By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Michael Yormark has heard and read all the criticism.
Roc Nation’s president and chief of branding and strategy still firmly believes the Miguel Cotto-James Kirkland junior middleweight match, scheduled for February 25 in Frisco, Texas, belongs on pay-per-view. Puerto Rico’s Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) will end a 15-month layoff when he enters the ring to fight Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs), who won’t have fought for 21 months by the time they square off.
Both boxers also lost their previous bouts to Canelo Alvarez – Cotto by unanimous decision in November 2015 and Kirkland by brutal third-round knockout in May 2015.
Those are among the reasons the fight drew widespread criticism last month when it was announced as an HBO Pay-Per-View main event. Yormark made what he considers a very strong case for taking Cotto-Kirkland to the pay-per-view platform.
“This will be the first pay-per-view fight of the year,” Yormark said Wednesday during an informal interview session in Manhattan to promote the Cotto-Kirkland card. “Let me also note that this will be Miguel Cotto’s 10th pay-per-view fight of his career. I know there’s been some stories out in the market, pre-holiday, regarding the pay-per-view status of this fight. Let me say a couple of things, and I wanna address that. Number one, Miguel Cotto has been a pay-per-view fighter for a long time. As I mentioned, this will be his 10th fight. He is a pay-per-view fighter. This fight belongs on pay-per-view.
“Let me also say that we’ve priced this fight very attractively, very attractively – $49.95. We listened to consumers. We heard what they wanted to see. HBO heard what they wanted to see. And that’s why we’ve priced it, again, at a very attractive $49.95, which is a great value proposition when you think about what this fight is going to be. Action-packed, and probably will end up in a knockout. So people who buy this fight for $49.95 can anticipate lots of action, hard punching and probably a knockout. And that’s what people wanna see, and that’s what people are willing to invest their money in, as long as they’re confident that they’re gonna get it.”
The four-fight Cotto-Kirkland telecast will cost $49.95 to watch in Standard Definition. To view the show in High Definition, most cable and satellite systems will charge an additional $10. That’ll bump up the price to $59.95, still about $10 cheaper than most pay-per-view shows in HD.
When asked if it’s misleading to promote the price as $49.95, when most viewers will watch Cotto-Kirkland in HD, Yormark deferred to Peter Nelson, HBO Sports’ executive vice president.
“Pay-per-view is a democratic process,” Nelson said. “And fans can decide how they wanna watch the fight, they can decide if they wanna watch the fight.”
Cotto-Kirkland could be the start of a stretch in which there is one boxing pay-per-view event per month in five consecutive months. Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs are scheduled to fight for middleweight supremacy March 18 at Madison Square Garden, Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao probably will headline another pay-per-view show sometime in April, Alvarez is expected to headline yet another May 6 and it’s possible the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev rematch could take place sometime in June.
“Obviously, if there is going to be too many pay-per-views,” Nelson said, “whatever that means for people in terms of their pocketbook, that can become a problem. And I give Roc Nation and [Dallas Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones and these two fighters credit for wanting to get out in front of the marketplace.
“Some of the fights people talk about being pay-per-view fights end up never coming together. We see this in boxing every single year. The key is, who can actually get the fights done that fans wanna see? And that’s at the core of whether or not people are gonna show up. And to Roc Nation and Jerry’s credit, and the fighters again, you know, they got the job done here.”
Yormark doesn’t have unrealistic expectations regarding how many buys he expects Cotto and Kirkland to generate.
HBO announced Alvarez-Cotto drew about 900,000 buys. But the last time Cotto was the ‘A’ side for a pay-per-view event, as he is for his fight against Kirkland, his technical knockout of Sergio Martinez in their WBC middleweight title fight produced a disappointing 315,000 buys in June 2014.
“I think when you go back and you look at some of the big numbers that have been done the last couple years – Canelo, Pacquiao, Mayweather – we all, everyone in this room, have had certain expectations for pay-per-view,” Yorkmark said. “We may not see the million-home pay-per-views moving forward. We may, we may not. But that doesn’t mean a fight can’t be successful if it does a number lower than that. I think we need to do our own reset, as it relates to why should a fight be on pay-per-view and what our expectations are. And the expectation for this fight isn’t that it’s gonna do half-a-million homes or a million homes.
“And so, I think that needs to guide us as it relates to whether or not the fight is worthy to be on pay-per-view or not. What people wanna see is action. People are willing to pay for great entertainment at a great price. It all boils down to the value proposition. This fight has a great value proposition – $49.95. Two fighters that are gonna create incredible entertainment, for as long as the fight lasts. These guys are gonna get into the ring and they’re gonna battle. They’re gonna throw punches. All right? Somebody’s gonna get knocked out. That’s what people wanna see. That’s why this fight is pay-per-view-worthy. OK?”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.