HBO's Mark Taffet tells Mitch Abramson that he's not worried about pay-per-view sales for the company's two upcoming big boxing events on November 12 (Pacquiao vs Marquez III) and December 3 (Cotto vs Margarito II), as Taffet believes boxing fans are wise enough to judge an event on its own, and not be concerned with the controversies and flops of Mayweather vs Ortiz and Hopkins vs Dawson:
"Boxing fans are very savvy and very sophisticated," Taffet said. "They look at each fight individually. And they evaluate it based on its own merits and every boxing fan knows that when you look at Cotto and Margarito, it doesn’t matter what came before it. It doesn’t matter what comes after it. On that night you want to watch, you want to tune in. And we expect it to be a very fulfilling night for boxing fans."
There are a few things that you can argue for if you're convincing people to order these fights:
- The Mayweather vs Ortiz and Hopkins vs Dawson shows were Golden Boy-booked, or in the latter case, a collaboration between Golden Boy and Gary Shaw. (I guess you could argue that the first was a collaboration between GBP and Mayweather Promotions, but whatever.) These shows are being presented by Top Rank. To the normal person, this may mean little, but the companies are different, and Top Rank appear determined to go for the gusto with these shows.
- The undercards are the biggest part of "the gusto." Pacquiao vs Marquez will feature Timothy Bradley vs Joel Casamayor, Mike Alvarado vs Breidis Prescott, and Luis Cruz vs Juan Carlos Burgos. Even better than that is Cotto vs Margarito, which is a night of potentially great action fights top to bottom, with Brandon Rios vs John Murray, Mike Jones vs Sebastian Lujan, and the rematch between Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez, currently leading many Fight of the Year races.
But is that enough? Mayweather vs Ortiz's numbers were not released. Someday we'll know, but nobody seems in a hurry to get that number out to the public. One theory is that the figures were as low as 850,000. Some have figured it at about 1,000,000 buys. Either way, that's a major disappointment. Even if you wisely ignore Oscar De La Hoya's doofy claims of the fight being in a position to break his record of 2.4 million PPVs sold for a single fight (with Mayweather), it's a lousy number with the expectations, and considering they haven't reported the number, I don't expect it's much better than a flat mil.
Of course, I think we're seeing a legitimate decline in interest in these Big Event Fights overall. I don't think boxing's popularity is slipping. HBO numbers have been OK this year. But neither Pacquiao vs Mosley (I don't buy the Arum-reported figure, sorry) nor Mayweather vs Ortiz set the world on fire. Can Pacquiao vs Marquez rile up the audience again? What's the high-end there? 1.2 million or so? What's the low-end? 800K? It's a big difference, and could very well go low, and that's no knock on Manny or even the fight. I just wonder if there's not sort of a dismissive attitude from the non-hardcores who bought these shows for a while. At what point were they sick of the fights? Was this year the end of the easy, huge money gravy train?
Cotto vs Margarito II is going to sell to its target audience and little else, anyway. My only concerns there have been (1) the closeness to Pacquiao vs Marquez, (2) the closeness to the spend-heavy holiday season, and (3) its standing as the last of four expensive shows in about two and a half months.
So far, you can argue very easily that HBO is 0-for-2. Is Top Rank coming to the rescue, or has the damage been done?