A Vacated Crown: The Next Pay-Per-View King

By Cain Bradley on December 13, 2015
A Vacated Crown: The Next Pay-Per-View King
One of the recent boxers given a chance to run with the PPV crown is Canelo Alvarez.

The death of PPV is likely coming soon, but whilst it exists in its current form we have to see someone take the crown…

The lineage that goes through Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been left unclaimed in the boxing world. Is it of course the Pay-Per-View (PPV) king of the sport. Not necessarily the best boxer at a given time but the one deemed most worthy of an expensive fee being shelled out on a Saturday night. The death of PPV is likely coming soon, but whilst it exists in its current form we have to see someone take the crown. Who are the contenders for this crown and who is the most likely to claim it. It takes a mix of widespread appeal, interesting bouts and typically a fun style to become this draw although some would argue Floyd Mayweather often was in unexciting bouts.

One of the recent boxers given a chance to run with the PPV crown is Saul Alvarez. The young Mexican is seen to appeal to a wide audience, one that could be tapped into even further if his fights were marketed at the right time. He could follow the Mayweather schedule of Cinco de Mayo and second Saturday in September. This would tap into a presumably large Mexican audience. He has had four fights on PPV in his career so far. Against Mayweather he drew a gargantuan 2,200,000 buys. In his fights against Lara and Angulo, neither man a draw, both managed to receive over 300,000 buys. Dan Rafael reported his latest fight against Miguel Cotto doing over 700,000 buys. Miguel Cotto is one of the stars of the division and the fight had a traditional Mexico vs. Puerto Rico grudge match. Canelo also showed his drawing power when on HBO. His fight against James Kirkland—not a noted draw—drew 2.3 million views, a huge number; unmatched in nine years. Since Canelo has been taking on greater foes he has struggled to replicate the exciting action of his earlier fights. Backed by Golden Boy it is unquestionable that Canelo will be given a chance to shine in this role. Expect him to star on the coveted Cinco de Mayo PPV. The numbers suggest Canelo can probably go over 400,000 probably reaching 500,000. He was going over 300,000 with relative no-namers and his win over Cotto will surely have the effect of increasing viewership in any potential future PPV. Any increase in this for the time being will likely be matchup driven. There is only one marketable name left currently around the weights at which he had competed and that is Gennady Golovkin.

The Kazakh middleweight is another boxer trying to establish himself as a viable PPV option. He has run roughshod over his opponents with 31 stoppages in 34 wins. Despite this propensity for finishes, usually a desired quality, he has struggled to become a draw. His first foray onto PPV against exciting slugger David Lemieux only got 150,000 buys, the lowest number since Vitali Klitschko vs. Danny Williams. A repeat viewing on HBO the following week got 800,000 viewers. The numbers for a repeat are likely harmed by people who have streamed the fight or seen the ending online. In his fights against Monroe and Rubio over the past two years Golovkin has managed to draw over 1.3 million buys. Perhaps the best route for Golovkin to go is to continue winning fights impressively on HBO before heading onto PPV. Apart from the Lemieux fight, the biggest draws near his weight are Miguel Cotto, Andre Ward and Saul Alvarez. Any fight excluding these opponents will likely struggle to go past 200,000 buys. However continuing to showcase his exciting style on HBO will likely improve his following and see him become more of a draw eventually. If he gets to fight Canelo and beats him, it could do wonders for his popularity.

Typically the heavyweight division is the one the majority of people are interested in. Since the fall of Mike Tyson as a PPV commodity heavyweights have struggled to capture a similar level of intrigue. The division has been dominated by the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers. Superstars in Germany, their perceived boring style has played into struggles breaking into the American market. With the retirement of Vitali, a title was open and American knockout specialist Deontay Wilder managed to take it. His claim to be the true heavyweight champion received even greater support when Wladimir Klitschko was beaten. When Stiverne took on Wilder for the vacant heavyweight title, Showtime reported large numbers. It took over 1.2 million viewers and peaked at 1.34m, which Showtime reports as making it the highest watched fight on any premium network in the year prior. However his first defense of the title saw NBC struggle to draw a big number. It averaged 2.2m viewers but on free television, it is quite a poor turnout. This could be blamed on opponent but Stiverne was hardly a household name in the U.S. So the numbers have been mixed for Wilder but as a big heavyweight with knockout potential a market could always develop for Wilder. Whilst it is possibly only the bigger fights that could draw big numbers it is possible a few knockouts in big fights make him a must watch.

The easiest answer may be looking at continuity from the Mayweather reign. During his time in PPV, boxing’s other superstar was Manny Pacquaio. The Filipino star was half of the biggest fight of all time against Floyd Mayweather. It has over 4 million buys, something that even Canelo did not get close to against Mayweather. The Filipino star is a huge draw although on the downside on his career. The Mayweather bout could have also negatively impacted potential viewership. It is also a distinct possibility that this could be Pacquiao’s last fight before retirement. Buys for Manny fights have been quite variant dependent on the opponent. The last time we saw Manny was the Floyd fight, something which is likely to have affected his viewership negatively. It was seen as a boring fight where Manny came off as a sore loser. But with a fight likely against Crawford, Bradley, Khan or Garcia should sell. Expect this last Pacquaio fight to draw over 500,000 viewers before he heads off into the sunset.

Canelo has been earmarked as the next PPV superstar for a while and he looks likely to finally make good on that promise. His numbers are unmatched and he has proven a draw regardless of his opponent. He also has a unique opportunity to create a potential PPV star in Gennady Golovkin. Pacquaio will use his final fight to draw large numbers and a big question is whether he somewhat passes the torch onto his opponent. Terence Crawford has struggled to put up big numbers but Khan, Bradley and Garcia can all be seen as potential draws. It would possibly need to be against each other or similarly rated fighters in Brook and Thurman, but the possibility exists. Apart from these fighters it is hard to see other boxers breaking into this group. Wilder will struggle to draw big enough opponents while other stars such as Roman Gonzalez, Guillermo Rigondeaux and even Andre Ward have shown a really lack of drawing power.

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Gennady Golovkin vs David Lemieux FULL FIGHT

HBO PPV Canelo vs Cotto full fight

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  1. beaujack 07:04am, 12/17/2015

    Cain Bradley forget the “glitz and glamour” Canelo supposedly brings to PPV, what GGG brings is a visceral sense of impending destruction when he is in a fight. Give me an old fight fan Golovkin any night of the week because as he puts it “I give draahma”...

  2. Cain Bradley 07:28am, 12/16/2015

    It would not surprise me if PPV as we know it is dead within 10 years. Some promoters will look to make deals with Netflix and Hulu etc. Currently though there is a climate for it - as shown by Canelo v Cotto.

    Beau jack - he may well be exciting but the numbers prove he is not the attraction that Canelo or Pacquaio is. I’ll watch all of them fight - the people who don’t areainsyream fans who don’t know who Golovkin is. A fight against Canelo would change that

  3. beaujack 09:31pm, 12/14/2015

    What more can GGG ,the most exciting fighter today do to make him the
    best fistic attraction today ?. Send his opponents to the hospital . I would rather watch one of his bouts than all of Mayweathers safety first PPV bouts…

  4. Critical Beatdown 06:57pm, 12/14/2015

    Might I suggest, and to quote an oft-mentioned truth, “it’s the economy, stupid!” Disposable income is at an all-time low. Wages in dollars adjusted for inflation have fallen steadily over the past 40 years. There is less job security than even before, accompanied by massive personal credit debt. Blah blah blah, it’s gone to hell in a handbasket blah…maybe people will only pay for “the big one”  And my last theory in the stew: boxing is an unregulated mess of circus promoters and gangsters pushing champs who almost never fight the best competition. All of the above is a recipe for PPV’s demise.

  5. Gambino 11:01pm, 12/13/2015

    I’m not entirely convinced that the demise of ppv is so inevitable.With the popularity of premium streaming serviles, like Netflix, and the advancement of technology with 4k and 6k ultra hi def people are more willing to pay for getting that premium quality experience that pirated streams just aren’t able to compare to. It’s just up to the promoters to give people the options they desire.

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