We’re just 1 day away from Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo Alvarez at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. From the standpoint of the intense Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry, the expectation that Canelo will become boxing’s next superstar, and also the historical greatness and drawing power of Miguel Cotto over the years, this was supposed to be the biggest selling fight in boxing not to involve either Mayweather or Pacquiao.
But for some reason it doesn’t feel like a big fight week.
The level of media coverage and hype from mainstream sports networks pales in comparison to the bigger boxing PPVs over the past few years. There’s very little excitement being drummed up for what is an extremely important matchup. Oscar De La Hoya, who is Canelo’s promoter, suggested that this event could pull in over 2 million buys(this was outrageous nonsense the minute he said it), and he initially expected it to eclipse 1 million. It’s quite possible it reaches neither of these targets, even though both men have hit it big at the box office before, although. But why would such a good action fight so sought-after by many boxing fans run the risk of underwhelming? There are a few reasons I can think of that are major contributing factors.
Mayweather vs. Pacquiao
This was the Superfight of the
Sentury Century. After years of politicking, delaying, grandstanding, and a lot of other words ending in -ing, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally fought in the ring. It shattered all PPV records, was priced at a record $100 just to watch it in HD, and ticket sales were astronomically expensive and never intended for the average boxing consumer.
When the build-up and wall-to-wall hype was all settled, the fight predictably (and that’s not hindsight) didn’t live up to expectations. Mayweather won, hardly got hit, held a lot, landed enough to win, and neither man was in danger of actually being wobbled or knocked down. It was the type of fight where buyers wanted the appropriate drama to befit the exorbitant cost of purchasing the fight, and then they were pissed off when it didn’t happen. Hell, there were lawsuits filed over not getting what they were advertised when Pacquiao failed to disclose a shoulder injury! In my opinion, the elephant in the room above anything else, was the fact that Mayweather won. He played the villainous role in this contest and when Pacquiao, he of zero KOs since 2009, didn’t beat Mayweather, the anger had reached its boiling point.
Getting past that, this was a once-in-a-lifetime clash between two of the most successful PPV stars in the history of combat sports. The Las Vegas Strip was swimming in money through booked hotel rooms and closed-circuit viewings for those who couldn’t attend the event in-person. It was a spectacle that is unlikely to be duplicated in our lifetime, and to put the 4.4 million buys in perspective, this single fight exceeded total buyrates of HBO/Showtime PPVs for years 2006, 2008-2010, and 2012-2014.
Chances are, a significant percentage of fans who bought Mayweather vs. Pacquiao had already planned not to buy another boxing PPV this year, or didn’t want to buy another one after feeling unsatisfied. Mayweather vs. Berto was a massive flop by Floyd’s standards (estimated 400-550k buys), and last month’s Gennady Golovkin vs. David Lemieux capped out at around 150,000 buys. Perhaps this is a case where Cotto vs. Canelo is happening too soon from a buyer’s perspective, and any boxing PPV even 6 months post-Mayweather/Pacquiao will be affected negatively because of how much attention was focused on May 2nd.
Location, location, location
Miguel Cotto built up his fanbase in New York City. In his last 21 bouts, 11 of them have originated from NYC, the bulk of them at Madison Square Garden, where Puerto Rican boxers have ruled over the years. An additional 3 have been held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 2 in Puerto Rico, and 1 in Florida. Since Cotto’s MSG debut in 2006, only 4 of his fights have taken place in Las Vegas, a place where he’s lost 3 of his 4 career bouts, and was otherwise the B-Side in PPVs vs. Mayweather and Pacquiao.
Meanwhile, Canelo Alvarez has fought in Vegas regularly over the years, first on major PPV undercards before graduating to headlining against Mayweather, then in his two Showtime PPVs vs. Alfredo Angulo and Erislandy Lara, neither of which pulled in more than 350k buys. His largest crowds have come from Texas, where he sold out the 40,000+ seated Alamodome in San Antonio for his win over Austin Trout, and attracted an audience of 30,000+ at Minute Maid Park in Houston vs. James Kirkland the week after Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.
Before the fight was made, talks were down to either MSG or a Las Vegas venue. Vegas won out and more or less plays out as a “neutral ground,” although I highly suspect it’ll be a pro-Canelo crowd come Saturday.
As it stands, this will be the first Puerto Rico vs. Mexico PPV main event to be held in Vegas since Cotto’s loss to Antonio Margarito in 2009. Before that, you have to set your time machine back to 2000 for Felix Trinidad against Fernando Vargas (who is American but of Mexican descent). Although individual Puerto Ricans and Mexicans have been draws regardless of location, this isn’t really a rivalry that has ever consistently headlined PPVs in Vegas.
The prime locations for the Mexican boxing fanbase (in the US) are Texas and the Los Angeles area. New York City is the hub for Puerto Rican boxing. All three of these areas were pushed aside for the always-eager Vegas casinos to get their hands on what they feel is going to be a money-making machine for them.
Price, price, price
Let’s check in on those ticket sales! (Via StubHub)
The sections shaded in white are sold out, while everything else has tickets available. Through quick arithmetic (before 12 PM ET on Friday), there are at least 1,000 unsold seats in the Mandalay Bay. It sure as hell doesn’t help matters when the cheapest ticket is $500 (you can guess where those seats are) and floor seats are as high as $10,000.
When Mayweather vs. Berto flopped at the gate despite tickets selling for between $125-$1500, that was largely attributed to just the refusal to support a bad fight no one wanted to see, and especially not after Mayweather was derided publicly for his performance, whether unjust or not. But to give you an idea of how costly Cotto vs. Canelo tickets are, check out this graphic from Spencer Stein from Rukkus.com, which tells you that this is the 3rd most expensive ticket in the history of the sport, and 2nd most in Las Vegas behind you-know-what.
That the fight itself is ridiculously pricey isn’t an issue, as all of the accompanying fights (except the Macau-based Pacquiao/Algieri) were huge successes commercially. Only Pacquiao vs. Bradley failed to sellout, but the gates for both fights are in the top 30 all-time for gross sales. But this more or less ties into the problem with putting this event in Las Vegas so soon after Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. The mega-fight in Vegas already happened, and trying to put another one there in the same year was always going to be an issue, even more so when you consider a good chunk of the attendees are out-of-towners who’ve paid airfare and booked hotels for the weekend (after all, it’s Las Vegas).
There is one other aspect that I know a subsection of MMA fans love to hear: Boxing is dying! It’s been dying 50 times over since the era of black-and-white televisions! Yet here we are, and Oddly enough, next week is a huge heavyweight fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury, which will likely sell out a German soccer stadium and make for huge television viewing in Germany and in the UK.
However, there is one very strong point that was made by ESPN’s Bomani Jones the day after Mayweather-Pacquiao.
“last hurrah” for boxing won’t be after a mega-fight we don’t like. it’ll be after a mega-fight we don’t watch.
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) May 3, 2015
We’ll just have to see if this is the first telltale sign of a Mayweather-Pacquiao ripple effect.
There’s every bit the reason to believe that this will still perform “well” in the sense that it’ll surely produce more than 500,000 buys and have a high gate number, but the lofty targets Roc Nation and Golden Boy Promotions have set for themselves will be difficult to attain. De La Hoya called this “The Super Bowl for Latinos,” which may turn out to be true, but the indicators don’t seem to back that statement up.
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