By Jake Donovan
Depending on your viewpoint, the live gate for the recent unified light heavyweight title fight between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev performed reasonably well for two boxers in their first major Pay-Per-View event, or only further exposed their lack of commercial market appeal.
A fight night crowd of 13,310 was announced for the November 19 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in which Ward became a two-division champion after claiming a hotly contested 12-round decision win over Kovalev in the battle of unbeaten light heavyweights.
10,066 tickets were sold in producing a live gate of $3,341,980, a spokesperson for the Nevada State Athletic Commission confirmed to BoxingScene.com on Monday.
There were 1,636 confirmed complimentary tickets issued, with the remaining 2,500 or so tickets going unsold. The venue was configured to hold 14,227 patrons on fight night, according to NSAC records.
The live gate of just over $3.3 million comes in addition to HBO Pay-Per-View sales of roughly $10.7 million generated from an estimated 165,000 units sold.
All told, the final receipts were as underwhelming as was the buildup to what should have been the bright spot of a miserably vacant fall stateside boxing schedule. American cable giant HBO had just one live boxing telecast in two months leading into Ward-Kovalev – a sparsely viewed Saturday matinee show from England in which Luis Ortiz waltzed to a 10-round decision over a disinterested Malik Scott on November 12.
It was otherwise a dark schedule from the point of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’ super welterweight-title lifting knockout of Liam Smith in their September 17 PPV headliner.
Still, there exists the need for Ward-Kovalev II, not only because Kovalev exercised the clause in his contract but due to the still-debated final outcome. Many in attendance among those viewing at home felt Kovalev did enough to retain his titles, including his scoring a 2nd round knockdown.
The three judges felt otherwise, crediting Ward with a strong second-half rally to grant him a 12-round decision win by identical final scores of 114-113.
Premature media leaks have suggested the possibility of a rematch taking place on HBO’s flagship station rather than once again going the PPV route. All parties involved denied such a claim, insisting there are several matters to discuss before even arriving at that point.
Regardless of the financial demands that will come with a rematch, serious adjustments will need to be made to ensure the boxing public is made to care. Both boxers were granted two optional bouts leading into the PPV, none of which did anything to enhance the event.
Instead, it merely added to what has been an awful 2016 boxing season in the United States. For the first time since 2005, a stateside PPV event failed to exceed 600,000 buys – and perhaps even 500,000 as the final tally of Alvarez’ knockout win over Amir Khan remains in dispute.
HBO’s five PPV events in 2016 totaled roughly 1.3 million units sold, further proof that the industry model – if not completely broken – is in desperate need of an upgrade as it has yet to recover from the aftermath of the long-awaited and record-shattering clash between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, an event that surpassed its exceedingly high box office expectations but fell well short on the entertainment front.
Ward-Kovalev at least boasted sustained action, momentum shifts and an outcome that is still a hot button topic to this very day. What it lacked was star power – sadly a theme that threatens to carry through several proposed PPV events for the first half of 2017.