The December 18 fight between world light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and Hall of Fame-bound challenger Bernard Hopkins has been officially moved off of pay-per-view, a Showtime press release announced today. The two will fight on regular Showtime, starting at 10pm EDT from the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City.
I don't know what made this happen, but there are a lot of possibilities. For one thing, the fight just isn't that good. Yes, it's a legit championship fight, but Pascal is still well under the radar for American audiences, and Hopkins has never been a draw. His recent fights have done miserable numbers on PPV and HBO. As great as Hopkins is, he's never become a superstar. He has neither the style nor personality suited to being a huge money fighter, even though he has been a truly great fighter.
I hope that's a big reason they're doing this, but my guess is it's pretty far down the actual list. One problem might have been undercard. So many of Golden Boy's name fighters are fighting close to that date that they were all but out of options to stick on the show, and Pascal's promoters at GYM don't have any star power suitable for a PPV undercard. We complain about PPV undercards pretty much every time there is a PPV, but at least you're getting half an attractive fight almost every time with those bouts. They're just usually mismatches. There aren't even any mildly attractive mismatches to make for December 18. GYM just doesn't have anyone too notable, and Golden Boy's guys are locked up. Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana and Victor Ortiz are fighting on Dec. 11; Juan Manuel Marquez and Michael Katsidis are going on Nov. 27; Saul Alvarez is headlining inon Dec. 4; Robert Guerrero and Lucas Matthysse are fighting on Nov. 6. When you look at the Golden Boy stable, they would have had to try and fill a show out with the likes of Rocky Juarez and their not ready for prime time prospects, maybe get a James Kirkland rust-shaker fight on the card, maybe see if Paul Malignaggi or Juan Diaz wanted to fight again on that date, all of which is unlikely.
The budget for the show probably didn't help any there. Pascal and Hopkins are both likely getting pretty damn good guarantees for the fight, and there was certainly no guarantee this thing wouldn't flat bomb on PPV. Hopkins did less than 100K earlier this year for a grotesque rematch against Roy Jones Jr. that served at best to fill some void in his soul or whatever, and his 2008 fight with Kelly Pavlik did about 180K, it was reported. When you have high guarantees in a main event that likely isn't going to sell well, there's no money to waste on a big undercard, or even attempting to make something useful.
There was even talk of doing a split-site PPV with Erik Morales fighting in Mexico. Morales has been in contact with Golden Boy Promotions recently, as the two sides seem utterly hell-bent on a fight between Marquez and Morales in 2011. But that didn't pan out as PPV material. We'll see if that might enter plans still, but it would seem a bit of a long shot.
The show's proximity to Christmas probably played some kind of role, too. HBO turned down the fight not so much because they didn't want it, but major American networks rarely carry boxing that close to the holiday, and HBO has another event planned for that date, anyway. Asking fight fans to spend $50 or so on a card lacking a great main event or a balanced undercard within a week of Christmas, when wallets are light, seemed like a really strange plan in the first place.
The good news is you'll have something decent to do on December 18 if you're a boxing fan, and you won't have to pay for it. There's really no downside to this.