by David P. Greisman
Is it worth it?
This is the question asked first by boxing promoters, then later by boxing fans.
Is it worth it, as a promoter, to put a fight on pay-per-view? Is it worth it, as a fan, to buy it?
Increasingly often for promoters, the answer is “yes.” Increasingly often for fans, the answer is “yes” beforehand, “no” afterward, then “yes” again later.
That is why the boxing match this past Saturday between Shane Mosley and Sergio Mora was on pay-per-view.
HBO wouldn’t pay for it to be on a “World Championship Boxing” broadcast, choosing against subsidizing the fighters’ paychecks with a sizeable license fee. There were other fights its subscribers would rather see, other fights the network would rather spend its money on.
But fans would pay for it – a fraction of the number that would tune in on HBO, yet enough of them that the promoters and fighters would profit.
It did not matter that Mosley was coming off a decisive loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., a night in which Mosley had one big moment as the result of two big punches – but that moment was the only round that Mosley won.
It did not matter that Mora was more than two years removed from his only win of true consequence, a decision victory over the late Vernon Forrest. Three months after that, Forrest had beaten Mora more decisively than Mora had beat him. Mora fell out of the spotlight and off the map for a year and a half.
It did not matter that the match paired an aging fighter with an awkward boxer, that the pairing of such styles produced a debacle in which Mosley spent much of the night pursuing because Mora spent much of the night not punching.
Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.
It did not matter because it would still make money.
There is a core group of boxing fans – some would say a hardcore group of boxing fans – that will watch fights no matter what.
It does not matter whether the fights are broadcast in English or in Spanish; whether the fights are between fighters they know or boxers they’ve never heard of before; whether the fights are on standard cable or premium cable; whether the fights are headlining a noteworthy pay-per-view show that stands out on a busy boxing weekend or if they are part of a minor, independent pay-per-view that is the only boxing available for them to see that week.
Ideally, only the biggest and best fights should be on pay-per-view. These are the fights featuring the biggest stars, the fights in which the cost of putting the fighters together can only be paid for through the proceeds from hundreds of thousands of homes tuning in for $40, $50 or $55 a pop, plus an additional $10 on top of that for a high-definition broadcast feed.
That is not actually the case.
There are more name fighters that promoters must keep busy than there are broadcast dates for the promoters to keep them busy with. These fighters have enough popularity that enough people are interested in seeing them, even at a price.
There are even smaller shows catering to niche audiences: the countless Internet pay-per-views featuring regional attractions who are otherwise anonymous nationally, and the various independent pay-per-views featuring fighters promoted based on their ethnicity or faded superstars promoted based on nostalgia and curiosity.
And so on Sept. 11, while Yuriorkis Gamboa, Orlando Salido, Brandon Rios and Anthony Peterson fought on HBO, a past-his-prime Erik Morales faced Willie Limond on pay-per-view.
And so on Sept. 15 – a Wednesday – Jhonny Gonzalez took on Jackson Asiku on pay-per-view.
And so on Sept. 18, Mosley met Mora on pay-per-view.
Both before it began and after it ended, Mosley-Mora was reminiscent of the pay-per-view rematch earlier this year between Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.
Hopkins-Jones 2 did not figure to be an entertaining bout. Both fighters were beyond aging, and Hopkins had mastered the craft of fighting awkwardly and winning ugly. HBO had declined to put its name or commentators on the broadcast, choosing only to distribute it on behalf of Golden Boy Promotions.
Those who thought Hopkins-Jones 2 would be bad were correct, but they weren’t at all rewarded for being right.
HBO had initially declined to use its brand on Mosley-Mora, but network executives later changed their minds. It not only distributed the card, but its broadcasters worked the show, too, later deriding the action for being exactly how many thought the action would be.
Mora began the fight intent on moving and making Mosley miss, though not on making Mosley pay. Mosley chased after Mora but threw punches tentatively, cautious of expending too much energy on missing his target and aware that awkward counters could potentially come back in his direction. Through three rounds, Mosley had thrown only 85 punches, landing just 23. Mora was even less accurate, throwing 93 punches and landing a paltry nine.
Granted, Mora threw slightly more punches than Mosley in those opening rounds – and threw but 14 less than Mosley on the night (with 508 to Mosley’s 522) – but so many of them were shots sent out in clinches, not punches sent with bad intentions.
With more posturing than punching, more faking than fighting, the fight was not for the feint of heart.
Mosley did press the action, and Mora did pick up the pace, but the rounds were repetitive and repulsive. The rounds were not judged based on who stood out, but rather on who did more than the other guy. There wasn’t much to go on. Mosley averaged about 10 landed power shots per round. Mora averaged less than six. Mosley landed a total of 161 punches. Mora landed a total of 93.
Mosley dealt with being tight as he sought to punch his opponent and strived not to get punched back, and he dealt with being tired from said tightness and from said pursuit. As Mosley tired, Mora began to exchange more, which in turn finally gave Mosley more of a stationary target to fire back on.
The later rounds were better, if by “better” we mean “better than worse.”
Respected boxing scribes, some watching from ringside, some watching on television, varied in their opinions. Most had Mosley winning, ranging from a wide, easy victory to a closer margin on the scorecards. A rare few had Mora winning or the fighters tied.
One official judge had it 115-113 for Mora. One official judge had it 116-112 for Mosley. One official judge had it 114-114. A split draw.
The crowd in the arena booed. The viewers in front of their televisions soon changed their channels or turned off their screens.
They had spent money and time on an ugly fight, one made because boxing couldn’t make anything better. A bout between Shane Mosley and welterweight beltholder Andre Berto never came off because Berto wanted more money and Mosley’s promotional company wanted certain terms.
Berto wanted more money because HBO, as it’s done with so many fighters, had often been paying him more than he deserves. In Berto’s last fight, he was paid about what Mosley and Mora were guaranteed to be paid, combined, for Saturday’s pay-per-view.
HBO didn’t want to put Mosley-Mora on the air because it wanted to save its money for better fights, including a rematch between middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and the man who narrowly defeated him in a great fight last year, Paul Williams.
If HBO were to pay for Mosley-Mora, it might not have the money for Martinez-Williams 2.
It wouldn’t have the money because it has been overpaying fighters like Berto. And Williams. And Chad Dawson. And Amir Khan. And Victor Ortiz.
Hence the July rematch between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz ended up on pay-per-view. Hence Mosley-Mora ended up on pay-per-view. Hence fans shelled out $45 for Saturday’s debacle on top of their cable bills and on top of their subscriber fees to HBO and Showtime.
The promoters earned money. The fighters earned money. And the fans will keep spending it.
Most of these shows perform in one form or another, usually by filling a gap on the boxing schedule, rarely by fueling excitement through a good undercard, and once in a while with a marquee main event that delivers.
The shows still don’t provide enough bang for the buck, yet boxing fans still put up with it and still pay up for it.
But the more nights there are that end like this one did, the more fans there could be who could wise up and ask whether this was all worth it.
And if and when they do, the promoters would have to ask themselves the same question.
The 10 Count
1. Boxers Behaving Badly update: As anticipated, prosecutors have filed additional charges against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in connection with him allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend, the mother of three of his children.
Initially, Mayweather had only been charged with felony grand larceny, accused of taking a cell phone belonging to Josie Harris at some point during or after the incident.
Due to Nevada state law, after a certain amount of time has passed between an alleged incident of domestic violence and a criminal complaint, any charges must come from the prosecutor, not from the police. And the police had recommended that prosecutors pursue domestic violence charges.
That they did.
Mayweather is facing seven additional charges: two felony counts of coercion for allegedly threatening to beat two of his sons if they called 911 or left their house; one felony count of robbery for allegedly taking the cell phone; one misdemeanor count of battery constituting domestic violence; and three misdemeanor counts of harassment for allegedly threatening Harris and the two sons.
That information comes from a copy of the criminal complaint obtained by TMZ.com. With the grand larceny charge from before, that means Mayweather is facing four felony charges and four misdemeanor charges.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal had recently noted in an article that Harris had accused Mayweather of assaulting her in December 2003 but that she had recanted her testimony during his trial in 2005. Mayweather was found not guilty in that case. He does have convictions from a 2002 case of domestic violence and a 2005 assault on two women in a nightclub.
This case against Mayweather appears to be supported by a statement Mayweather’s 10-year-old son gave to police saying “he saw his dad was on his mother and was hitting and kicking her,” according to a copy of the arrest report, also obtained by TMZ.
In the ring, Mayweather is 41-0 with 25 knockouts. His last fight was in May, a decision win over Shane Mosley.
2. A couple of tidbits from the arrest report:
- Las Vegas police listed Mayweather at 5-foot-8, 130 pounds. Mayweather’s been fighting at welterweight for half a decade now and walking around somewhere heavier than that weight class. I’m guessing Mayweather just never updated that information on his driver’s license.
- When Mayweather and Harris first talked the night of the incident, Harris told Mayweather that their daughter had lost a tooth. “Mayweather handed Harris $200.00 to have her put under their daughter’s pillow,” the arrest report said.
$200?! For one tooth?!?
3. Sergio Mora initially weighed in at 157 pounds, three over the junior-middleweight limit. Carlos Baldomir weighed in at 153.4 pounds, 2.4 more than the 151-pound limit agreed on for his fight with Saul Alvarez. Vivian Harris initially weighed in at 143.5 pounds, 1.5 more than the 142-pound limit agreed upon for his fight with Victor Ortiz.
This led some to question: With three fighters failing to make weight, was the official scale off?
No, no, no.
Simple logic: Which is more likely – that three fighters on a card are overweight, or that every single other fighter on the card actually came in massively under their weigh limit?
Mora said he had weighed himself on two different scales at his hotel, each one showing that he was on weight.
But if he were really on weight, and if the official scale were really three pounds off, what would that mean?
That Shane Mosley actually came in at 151 pounds, instead of 154?
That Saul Alvarez was actually 147.5 pounds for a bout contracted at 151?
That Victor Ortiz was actually 139 pounds for a bout contracted at 142?
That Antonio Escalante and Daniel Ponce De Leon were actually basically junior featherweights for a featherweight bout?
That makes less sense. It’s more logical to conclude that three fighters missed weight for whatever reason.
4. In the wake of the tabloid exposé regarding Ricky Hatton’s cocaine bender, one writer questioned whether the person who filmed Hatton’s cocaine use – a female fighter friend named Emma Bowe – was truly motivated by the best intentions.
“That’s one way to stage an intervention if you’re worried about him,” Michael Woods wrote on The Sweet Science. “Help a nosy newspaper sting the guy, Emma. No word on if she was compensated for her efforts…”
Woods makes a very good point. But even if Bowe were motivated more by greed than by legitimate concern, perhaps the consequences of Bowe’s greed could prove to be good for Hatton.
Hatton checked into rehab last week, according to multiple reports from across the pond. “I’m disgusted by myself,” he was quoted as saying by BBC News. “I’ve had a wonderful career and am furious that I have tarnished it.”
For some people who have problems, the shame from family and friends is enough for them to hit rock bottom and then work their way up. For others with a public persona, it is the wider embarrassment of their dirty laundry being aired that finally convinces them to get help.
Hatton says he is checking into rehab for depression, not cocaine use. “I’ve only dabbled with the drug on a few occasions when I’ve been depressed or drunk,” Hatton was quoted as saying by The Daily Mail.
Either way, it is good he is getting help. Recognizing a problem, whatever it is, is the first step. Doing something about it is the next step.
5. A Clarification: Last week I compared the number of fighters with world title belts handed out by the four major sanctioning bodies to the number of fighters who are true world champions (as recognized by “The Ring” magazine and/or the Cyber Boxing Zone website lineage).
83 vs. 7, I said.
Except, noted my colleague Cliff Rold, the number should be eight because Cyber Boxing Zone still recognizes Vic Darchinyan as the lineal 115-pound champion.
“The Ring,” for whatever reason, never recognized Darchinyan’s unifying of three of the four sanctioning body belts at that weight class. The magazine has criteria for filling a vacant championship: Either the No. 1 and No. 2 fighter in a division must fight, or, in rare cases, the No. 1 fighter can face the No. 3 fighter.
I’m not sure where the magazine had Darchinyan and since-deposed beltholders Dmitry Kirilov and Cristian Mijares ranked at the time of their respective fights.
But that’s a completely separate topic. Back on point, I skipped over Darchinyan because his last fight was at bantamweight (118 pounds), his next fight will be at bantamweight as part of a tournament, and if he wins his next fight then his following fight will be at bantamweight, too.
There’ve been other cases of a fighter going up in weight and then coming back to keep his lineage going, including Ricky Hatton’s two jaunts to welterweight and returns to junior welterweight.
Each of those jaunts only lasted for a fight. That said, until the Cyber Boxing Zone decides that Darchinyan has vacated his lineal claim (which I believe he basically has), the number of true champions should be 8.
6. Returning to Yuriorkis Gamboa’s Sept. 11 win over Orlando Salido… I think the disappointment that came out over Gamboa’s performance was a product of him being too good for his own good.
Between his amateur pedigree, speed, ring presence and power, the expectations are that he can and will blow everyone away. But even the New England Patriots’ undefeated regular season in 2007 saw them win some very close games.
Here’s the issue: If Gamboa is reckless and always on offense and trying to blow his opponent away, then he leaves himself vulnerable to getting knocked down, called overrated, and derided as a fighter who is potentially overhyped and whose chin is liable to shatter any day now.
But if Gamboa controls a fight, going in, landing when he wants and then making his opponent miss when he wants – but also taking breaks in a fight and getting hit – then he is seen as not being as good as we expect him to be.
Gamboa can win either way. He’s more likely to use the strategy of picking his spots and waiting for the right opportunities. Of course, he also has to weigh whether his style can sell tickets. Fans love slugfests, and they appreciate skills, but they also will express their discontent when a fighter employs extended periods of defense.
7. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part two: Prosecutors have declined to pursue criminal cases against twin brothers Travis and Tarvis Simms stemming from an April argument between the two of them that turned physical and soon involved biting, a large knife and the grabbing of a gun, according to Norwalk, Conn., newspaper The Hour.
The article said court records didn’t show why the case was dropped.
The brothers, both 39 (according to BoxRec and court records, while the article says they are 40), each last fought in 2009. Travis is 27-1 (20 KOs) and a former 154-pound titlist. Tarvis is 25-1-1 (11 KOs).
8. Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko understandably won’t fight each other, even for all the money in the world. Travis and Tarvis Simms? They’ll do it for free.
9. Daniel Ponce De Leon’s knockout of Antonio Escalante? Very good.
Saul Alvarez’s knockout of Carlos Baldomir? Very good.
Alexander Frenkel’s knockout of Enzo Maccarinelli? Great.
What made it so great? A great knockout is part clean, crisp cause and part eye-popping effect.
In this case, Frenkel made Maccarinelli look like a combination of a bobblehead, a Stretch Armstrong doll, and the little girl with the spinning head in The Exorcist.
10. The statistics don’t lie. Ricky Hatton lasted more rounds with cocaine than he did with Manny Pacquiao.
Mayweather, meanwhile, has gone from giving his ex the checkbook to allegedly giving her a check hook…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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