By Alex beard (@alex_beard17)
Britain was introduced to ITV Box Office last Saturday night. The £12.95 that viewers had to fork over got them a main event featuring a secondary title and an overmatched opponent, while the rest of the card was underwhelming to say the least.
Add to this the technical difficulties that saw many fans miss the entire undercard and you get an understanding of why this fight – and its PPV setting – was so lambasted upon its announcement and resultantly boycotted by the vast majority of boxing fans in this country.
The latest reports indicate that the fight did 86,000 PPV buys. For context, Anthony Joshua’s title defence against Wladimir Klitschko in April will draw 90,000 fans to Wembley Stadium. More people will be watching that fight live than watched Chris Eubank Jr pummel Renold Quinlan from the comfort of their homes.
Eubank Jr is not the only fighter who has headlined a PPV card that had no right to be on that platform. 2016 saw Canelo Alvarez demand cash for the privilege of watching him stop an over-matched Liam Smith, while Manny Pacquiao’s win over Jessie Vargas also cost boxing fans money. Due to HBO’s cuts to their boxing budget, Terence Crawford’s career-best win over Viktor Postol in July was on PPV and as a result seen by just 50-60,000 people.
Canelo Alvarez is, by this point, a fixture on the PPV platform. Since Floyd Mayweather retired, Canelo has been viewed as boxing’s new cash cow – a fighter who can generate media interest and PPV buys in abundance. But is this the case?
Alvarez has had six PPV fights, with his first against Mayweather generating 2.2million buys. His November 2015 bout with Miguel Cotto garnered 900,000 buys, a respectable number. Even his contest with an undersized Amir Khan last May drew 600,000 buys, again good enough for his promoter Oscar De La Hoya.
His three other PPV fights have all largely disappointed, however. In March 2014 he thrashed Alfredo Angulo in his non-Mayweather PPV debut. The fight scored 350,000 buys. That July he just about got past Erislandy Lara, with even less people tuning in for that one (325,000). And the aforementioned Smith contest generated just 300,000 buys.
So this idea of Canelo as an unbelievable, Mayweather-esque draw is unfounded. Sure, he can flourish with the right opponent. When matched up with another fighter who holds some mainstream media attention then Canelo can do medium to large PPV numbers. But when he’s put on PPV with an opponent who is largely anonymous to those who aren’t hardcore fans, then the buys go way down. Canelo is not a draw on his own, that much is clear.
The word value, in this context, can be looked at in two ways. First, it indicates how more and more fans are not getting value for money when they pay for a boxing event. Generally, the undercards are sub-standard and often the main event is not worthy of the format anyway. Secondly, it can refer to the notion that PPV’s hold little value in the world of modern boxing.
Why are there still fights on PPV?
Of course, the answer to that is simple enough. Money. Promoters, broadcasters and fighters all want to make money, and that is their right. However, their desire to make money shouldn’t have to force fans to use their hard-earned cash to watch fights that should be aired on regular television.
Those involved in top-level boxing will make money regardless, whether their fight is on PPV or not. Indeed, Andre Ward’s win over Sergey Kovalev last November was bought by just 160,000 people, indicating that they may have been better off holding the fight on network television and increasing the fight’s exposure. That was THE fight in boxing last year, and barely anyone saw it.
If PPV’s are going to continue to be used in boxing, then they cannot be headlined by Eubank Jr-Quinlan or Canelo-Smith. It’s obscene to force fans to pay money for those kind of lop-sided match-ups. Otherwise promoters should consider scrapping the format altogether and allowing more people to see high-level fights by staging them on free TV, therefore increasing the popularity of the sport.
In this post-Mayweather era is there any fighter who should justifiably be a consistent PPV fixture? If the answer is no, then maybe it’s time to move away from PPV’s altogether.by