Sabotaging A PPV Boxing Event

February 8, 2006 - By TK Stewart: Bangor Daily News - There is a growing grass roots campaign among Internet boxing bloggers and message board lurks to sabotage the February 25th pay-per view boxing match between Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas. Boxing fans, fed up with the increasing frequency of pay-per view events and the apparent greed of boxing promoters seem to be collectively gasping, “Enough is enough!”

The sport of boxing has been exiled from the big-three television networks over the past decade to make way for higher profile sports that bring in many more viewers and corporate sponsors. As it turns out, boxing is no match for sports powerhouses like NFL Football or NASCAR. Those two entities alone garner huge television audiences, draw in coveted demographics and attract massive amounts of advertising dollars. As a result, boxing fans have been forced to subscribe to premium cable channels such as HBO or Showtime to get their boxing fix. Increasingly, those same alienated fans are being asked to pony up more money for pay-per view boxing matches that at one time would have been seen on ABC, CBS or NBC.

In the first quarter of 2006 there were no less than four pay-per view boxing events scheduled. HBO PPV is distributing three of those broadcasts in co-operation with two different boxing promotional companies. Media conglomerate Time Warner owns HBO PPV and they are the most active among boxing pay per-view distributors. If a boxing fan were to purchase the first four scheduled pay-per view events of 2006 (January 21, February 18, 24, 25) it would come with a price tag of approximately $150.00.

Major boxing promoters such as Bob Arum and Don King claim no blame in this looming pay-per view crisis. Arum and King say they are forced to find an alternative distribution pathway since television dates on the big three networks do not exist and the minimal number of available slots on HBO and Showtime are difficult to procure. Moreover, negotiating those slots often results in protracted and tedious sessions at the bargaining table between the promoters and the powers that be at HBO and Showtime. Often times an available date can be taken away, reneged upon or negotiated with another promoter at the last moment. Weeks of valuable time and effort negotiating a myriad of details can simply go up in proverbial smoke.

With the fragmented nature of the sport, boxing continues to lose ground and credibility among corporate sponsors and fans. There are no less than four major sanctioning bodies within the sport all proclaiming their own champions and at last count there were 63 “world champions” in 17 weight divisions. In simpler times and what many saw as the glory days of boxing, there were eight champions in eight weight divisions.

Additionally, the major promoters and powerbrokers within the sport often refuse to do business with one another, which prevents marquee match-ups among high profile boxers from ever taking place. Business negotiations among rival promoters, fighters and even the premium channel networks often devolve into personal attacks, name-calling, insults and racial slurs that are aired out on various boxing news sites for the enjoyment of readers. Each promoter is left then to assemble separate deals with television providers, casinos that host the bouts as well as various sponsors. All the while they procure as much money as they can in whatever cut throat deal they can put together. In another twist, HBO and Showtime refuse to allow fighters they have under contract to face one another on the rival channel, which again prevents many fan friendly fights from ever seeing the light of day.

Boxing is discovering in 2006 that it is no opponent for any of the major league sports. With its internal chaos, lack of a cohesive marketing theme, absent central authority or a consistent major corporate sponsor it becomes further marginalized. The mainstream press devotes precious little time to covering boxing and it has all but disappeared from newspaper pages throughout the country. Mainstream press coverage is dictated by viewers as well as readership and boxing is simply not garnering the attention that it once did even a decade ago.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has made major inroads into boxing’s pocketbook and the younger fans are flocking in droves to the lure of the UFC. With its focused marketing plans and centralized control firmly in place it is gradually eroding boxing’s dwindling fan base. It is also a competitor for the much sought after pay-per view dollar.

Among all of the above mentioned ills comes word, speculation and rumor that boxing fans are attempting to drive the overall purchase numbers of the scheduled February 25th match between boxers Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas to below 100,000. Success of the pay-per view venture is based on buy rates and the numbers are examined well in advance of a potential match-up. Numbers are forecast with the skill of an insurance actuary and every effort is made to avoid conflicts on the television-viewing schedule. The Mosley vs. Vargas bout is facing stiff competition from an already crowded pay-per view boxing schedule. In fact, the night before this match there is another pay-per view boxing broadcast scheduled.

It seems now that fans of the sport may speak with their collective wallets and sabotage the financial health of the broadcast by simply not purchasing the bout and waiting for the re-broadcast on regular HBO the next weekend. With a price tag of nearly $45 for a match between two fighters whose best days are surely behind them boxing fans are balking at this latest assault on their intelligence and monthly budget.

Those that peddle boxing are becoming fewer and are often relegated to the same class of characters as carnival barkers and sellers of sideshows at Madison Avenue advertising meetings. It was P.T. Barnum of circus fame who boldly proclaimed, “There’s a sucker born every minute!” Barnum may finally be proven wrong if boxing fans have their say.

Article posted on 09.02.2006

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