Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I have a confession to make.
I’m not loving where the sport stands on this day.
This confession is sent within the context of having seen the slate trotted out by the FOX people on Tuesday afternoon. At the FOX studio in Cali, Chris Myers talked about the new deal which will put cards on FOX and FS1, with fighters and matchups put together by Premier Boxing Champions.
Out of the gate, I didn’t dig the energy in the room. And half a day later, I know why. Because whether they admit it or not, many of the folks in the room weren’t feeling it either. Not everyone — some people are more invested than others in seeing the sunny side of things, and putting the brave face or sweet spin on the situation. But by and large, the FOX/PBC slate is comprised of A-sides fighting obvious B-sides, and we will be having to hope against history and track record if we are to see the level of competitiveness and drama that we were hoping for when he heard that Al Haymon had put together a deal to place his fighters on FOX cards.
The day after watching the presentation, which was heavy on focus toward a March PPV pitting Errol Spence against Mikey Garcia, I found myself having the sad realization that we are where we were. I didn’t at the time understand why PBC didn’t come out of the gates cooking with max gas, putting A-siders vs A=siders in order to blow potential new eyeballs away with the glory of pugilism when done right.
I told folks to take that long view, then we would give that final grade. But one would have hoped that lessons would have been learned. Why oh why aren’t we seeing A-sides versus A-sides tangling on these FOX cards? You would have to ask Mr. Haymon and that isn’t happening. Only he knows why he chooses to program this way and he isn’t sharing. Thomas Hauser put forth some theories a few years ago and the writer Gabe Oppenheim speculated again today, and until Haymon himself speaks to these theories, speculation will be all we have to work with.
Now, before you get up in arms, the same question has to be asked too often of the other promoter sorts at the top of the sport. That goes for Bob Arum, for Eddie Hearn, for everyone. The new reality which has tens and even HUNDREDS of millions being farmed out for rights deals, from ESPN and DAZN and FOX, bizarrely results in the sad reality that we will not see what we want and need to see, that being the best fighting the best, no matter their promotional or platform affiliation, as often as we should.
That isn’t ideal, not if you aren’t the people who are getting the checks from the ESPNs and DAZNs and FOXes. Or if you aren’t the fighters who are being put in fights against boxers you are quite likely to beat. Why? Because we won’t be putting our best foot forward, we won’t be giving ourselves the best chance to grow the sport.
Showcases benefit a narrow few and not the masses. And putting the best bouts on PPV is still happening.
Yeah, tens of millions of dollars are in play to make fights and yet that isn’t enough to satisfy the demands of the A-siders fighting the bouts the fans most want to see. And you can say, hey, Woods, that’s capitalism, get over it. Nope; not gonna give in to resgination so readily. Because it is counter-productive if the end aim is to grow the sport for the longer term.
PPV keeps the topmost fighters happy…
PPV helps get fights that wouldn’t get made otherwise come to fruition...
But I offer you that this construct mirrors world capitalism too much. The mega talents use their out sized leverage to over-command purses which “the market” won’t bear. Which is why Jeff Bezos gets the sweetheart of all deals to avoid taxes so he can pick and choose the best spots for his headquarters, because he has out-sized power. Excessive power in the hands of the haves means that they consolidate and we end up fighting for crumbs.
In the PPV sector, monies from the various revenue streams, i.e. the gate and the money put forth by the platform holder which they deem an acceptable outlay to attraction of eyeballs ratio aren’t enough to satisfy the purse demands of the athletes and anyone else getting a cut from the pot.
So, how to augment? Go direct to consumer. And that setup is by all means within the bounds of decency in the capitalism realm. But I repeat, does it benefit the masses and the health and wellness of the sport, or a select few? Paywalls have a place, but deficiencies as well.
Bottom lining it, I’m frustrated.
I don’t see us obviously being in a better space as a sport as we were in 2017, or 2015, let alone whatever golden ages you like to hearken back to.
I’m seeing quantity being offered over quality, and I’m feeling my own zest for following the players and the matchups being impacted.
I can’t be alone.