The Grand Rapids Press
October 21, 2011
Why isnít the pay-per-view king waving his scepter?
More than a month after the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz welterweight title fight, key figures remain mum on pay-per-view numbers.
Amid growing rumors of lukewarm sales, there has been nary a word from HBO, Golden Boy Promotions or Mayweather Promotions to hint how the fight did on live television.
There was concern after the unsatisfactory conclusion that Mayweather-Ortiz was one of many fights which, taken together, have damaged the pay-per-view boxing industry.
When you pay $50-plus for a fight, you donít expect to see to see the winner taking conclusive advantage of the loserís refusal to defend himself, which happened when Ortiz invited Mayweather to clock him. You donít expect Mike Tyson to bite a chunk out of Evander Holyfieldís ear. Or to see Chad Dawson body-slam Bernard Hopkins and win the light heavyweight championship on a foul-induced injury only the referee seemed oblivious to, which happened last weekend.
Thatís two pay-per-views in a row that left the relatively small group of domestic buyers wondering why it keeps paying.
As for Mayweather-Ortiz, thereís an upside, in that fewer people might have bought it than promoters predicted.
Thereís only one logical reason why the various television and promotional factions have not announced anything regarding Mayweather-Ortiz sales: They donít like the results.
Typically, within a week of a pay-per-view fight that does boastful numbers, HBO and the promoter simultaneously release the estimated domestic sales and gross revenues.
Saturday will mark five weeks since the Sept. 17 fight, and nary a peep from anyone.
No one is obligated to announce pay-per-view sales, and HBO wouldnít make such disclosure without promotional approval. Promoters arenít public corporations. They arenít obliged to share much of anything about their income.
They do it to show their event was big. And the next one will be bigger. Keep the circus going.
And when they donít make any disclosure at all, itís a fairly safe guess as to why.
One exception: Promoters must disclose live ticket sales, because the Nevada Athletic Commission is a state agency which requires full accounting and those figures become public record. Mayweather-Ortiz did $9 million in live ticket sales, a disappointing number, and VIP gamblers were courted with complimentary ticket offers on the day of the fight. Strong or weak, live ticket sales and pay-per-view sales usually are reflective of each other.
There was a day when Mayweather fights selling in the 400,000 range domestically, for pay-per-view revenues in the $17 million to $20 million range, were viewed as great successes.
But the barometer shifted wildly in 2007, when Mayweatherís win against Oscar De La Hoya shattered records with 2.44 million domestic buys, worth $137 million in gross sales.
Mayweatherís next three fights averaged more than 1 million domestic buys, a figure only a select few fighters have generated even once, including De La Hoya, Tyson, Holyfield, and Mayweatherís archrival, Manny Pacquiao.
But pay-per-view is an utterly unpredictable industry because 98 percent of purchases come within 24 hours of the event.
Perhaps buyers were more discerning on fight night than anyone believed. They didnít know Ortiz, so they didnít buy.
More problematic for Mayweather, maybe they knew Ortiz wasnít Pacquiao -- the only fight really worth buying -- and this was the resulting backlash.
Let this serve as reminder that promoters never really know what they have, they only guess. When Mayweather-De La Hoya came in at 2.44 million -- the next-biggest seller ever, at 1.99 million, was Tyson-Holyfield II, the bite fight -- the key parties were as stunned as anyone.
This time, they may have been stunned in the opposite direction.
There are rumors that Mayweather-Ortiz did in the 800,000-900,000 range, which would be a tremendous seller if not for the pre-fight prediction by Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, that the fight would exceed 1.5 million. Ortiz brought no name recognition. Mayweather-Ricky Hatton in 2007 sold at about the same rate. And De La Hoya, the biggest seller ever, hit 1 million in domestic buys only four times in 19 pay-per-view fights, against Felix Trinidad, Hopkins, Mayweather and Pacquiao.
Put those last two names in the ring together, and youíll have pay-per-view numbers worth crowing about.
As for now, we arenít hearing anything about Mayweather-Ortiz because the throne is up for grabs and Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III, three weeks away, could do big numbers.
Above all, no one man can dominate the pay-per-view realm alone without fighting the best available opponent. Thatís a lesson both Mayweather and Pacquiao must grasp. Until then, the throne is vacant.