I really love boxing. It's my second favorite sport behind football and tied with baseball. I love everything about boxing but I think boxing is in trouble. And the number #1 problem with boxing isn't the sanctioning bodies, it's pay per view. Boxing viewership on TV seriously went down DRASTICALLY in recent years. Why? It's because more and more high profile fights that are supposed to build and make stars are on PPV. The problem isn't PPV itself, but it's the way PPV is being used. There's no problem using PPV for a huge superfight (i.e. ODLH-Floyd, Floyd-Hatton) or using PPV exclusively on a fighter that clearly has a really large fanbase already (i.e. ODLH, Tyson). That's fine. The problem with this sport is that greedy promoters, networks, and fighters are raping the sport and aren't thinking about the future. Boxing really needs to be cleaned up right now and not taken advantage of. Spending a little money now to get fights on HBO, Showtime, ESPN, or even regular TV will help the sport in the future. Seriously, boxing is losing fans each year, and while the promoters, networks, and fighters are still making they're money it won't be long before they have to lay in the bed they've made for themselves. It's not that people that run boxing aren't smart, it's just that they're so lazy that they're fine with the status quo and they don't wanna put in the work to redefine the industry to help it prepare for the future. It's the same type of mentality that the American auto industry had five-ten years ago and it's taken the years of decreased profits and finally the recession to get the guys to realize that they can't do business the way they used to in the 80s and 90s. It's the same for boxing.
Numbers don't lie, we won't even go back to the huge ratings that boxing used to get in the 90s, let's just go back to 2001-2002, look at some of the ratings for HBO World Championship Boxing:
ODLH-Gatti: 4.1 Million viewers
Gatti-Ward: 3.6 Million viewers (hit shows like The Sopranos were doing 4.2 Million)
Gatti-Ward 2: 3.2 Million viewers
These weren't big fights in the sport at all but they featured a star that was just special and great action fighters. It proved that people still watched. But since 2002, the number of PPVs has increased drastically and the TV ratings have decreased drastically. Now look at the ratings for HBO fights recently:
Pavlik-Taylor I: 2.4 Million viewers
ODLH-Forbes: 2.1 Million viewers
Hopkins-JoeCal: 1.89 Million viewers
Klitschko-Ibragimov 1.8 Million viewers
The fact that a HUGE fight and awesome matchup like Pavlik-Taylor I and an ODLH fight did such low numbers prove that the sport is not doing well. The problem with this is that HBO has increased it's PPV revenue in 2005, 2006, and 2007. They will continue pumping money into the sport...for now, because they are still making money off of PPV. In 2006, they did 3.7 Million buys total, and in 2007, they did 4.8 Million buys total. The problem with this is that they did these buys most of the time with big fights featuring stars from the late 90s and early 2000s when boxing was more visible. That's fine for now but the problem with that rationale is that they are eating leftovers aren't making dinner anymore. Sooner or later they're leftovers are gonna run out. Then who are they gonna put on PPV? How are they gonna get a million buys when nobody knows who the hell these guys are and no one cares either?
When HBO stops making money, they're gonna stop pumping so much money into the sport and then they're gonna find something else to throw they're money into, they've already been looking at MMA. Everyone is making money now but the future DOES NOT look good for boxing in America. IMO, HBO is the gift and the curse. They build up a fighter in two televised fights and then they shove them on pay per view which really restricts how many people know about them and can see them. Promoters are pushing their big prospects into big fights WAY too fast to make a quick dollar now and risk their prospects record and development, instead of being patient, getting their prospect in the public eye, and hoping for a bigger payday later.
Here are some things that I think will help the sport:
1. True boxing gem prospects must be moved a long carefully at the right pace. Because future earnings off of a possible undefeated fighter are much greater than someone who's got one or two losses. And prospect fighters with undefeated records sometimes don't turn out to be the real deal, but the buzz and interest they create is unparalleled.
2. More fights have to be on pay cable (HBO, Showtime), cable (ESPN, Versus), and even regular TV (ABC, CBS). This means that promoters, fighters, and network have to all agree that the future is very important and that they may have to all take less money now for the health of the sport. This quite honestly would be the perfect time to really work on this because the sport still has enough big names fighting to still make money for the meantime while prospects are being held on regular HBO and TV longer before getting put on PPV.
3. PPV undercards simply CAN NOT afford to be wasted and they should also be included in the advertising. This means the headliners have to take a little less money to get good prospects in good matchups on the undercard. A great example would be this ODLH-Pac PPV, the undercard features truly great prospects in JuanMa and Victor Ortiz. Even the undefeated Danny Jacobs will get some air time I think.
4. If there is no true public demand for a fight, PPV should'nt be used just to make the fight. i.e. almost Mosley-Mayorga, JoeCal-Hopkins, Mayorga-Vargas. It's a waste of money and pretty much a waste of everyone's time. It also doesn't help the sport any.
5. HBO should stop signing big name fighters to expensive multifight deals (i.e. Wlad, Floyd Jr.) and start signing elite prospects to much more inexpensive deals. This would assure that HBO wouldn't have to televise trash fights like Wlad-Tony Thompson and that would free up some budget to make other fights. Also, elite prospects that haven't hit the big time yet can be signed to multifight deals for much less which would guarantee that more viewers get to see them develop on a more consistent basis.
6. HBO needs to revitalize BAD with either elite prospect fights or great matchups and that show needs to be moved to Thursday. I understand that shows are held on Saturday because of the live gate but if the promoters can produce a comparable gate on a Thursday for some of these cards then BAD or ShoBox should be televised on Thursday. Simply for the reason that MUCH more people are watching television on a Thursday as opposed to a Saturday. This should mean more exposure earlier for prospects which would increase their popularity.
7. Promoters should start promoters they're fighters online by doing ANYTHING!!! Promoters honestly are just lazy as fuck these days. Have the fighter do blogs, interviews, etc...The internet is obviously the most powerful ad tool so these antiquated promoters need to step their game up. Golden Boy is at least figuring this out by having RING magazine online partnered with Yahoo in order to add some type of credibility outside of boxing. People are MUCH MUCH more likely to go to ESPN.com than pick up ESPN the magazine at a bookstore.
8. Big name fighters must themselves do a better job of promoting fights. If fighters want to command a lot of money then they have to be promotable and willing to promote a fight. I'm not saying that everyone has to be a loudmouth but guys have to exploit every single possible promotable angle of a fight. Like when Margarito & Cotto downplayed the Mexico vs Puerto Rico rivarly and said it wasn't about that, it was commendable, but this is about creating buzz for a fight. I didn't understand why they downplayed probably the single most promotable part of that fight outside of the matchup. Why don't we just come out and say we are all best friends? hahahaha.
What are some suggestions yall have?