seat for high-level championship fights, like (Aaron) Pryor-(Alexis) Arguello I and other great matches. Back then, PPVs were only for occasional matches that were well above the norm and for which you didn’t mind plunking down some extra cash because they were normally ‘must-see’ fights. I never felt like I was being fleeced or taken advantage of and I felt the promoters were treating me, as a boxing fan, fairly.
“Somewhere along the line, that system became discombobulated by the salary demands of some of the fighters at the top. It also was tipped upside down by promoters, who don’t know how to build boxers into attractions and who made seriously bad deals with those fighters, whom in many cases, would have had a hard time selling half the tickets at the old Blue Horizon!
“So now, not only do I pay my monthly HBO/Showtime bill but I’m also expected to purchase PPVs that, in all reality, should be on regular premium cable. These days I feel taken advantage of and ‘used’ in ways that I never did in the ‘good old days.’ My guess is that I’m not the only boxing fan who feels more than a little put-upon by this PPV process that’s taken hold the last couple of years.
“What can be done? Obviously I can vote with my wallet and not buy the PPV. I’ve taken this stand in the past and I probably will do that for Ward-Kovalev II. But other than that, I have no idea on how to really fix the problem and bring more reality back to how boxing is provided to the fan base that keeps it alive. Being you’re one of the few writers who consistently stands behind the boxing fans of the world, I wanted to vent my frustrations with you. Smart guy that you are, maybe you can think of some way to give this problem a bit more focus within the larger boxing world.
“In the meantime, I will continue to love our sport and support it as much as a guy from the hinterlands of northern Indiana can. But I’m not going to pay extra anymore for match-ups that I should be provided, on other levels. As always keep up the good work you always do.
Always good to hear from “Battleship Bill,” who, I believe, echoes the thoughts of many fans. He has a point. There was a time years ago that a card like this would’ve been on HBO or Showtime (which, by the way, just happens to have a card this same night featuring Shawn Porter-Andre Berto, from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn).
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum himself will tell you he’s not doing this to make money. More than anyone, he is realistic about the potential profitability of this card. (Top Rank will be more than relieved if they can break even or come close to it.) For years, Top Rank has done smaller pay-per-view cards, which were designed to move careers along, and labeled them “Latin Fury” or “Pinoy Power.” But even he understands there needs to be a shift in the paradigm. You can blame May 2, 2015 – a night that will live in infamy – for the downturn in the pay-per-view business but there are now other external factors such as the rampant pay-per-view piracy that takes place on the internet, on such platforms as Periscope and Facebook Live. Yes, this has always existed. (Anyone remember “black boxes”?) Personally, I never actually knew anyone who had one, while growing up. It seemed more like a urban legend than reality but everyone who has an internet connection, a tablet or cell phone has a black box. Piracy is much more prevalent and easily accessible than ever.
It’s an issue that the cable/satellite industry still has not come close to curbing (and perhaps never will).
Regardless, boxing needs to evolve with the current technology. It’s something the boxing business is now grasping. Recently, Banner Promotions aired the recent lightweight title tilt between Terry Flanagan and Petr Petrov on Twitter in the States, where it wound up trending. It’s perhaps just the first small step of many, as boxing begins to embrace the new technology and ditch the traditional ways of showcasing the sport.
Arum believes this is the wave of the future and he seems more than ready to embrace it and move forward with his business. It will be interesting to see just what his company has in mind.
Till then, he has to do pay-per-view cards of this nature.
It’s a necessary evil.
Julius Indongo, who became a unified 140-pound champion by shutting down Ricky Burns this past weekend, is the latest example of belts being important. With them, he has economic opportunities that otherwise would not have existed for him…The question is does he fulfill his IBF mandatory versus the tough Sergey Lipinets??…Dmitry Bivol is here…So what’s next for Sullivan Barrera, who stopped Paul Parker in five on Saturday night?…Manuel Mendez is a fan-friendly welterweight to look out for. He stopped Luis Arceo this past Friday night at the DoubleTree Hotel in Ontario…Sooooo, the Clippers and Doc Rivers are in some trouble, right?…For all those going to the StubHub Center this weekend, no matter how warm it is in the afternoon, always bring a sweater…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.