As you probably have already heard, Saturday's PPV fight between Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins was not a live success in Las Vegas. Almost anybody could have predicted that would be the case. Dan Rafael of ESPN.com said that the attendance was reported as 6,792, and that that wasn't paid in full:
The media coverage and fan reaction were overwhelmingly negative, and only 6,792 people showed up at Mandalay Bay to watch the fight, despite the availability of deeply discounted or even free tickets.
Yahoo! Sports columnist Kevin Iole also broke down the financial situation for the fighters:
The sad thing about the fight is that Jones won’t make anything. Let’s assume for a second that the 6,792 in the building actually paid for their seats (we know that’s not true) and that the seats averaged $300 a ticket (a figure higher than reality). That would mean the gate was $2 million. If the expenses to rent the building and promote the fight were $1 million, that means $1 million is left. Now, let’s figure it sold 100,000 pay-per-views at $49.95 apiece. That’s about $5 million. They have to split 50 percent of that with the cable and satellite operators, so that leaves $2.498 million for themselves. Add the $1 million from the gate and the $2.498 million from the pay-per-view and you have $3.498 million in profit. Given that the contract called for the first $3.5 million in profit to go to Hopkins and Golden Boy, it’s almost certain Jones fought for nothing. Actual revenue will likely be far less than I’ve described above.
Part of me finds this incredibly sad. I'm a Roy Jones fan. I admit the man has absolutely nothing left in the tank whatsoever. I was able to pump myself up one final time, figuring that against his rival, anything in reserves might come out of him for this one night. It didn't happen. He was awful. He wasn't even the faded Roy Jones of recent years.
Now, he's not even going to make any money, and if he does, it will be peanuts. There are a few ways to look at this. First, you have to give credit, whether it seems "fair" or not, to Bernard Hopkins and Golden Boy Promotions. The first $3.5 million going to Hopkins and Golden Boy, when $3.5 million was no guarantee for this fight at all, is a shrewd business move. Jones and his people clearly lost the battle at the negotiating table on that one, perhaps because they were delusional enough to grossly overestimate public demand for this fight.
Let's say Jones had beaten Danny Green in December and this fight had happened with both coming off of wins. Would it have been that much different? Neither man has sold a fight in a long time. Their last major PPV appearances in 2008, promoted by HBO, were flops (Hopkins-Pavlik and Jones-Calzaghe). Hopkins, frankly, has never been a major star. Jones was a bigger star, but was never a crossover, big-selling guy like Oscar de la Hoya or the last few years of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s career.
The talk was already there that it was way too late for anyone to really care about a Jones-Hopkins rematch. I think they'd have done a bit better. For one thing, HBO would have promoted the fight, at least a little, and that would have helped. For another thing, Jones wouldn't have been just stopped in a round by a guy from Australia who has no name value in the States. Even among the American diehards, those who know much about Danny Green don't turn up in significant numbers.
There's a chance they did better than 100,000 on pay-per-view, but I don't think it's much of a chance at this point. My very high-end estimate was 250,000 buys, and I conceded that it could easily have been half of that. So let's even say they did 125K or 150K. Jones still makes almost nothing for the fight. Bottom line is if this was Roy's way of making it to the bank with a smile one final time, it's not happening.
Cold, hard facts are what both men need to face: it's over. I don't think there's a single fight Hopkins can make right now where the risk outweighs the "reward." The two fights people talk about are Chad Dawson and David Haye. Does anyone who watched Hopkins on Saturday think he can beat either of them? He's too small for Haye, whose power is entirely legit at the heavyweight level, and who is a faster, bigger, stronger athlete, and oh yeah, he's almost 20 years younger. Dawson dominated Glen Johnson his last time out, and Johnson is far more aggressive and gung ho than Hopkins has looked in his last two fights. "Bad" Chad looks like he's coming into his own, and I don't see him having the flaws that a wily veteran like Hopkins can exploit, at least not now. Maybe if we were talking the Hopkins of two-to-four years ago against today's Dawson, sure, but we're not.
For Jones' sake, I do hope this did shockingly solid numbers on PPV and he gets some money. The fight was terrible and there's that complete cynic in me that says, "I wish neither of them got paid," but I also recognize that that's a pointless way to think about things. He went and did his job. But if he doesn't get paid, it's hard to cry the blues. Boxers are, like it or not, subject to the whims of the public demand as to how they're paid. If it turns out the public spoke so loudly that Jones doesn't make a dollar for the fight, that's just kind of the way it is.
After all, this isn't a situation like David Lopez (for instance), where the man is avoided and can't make the money he probably deserves, or the countless other fighters in a similar situation. Everyone knew who these two were. Nobody who really follows boxing doesn't know Jones and Hopkins. These aren't the mishandled, unfortunate cases, where deserving men aren't paid what they've put in. It's just that it looks like few were willing to pay $50 to see them fight again, and everyone was trying to tell them that for months. In this case, Roy has taken a major risk, and it appears he's lost.