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Boxing Pay-Per-View A Rip-Off
Bernard Hopkins just took part of Antonio Tarver’s light heavyweight belt in a one-sided beating in Atlantic City. Hopkins proves once again that he is one of the best fighters in boxing history.
That same night, Miguel Cotto defeated Paul Malignaggi to retain his share of the belt in the junior welterweight division in a tough fight at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Question. How many people know that these fights took place? How many people watched this live? Overall, not a lot.
Boxing is a sport that usually costs quite a bit of money to watch live. Tickets often range from $30 or $40 to over $2,500. So most people get kicked out and see it on TV.
To make matters worse, most “non-pay” TV stations like ABC or CBS have pretty much stopped showing boxing. Cable channels like ESPN, HBO or Showtime stepped in and became the big boxing providers of the day. HBO in particular is legendary in the boxing community. The network has shown and still shows the biggest fights year after year. This has helped the sport as HBO is the largest paid network. However, nothing beats “free” television.
Unfortunately, another creature intervened in there. It is known as “Pay-Per-View”.
Of course, “Pay-Per-View” was a concept that would promote the best of everything. That’s how it started. People were depositing their hard-earned dollars for “premium” events. As usual, time is always on the side of the vultures and the quality of these events today ranges from mediocre to catastrophic. The Hopkins-Tarver fight was $50. The Cotto-Malinaggi fight was $40. Too much.
Worse still, various promoters labeled people as “suckers” for buying events that didn’t do too well. Guys like promoters Bob Arum and Don King shrug their shoulders when people complain about getting caught.
PPV events are very smart in that they stack up the main event and put less and less in the undercard, which for any true boxing fan is a big deal. Consequently, less money is paid out to undercard fighters and more goes into the pockets of the promoter. Fans? Yes, you’re screwed again. The undercard will often have stranded fighters or a sideshow like “Butterbean” who is (was) “king of the four towers”. Female fights will sometimes be thrown into PPV madness due to the fact that female fighters, with rare exceptions, earn less money than their male counterparts. In some cases, a title fight will be between guys in a very low weight class because they are paid less. Such fighters could “cut your head off” on the street, and you would have no idea who they are.
Obviously money is being made. But at what cost ? Fewer and fewer people are exposed to boxing because of the PPV. Basically, the hardcore fan pays more and more. And only a few make money with this concept. Tons of fighters aren’t even known because many of the big fights go to the PPV. Again, no exposure from CBS, ABC or FOX. Anyway, how many boxers can fight on PPV? Not a lot.
HBO is now heavily involved in the PPV concept. Basically, they show the main event of the PPV telecast on their channel the following week, but no undercard. So, it looks like a lot of people are waiting for the following week to see the event.
Boxing was once among the elite of all sports. Now, it is undoubtedly a “niche” sport. Bad promotions, limited access to major networks, high costs and now, Pay-Per-View, limits its exposure to masses of people. Too bad, because on a good night it can rival any other sport in the world in terms of buildup, excitement, drama and ferocity. Hopefully PPV will slowly return to its original intentions – big main events with a solid undercard at a reasonable cost. $50? See you.
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