The "old school" says that pay-per-view hurts the boxing industry. Today's promoters, however, see a chance to make big money on pay-per-view receipts, and with the sport a little more sturdy than it has been in recent years, HBO and Showtime are both targeting a return to consistent pay-per-view offerings.
If 2013 was a rebound year for the sport, 2014 is looking like a potentially hasty attempt to capitalize on fan goodwill by asking the dedicated and the casual alike to dig deep into their pockets. Here's what we've seen this year, and what we're going to see that we know of, from HBO and Showtime pay-per-view:
March 8: Canelo Alvarez vs Alfredo Angulo (SHO)
April 12: Manny Pacquiao vs Timothy Bradley II (HBO)
May 3: Floyd Mayweather vs Marcos Maidana (SHO)
June 7: Miguel Cotto vs Sergio Martinez (HBO)
July 26: Canelo Alvarez vs TBA (SHO)
September 13: Floyd Mayweather vs TBA (SHO)
It's also possible that we'll see Julio Cesar Chavez Jr take on either Gennady Golovkin or Jean Pascal on HBO pay-per-view this summer, and Top Rank is already planning to match the Pacquiao-Bradley II winner against the winner of the May 17 HBO fight between Juan Manuel Marquez in October, November, or December of this year, so you can add on Pacquiao-Marquez V, Pacquiao-Alvarado, Bradley-Marquez II, or Bradley-Alvarado, plus, potentially, a second mix of those fighters in another PPV.
Here's the extreme schedule beyond what's already set:
April: Pacquiao vs Bradley II (HBO)
May: Mayweather vs Maidana (SHO)
June: Cotto vs Martinez (HBO)
July: Canelo vs TBA (SHO)
August: Chavez vs Golovkin/Pascal (HBO)
September: Mayweather vs TBA (SHO)
November: Pacquiao/Bradley vs Marquez/Alvarado (HBO)
You're already down about $60 from Canelo-Angulo. If you were to buy every set upcoming PPV, keeping in mind Mayweather-Maidana will probably be $75 and not $60 for HD, you're looking at $315 spent between March 8 and July 26 for boxing pay-per-view.
If we get a show in August, plus Mayweather in September, then the Top Rank winners, it's going to be $510 on pay-per-view for the year. And that's assuming there are no other fights thrown into the mix, like maybe Bernard Hopkins vs Adonis Stevenson, for instance.
It's a lot to ask, and I don't know how many will really mind if the shows are worth buying, but if you're going to load the PPV schedule like this, the idea that Bob Arum holds that undercards don't matter might have to change. Golden Boy and Showtime have convinced some people that they believe in "stacked" undercards -- often consisting of name fighters in mismatches, but sometimes giving us something really good, too -- and they've shown far more concern about it than Arum has. Arum will still flat out say that the undercard doesn't matter, but if you're trying to sell this many shows, it might matter more than before.
The issue, of course, is that Mayweather and Pacquiao will not fight off of pay-per-view. That's just throwing money down the drain if you do it off pay-per-view with those guys. Canelo, too, looks like he's going to be a PPV headliner for the near future. Miguel Cotto can sell a pay-per-view so long as he's in the right career spot at the moment, which he is going into the Martinez fight, and definitely will be if he wins that fight.
But this may be a brief bubble, too. Mayweather is 37, Pacquiao is 35, Marquez is 40, Cotto is 33, Martinez is 39, Bradley is 30 and would need a convincing win over Pacquiao -- and maybe something more -- to be a reliable PPV A-side.
At 24, Canelo is the guy with the longest potential PPV future in this lot, clearly. Chavez is only 28, but he's also Chavez, and he's an unreliable fighter who doesn't have the same stardom cushion he had before Sergio Martinez beat him in 2012. Simply put, when he lost his "0," then failed the drug test, then came back to clearly lose to Bryan Vera only to get a gift decision, Chavez lost star power. His name has carried him as far as it's going to carry him.
Adrien Broner was thought to be near pay-per-view status, but he lost to Marcos Maidana, and the world mostly laughed at the latest create-a-superstar attempt to bust out before anyone could truly cash in. Danny Garcia has defied odds over and over, and he could be a pay-per-view guy sooner than later. At one point, Brandon Rios' style and personality could have been a decent reason to bet on him to become a headline act, but he's lost some luster by losing two straight, including a dull PPV bomb against Pacquiao.
Over the long haul, Felix Verdejo has the potential to be a PPV guy for Top Rank, but he's a long way off. Deontay Wilder could potentially be the first American heavyweight PPV star in a very long time, but that's also not exactly around the corner, or at least it shouldn't be considered any safe bet.
So, yes, right now, there is a push toward pay-per-view once again. But this is most likely a short-term thing with the age of the bigger stars working against the promoters and the networks. This may turn into more of a "get it while the gettin' is good" situation than any indicator of where the sport is headed. In the current climate, they can take their shots and run these shows on pay-per-view.
In a year, this may all look very different.