Keith Idec of BoxingScene.com got some quotes from Bob Arum regarding the sellout at Madison Square Garden for Saturday's rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, and his thoughts on the overall strength of boxing in today's global marketplace. It's debatable, it's actually interesting, and there are a lot of ways to look at the things he's saying. Here's a sample:
"[B]oxing has never, ever been stronger than it is now. Look at our experience. Our experience, look what’s happening in Mexico, Germany and various other places. ... And now we’re here in ‘The Big Apple,’ Madison Square Garden, where people understand sports and follow sports and they’re just not going to buy tickets unless you give them value, and it’s a complete sellout two days before the event. So don’t tell me that boxing is dead. Boxing is not dead. Boxing is very strong."
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Arum cites a few more recent examples to prove his point, all Top Rank ventures (which is fine because that's obviously the business he follows closest):
- Donaire vs Narvaez on 10/22 at The Theater at MSG: "A virtual sellout."
- Pacquiao vs Marquez III on 11/12 at the MGM Grand: "Completely sold out. Not one seat remaining."
- Chavez vs Manfredo on 11/19 in Houston: "This close to a sellout."
So what are we really talking about here?
It does need to be noted that Donaire vs Narvaez is absolutely not in league with these other fights, as The Theater holds about 5,000 for boxing and we're not talking about a big crowd. But the success of Pacquiao vs Marquez ($11.6 million gate) and Cotto vs Margarito (north of $3 million gate) are very nice. And while Floyd Mayweather vs Victor Ortiz didn't sell out in September in Vegas, it generated a live gate of $9 million. Pacquiao vs Mosley on May 7 this year did a live gate of $8,882,600.
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There are three things I can tell you for certain:
- Manny Pacquiao makes a lot of money in Las Vegas.
- Floyd Mayweather Jr makes a lot of money in Las Vegas.
- Miguel Cotto draws a lot of fans in New York.
As for anything else that speaks to the overall health of boxing, there's really not a lot. Yeah, Chavez did pretty good in Houston with Manfredo, and there are a few guys out there who do good local draws, and Canelo Alvarez can do a decent house out in California. Internationally, the boxing game is strong in Mexico, in Germany, in the U.K., Japan, etc.
But really, Bob Arum isn't talking about boxing's overall health so much as he's talking about the money flowing into his own wallet. And recently, he's done well with three shows (again, I'm not counting Donaire vs Narvaez on this level, period, even if they were happy with the results relative to scale).
That's what promoters -- all of them -- care about and know best. How much they're making. How much money comes back to them for putting on a show. It's a good thing to care about, because when you break it down it's just a reflection of the public's interest in that fight they put on, but boxing in the United States remains short on legitimate drawing cards.
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If everyone is thrilled with having three-to-five guys who can draw significantly and consistently, then sure, it's as strong as ever. But it makes you wonder: Do they care to make it bigger than that? Are they willing to just "take the hits" on other fights and just worry about the TV money for those, so long as they make the big bucks on a few guys?
And if so, is there even anything wrong with that? It's 2011 and boxing is a niche sport in the United States, and probably, unlikely to ever be more than that again when you get right down to it. Is the health of the sport actually fine when you look at it with those expectations?