With each in-ring achievement, the remarkable career of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez continues to soar to new heights—even if his appeal at the box office appears to have long ago peaked.
For the third straight time, the Mexican icon saw a decline in ticket sales despite headlining yet another historic event. Alvarez moved up two weight divisions to challenge reigning light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, whom he knocked out in 11 rounds in the main event of their Nov. 2 clash at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The DAZN streamed event generated a live gate of $8.173 million from 10,005 tickets sold, as confirmed to BoxingScene.com by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Another 1,643 complimentary tickets were issued for the event, accounting for a total of 11,648 in attendance according to final receipts provided to the Nevada commission. The final figure falls nearly 3,000 short of the announced crowd of 14,490 on fight night.
The tally is roughly $500,000 less than what was generated from his previous Vegas outing, amassing nearly $8.7 million in tickets sales for his May 4 three-belt middleweight title unification win over Daniel Jacobs at T-Mobile Arena. Even that bout represented a 68% drop from his 12-round win over Gennadiy Golovkin in their Sept. 2018 rematch, also at T-Mobile Arena which grossed nearly $24.5 million in ticket sales, slightly down from the $27 million amassed in their first fight one year prior.
The Nov. 2 win over Kovalev (34-4-1, 29KOs) marked the first time back at the MGM Grand for Alvarez (53-1-2, 36KOs) since a 12-round points win over Erislandy Lara in their July 2014 catchweight non-title fight. That event generated just shy of $2.7 million in ticket sales at the MGM Grand, showing just how far he's come along as a headliner since then, although having leveled off with his two-fight set versus Golovkin.
Alvarez’ best performing headlining act at MGM also represents his lone career defeat—a Sept. 2013 loss to Floyd Mayweather in an event which set industry records at the time for the largest box office gate ($20,003,150) and in PPV revenue (nearly $150 million).
Wedged in between wins over Lara and Kovalev were nine fights spanning four weight divisions, including six Vegas headliners and five of which have landed on the state’s Top 35 biggest live boxing gates in history along with his aforementioned bout with Mayweather, which is 5th on that very all-time list.
His previous five Vegas adventures have all taken place at T-Mobile Arena, with the only event to not still reside in the state’s Top 35 list being his knockout win over Amir Khan. That event—the first ever boxing card which took place in May 2016—pulled a live gate of more than $7.4 million along with $30 million or so in Pay-Per-View revenue.
Such supplemental income was not made available for either of Alvarez’ last two starts, both of which streamed live on DAZN as part of a 10-fight contract estimated at a record breaking $350 million. Whereas he at least enjoyed momentum heading into the Jacobs fight, his challenge of Kovalev was mired in out-of-ring drama long before the bout ever came to fruition.
Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions have been joined at the hip since 2010, but the two became at odds beginning with the latter’s handling of his ordered mandatory title defense versus Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Mistimed efforts to negotiate the bout resulted in Alvarez being stripped of one of his middleweight titles, while also leaving him without enough time to secure an opponent for a planned Sept. 14 headliner in Las Vegas. The date was important to Alvarez, who traditionally fights on the weekends of Cinco de Mayo and Día de la Independencia (‘Independencc Day’), two notable Mexican holidays.
Instead, the 29-year old superstar was forced to settle for a new tradition, fighting on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and the event happening only because Russia’s Kovalev agreed to a quick turnaround following a 10th round knockout of Anthony Yarde in late August. The fight week promotion reached a contentious point following a story released by The Athletic boxing insider and turtleneck aficionado Mike ‘Copp’ Coppinger, who outlined in full details the months of frustration between the boxer and his lead promoter. The fight week tone between Alvarez and Golden Boy—particularly company founder Oscar de la Hoya—was frosty at best, although Alvarez did his best to embrace the remaining staff at the end of the post-fight press conference following his monumental win over Kovalev.
The in-ring victory itself went a long way in suggesting that Alvarez deserves recognition as pound-for-pound the best boxer in the world today. Even his current box office appeal rates far ahead than any other North America-based boxer today. Through the Nov. 2 event, Alvarez has now amassed nearly $126 million in ticket sales through 11 Las Vegas headliners, not to mention the revenue generated through sponsorship and closed circuit viewing.
Heading into the New Year, though, it’s clear that a new strategy needs to be taken—even if with his old team—in order to avoid the trend of his box office appeal continuing to head in the wrong direction.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox