Thurman vs. Porter: Does Demand Exceed Supply?

Well folks, we finally have it. Keith “One Time” Thurman will battle “Showtime” Shawn Porter, March 12 on CBS. On the line will be Thurman’s World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight title. Both fighters want to stake their claim as the top dog in the 147-pound division.

Fans and media alike look to this fight as a big boon for the sport of boxing, with most listing it as the most important fight in Premier Boxing Champions’ (PBC’s) short history. It seems that way, even though it’s being marketed as a Showtime on CBS type of deal. If such is the case, then I have a few reservations about this major showdown.

Real Estate

Ask any realtor, whether residential or commercial, and they’ll tell you it’s all about one thing: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!!! This fight in a way reminds me of Timothy Bradley Jr vs Devon Alexander. Everyone was excited about the matchup of two undefeated light welterweights back in 2011. Some called it the fight to bring boxing back to the glory days. It wasn’t. The fight didn’t play the way most had wished, but the problems began well before the bout.

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Bradley vs Alexander inexplicably took place at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. Pontiac, Michigan I say! Bradley is from Palm Springs, California. Alexander is from St. Louis, Missouri. While hardcore fans close to Michigan made the drive, the goal of boxing in 2011and today is to return to its glory. The way to do it is to attract new fans. More on that later.

The Silverdome was not only well past its heyday in 2011, but it simply wasn’t in the proper place geographically to invigorate crossover success. I’ll put it in simpler terms. The Silverdome had a seating capacity of 82,000.

When the Pope visited, a Silverdome attendance record of 93,682 was set. The WrestleMania III attendance wasn’t far behind at 93,173. So then, what was the Bradley vs Alexander attendance you ask me? The (announced) attendance was an enormous, standing-room only crowd of 6,247. The problem had a lot to do with location. Allow me to add this fact- the fight took place in January in the Midwestern section of America. You think the threat of bad weather caused some folks to decide to stay home and watch on television? Location, location, location…

Thurman vs Porter will inexplicably take place in the boxing hotbed of Uncasville, Connecticut. Uncasville, Connecticut I say! Thurman is from Tampa, Florida. Porter is from Las Vegas, Nevada via Akron, Ohio. No offense to anyone from Connecticut. Some of my best associates are from Connecticut. However, this fight belongs elsewhere. I won’t apologize for that statement.

Now, before I continue let me point things out to my astute readers of this story. The fight will go down at Mohegan Sun Casino. Casinos are chosen by boxing promoters because they generally cover the site fee costs. Okay, so aren’t there casinos in Las Vegas? Or Atlantic City (yes there are still some there). This is definitely a Las Vegas fight. Atlantic City would’ve worked too. Also, what was the purpose of building Keith Thurman up in California and San Antonio if you aren’t going to feature him there in the biggest fight of his life? I mean for goodness sake, the man redeemed himself in San Antonio after the debacle from his June 2013 fight there. You remember, right? C’mon… the little “THANK YOU SAN DIEGO!” incident? This fight would’ve also worked in San Antonio or California.

Crossover Fans

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Another thing I’ll mention: Just because the fight will probably sell out, it doesn’t mean my location argument doesn’t fly. Hear me out. This is a fight to hopefully bring boxing back to its glory days. It won’t. The objective of PBC and all of boxing for that matter is to gain new fans. So what do new or crossover-boxing fans want when they attend a big fight? They want an adventure… an experience… not just a fight.

New York gives crossover fans an experience. Atlantic City gives crossover fans an experience. Las Vegas gives crossover fans an experience. Los Angeles gives crossover boxing fans an experience. Uncasville does not. How do I know? Well, I’ll tell you. Thanks for asking. Here’s the catch- ask it from the crossover-boxing fan’s point of view, not from the hardcore fan’s point of view. Put your mind into their mind for a minute. Ask yourself the following question:

‘Would I go to Las Vegas if Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter wasn’t happening in Vegas?’ The answer for me if I’m a new fan is ‘yes’.

‘Would I go to Atlantic City if Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter wasn’t happening there?’ The answer for me if I’m a new fan is ‘yes’.

‘Would I go to Los Angeles if Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter wasn’t happening there?’ The answer for me if I’m a new fan is ‘yes’.

‘Would I go to NYC if Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter wasn’t happening there?’ The answer for me if I’m a new fan is ‘yes’.

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Okay now here is the big one…

‘Would I go to Uncasville if Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter wasn’t happening there?’ My answer is ‘no’.

Remember, the objective is to attract new fans. In Las Vegas you can go to multiple shows and parties and landmarks days leading up to the fight. If you don’t like a certain casino, you can go to about 300 more on the strip alone. You can view other hotels for future visits. You can see Copperfield or Boyz II Men or the Boneyard Museum or Mayweather gym, etc., etc., etc. As a fan, the experience will allow you to make a road trip out of it.

Most folks I talk to are going to Thurman vs Porter, staying overnight, and going home. Some will head home the night of the fight. Others will drive there the morning of the fight, spend the night, and go home in the morning. What kind of party is that? This isn’t to say that Mohegan Sun isn’t nice. It is a beautiful venue from what I’m told. The point is there isn’t much else to do outside of Mohegan Sun.

Maybe a trip here would be nice for another fight, but for Thurman vs Porter? The CBS ratings-buster fight? Say it ain’t so! Oh, by the way, the fans who attend Thurman vs Porter are hardcore boxing fans. You put this thing in Vegas where it should’ve been and you market the fact that the Mayweather’s of the world, the Stallone’s of the world, and the Magic Johnson’s of the world will attend and then people take notice. Then Thurman becomes the household name you want him to be. Instead of a 10,000 seat arena you can put it in a 20,000 seat place and sell it out.

Demand/Supply Ratio

As is the case in fights that had a lot a build-up, fans and media called Mayweather vs De La Hoya the fight to save boxing. It didn’t. As stated above, some called Bradley vs Alexander (to a lesser extent) the fight to bring back boxing. It didn’t. Bradley vs Alexander was viewed that way because of their undefeated records and the timing of the fight. Now we get to Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter. I’ll be brutally honest here. On paper, this fight looks more captivating than Floyd vs Oscar or Timothy vs Devon based on each fighter’s style. Porter is entertainment TV and he’s going to come forward all night. Thurman can box and he can brawl and has one-punch knockout power. The boxing world (fans and media) are head-over-heels excited about this fight, me included. The styles almost guarantee a barnburner.

I have to wonder, however, if the fight loses a bit of luster based on inactivity of each boxer. They are both in their physical prime with Thurman being 27 years old and Porter at 28. However on fight night, Thurman will not have fought in eight (8) months. On the opposite side, Porter will not have fought in nine (9) months. Two things come to mind. The first is ring rust. The second is the chance either fighter will be over-trained. I constantly hear Porter speak that he’s been in the gym all this time- first in September when the fight was being bantered about everywhere… then October…. then November… We most certainly thought we’d get it in December.

January? Maybe. February? Uh, no. Porter refers to these months as a “pre-camp”. He had a pre-camp up until about sometime in January.

I hope this is an excellent fight in the ring, but I’m concerned about the time off for both men. Remember, this is PBC’s biggest event (Showtime/CBS notwithstanding), and it would’ve been nice if both men fought in the final quarter of 2015.

Financial Factors

One primary goal for PBC is to get new fans to tune in. While the bottom-line value will come down to how many viewers watch on CBS, et al., you can’t undervalue the decisions made by casuals to travel. When the smoke clears, it may be a saving grace. Rumors have it that PBC money is dwindling and if that’s the case, nobody is sure what will follow. Allegedly, the funding for PBC opened at $521 million. Sources say the funding has dwindled to $82 million.

Will a re-up take place? Will sponsors buy in before a fold occurs? Is this all part of a bigger plan that leads us to believe one thing, while another takes place?

My guess is that this is a tax dump by Waddell and Reed. If it is, then Al Haymon is doing exactly what he needs to do by spending. Hypothetically he offers deals to sponsors at a price slash, then he gets the necessary ratings, then he’ll come back later at normal or higher costs and turn the losses to profit; all while doing the asset management company a favor in the process.

I have a strange feeling by third quarter 2016 we will have answers. Thurman vs Porter could’ve been much bigger with a few tweaks here and there. No matter how it plays, one thing is certain. For the well-being of boxing, we all hope the fight delivers on March 12. Stay tuned.

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