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Is Pay-Per-View Stardom Earned Inside or Outside the Ring?

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http://ringnews24.com/images/pixel.gifGo through any alphabet rankings and you’ll find fighters capable of respectable pay-per-view buy rates based solely on in-ring acumen. Go through the same list and you’ll find another handful with non-gloved personalities so magnetic that they’d provide strong numbers on prurient interest alone.

On their own, both provide ample marketing fodder.

But it’s the quest for a meld of the two that keeps corporate types busy in promotional company boardrooms and cable network executive offices across the boxing world.

The ideal mix has only come a few times in the PPV era that’s spanned the last two decades.

Fights that have exceeded a million buys since 1990 have some common themes—most notably the frequent presences of Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Evander Holyfield and Oscar De La Hoya.

They’re the boxing version of the royal family, with Tyson and Oscar as de facto crossover kings.


The former garnered an audience with unforgettably violent cameos on HBO, and he ratcheted things up when it got chaotic outside the ring, first following a loss to Buster Douglas in February 1990 and later after a prison sentence that kept him out of commission for three years.

He rang the seven-figure cash register six times post-release—in an 89-second comeback debacle against Peter McNeeley, belt recaptures over Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon and aura-crunching losses to Evander Holyfield in 1996 (TKO) and 1997 (DQ) and Lennox Lewis in 2002 (KO).

De La Hoya, meanwhile, hit the demographic lottery via his appeal in the U.S. after the 1992 Olympics with Hispanics, thanks to his Mexican heritage and with women courtesy of his good looks.

And he could fight a little bit, too, to the tune of title belts in six weight classes.

He hastened the viewing transition from the heavies to smaller guys when he met fellow unbeaten welter Felix Trinidad in 1999, then co-starred with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in “The World Awaits” at 154 pounds, while eclipsing Tyson in a 2007 fight that drew a still-targeted record of 2.4 million buys.

What “Iron Mike” was to train wrecks, the “Golden Boy” was to photo spreads. And it’s hardly hyperbolic to suggest either could have done a million no matter who the opponent.


It’s the latter sort of appeal that the folks at Showtime are hoping they’ve captured early when it comes to 22-year-old Mexican slugger Saul Alvarez, whose ability to elicit fan support was clearly—and loudly—evident on the recent 10-city press tour promoting his September match with Mayweather.

“Canelo” fans outnumbered “Money” supporters at nearly every stop over nine days, not just the predictable strongholds in Texas and Mexico City.

“(We’re) a little bit surprised, only because it seems to be growing so quickly,” said Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s boxing boss for the last 20 months. “We know he’s got an incredibly passionate, enthusiastic fan base, but what’s been a little surprising is that it seems to be growing, literally, by the day.”

Golden Boy Promotions executive Richard Schaefer spent the bulk of his tour time touting the spread of “Canelo Mania” and proclaiming that “The One”—the tagline assigned to the Sept. 14 fight—would break the aforementioned standard established by Mayweather and De La Hoya.

Espinoza was more restrained when it came to projections, and ultimately suggested that 2.4 million might wind up as boxing’s version of the unbreakable record—alongside Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak and the Miami Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.


“It’s hard to predict where we’ll end up on this fight,” he said. “De La Hoya/Mayweather was a perfect storm. Oscar was at the peak. Floyd was just starting to make a lot of noise. You had the perfect good guy/bad guy storyline. It’s hard to replicate that.

“That may be one of those numbers that isn’t approached again, because of the virtue of technology and the division of the audience’s attention and all kinds of things. I don’t know whether we’ll see that number again. But if there are two guys who can do it, these are the two guys.”

Unless otherwise cited, quotes were obtained first-hand by the writer.

Read more Boxing news on BleacherReport.com




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