By Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)
Andre Ward’s rematch with Sergey Kovalev this weekend, and their rivalry itself, appears to exist in two parallel universes.
In one it is viewed as the biggest fight in boxing, the best taking on the best, with the sport’s mythical pound-for-pound moniker on offer.
In the other it is an afterthought, ignored by many, and generating just 160,000 PPV buys the first time round.
It takes a lot in combat sports to break through the glass ceiling and enter the sporting and cultural mainstream. There are simply not many men who have accomplished this on a consistent basis, and that rarity – and the money that reaching that level garners – is why fight fans have been lumbered with a potential Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor ‘superfight’.
The low buy rate of the first Ward-Kovalev encounter is evidence – if any more was needed – that excellence does not naturally engender widespread attention. The two combatants themselves are arguably the two best fighters in the sport today. However, that means nothing outside of the bubble of boxing aficionados.
In Britain it is hugely difficult to make an imprint on the nation’s consciousness if the fight’s not promoted by Matchroom. Unfortunately that is just a fact, and speaks to the success of Matchroom as a promotion. Frank Warren is able to promote reasonably attention-grabbing main events – and Chris Eubank Jr currently operates within a bizarre boxing purgatory whereby his fights are now considered PPV main events – but for the most part this is Matchroom’s world and we’re all just living in it.
So despite the fact that Ward-Kovalev II will be shown live on Sky Sports, much of the channel’s promotional muscle is firmly behind a PAUL SMITH WORLD TITLE FIGHT. IN 2017.
The Matchroom/Sky marriage has been very good for British boxing, but no fan wants to be constantly force-fed the same product, especially when better fights are given less coverage simply because they’re not promoted by Mr Edward Hearn.
In the States, the low buy rate is explained by the casual fan’s obsession with larger-than-life personalities. McGregor garners so much attention because of the stinging diatribes he delivers in a soothing Irish tone and while wearing a custom-made suit, not because of his skill in the Octagon. That facilitated his rise, but his ascension to the mainstream is owed to his mouth not his limbs.
Mayweather was the same. His outlandish boasts, lavish spending and unshakeable confidence were the ingredients of his reign as boxing’s cash cow. His unparalleled ability in the ring was the rod propping his personality up.
That is why Gennady Golovkin can’t break through as a PPV star, and it’s why the mild-mannered Ward and broken-English Kovalev likely won’t top 300,000 buys for this most high-level of rematches.
It really is a shame that a fight as good as this one isn’t being served by the British media like it should be. People should know about this fight, and even seasoned fight fans could be forgiven for forgetting it was happening this weekend.by