Where is boxing’s next PPV star?

May 6, 2017

As Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. get set to fight on the traditional Cinco de Mayo weekend boxing card, we wonder about boxing’s next big pay-per-view draw.

The two fighters in the main event were thought to be the future of boxing.  You can argue that only one of them has lived up to the billing of being the next big star while the other has been a disappointment thus far in his career.  For those that don’t follow boxing, Canelo is the fighter that is still on a career arc while JCC has the name and pedigree but perhaps not the desire needed to be a top star.

Last week, Anthony Joshua stopped Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 in Wembley Stadium in a showdown between heavyweights.  While Joshua is massively popular in the UK, it’s still unknown whether that fandom would translate to US audiences.

The overarching question is whether any of these fighters could translate into a PPV star for boxing.

Canelo seems to be the best active fighter to be considered a boxing star on PPV.  He produced 2 million PPV buys when he fought Floyd Mayweather in September 2013 and 900,000 PPV buys against Miguel Cotto in November 2015.

But since the Cotto fight, Canelo has had lackluster PPV performances in a KO win over Amir Khan and Liam Smith.  In the Khan fight, it was estimated it had between 460,000 to 600,000 PPV buys.  It was later recalibrated down to 450,000 – 500,000 buys depending on who you asked.  This is respectable but down considering Khan had some notoriety prior to fighting Alvarez.  The Smith fight in September 2016 drew less than 300,000 PPV buys.  This may be due to the unknown opponent and the prior rumors that Alvarez was going to meet GGG.

In 2016, the biggest fight of the year, Andre Ward versus Sergey Kovalev, drew just 165,000 PPV buys.  GGG’s fight against Daniel Jacobs this past March did 170,000 PPV buys which was an improvement from GGG last showing on PPV.  Yet, fair or unfair to compare, 170,000 buys is less than a mediocre monthly PPV.  GGG is considered one of boxing’s best and can only muster 170,000 to pay for his fight, while a PPV with CM Punk drew 450,000 PPV buys.

In a November 2015 Sports Business Journal article former HBO PPV chief Mark Taffet identified seven factors that set apart PPV “megastars”:

  1. In-ring style – this goes to being an action fighter with the intent to KO an opponent in every fight
  2. Out-of-ring persona – Likable but also someone that sets themselves apart from the rest.
  3. Natural rivalries – this refers to fighters in the same weight class, or in a division close to their own.
  4. Demographics – this refers to the fighter being able to be identified with a particular group or audience.
  5. Media/technology – the ability to use social media to build followers and then monetize the opportunity.
  6. Intent – the desire to build a fan base as their career grows
  7. “It” factor – An undefined intangible, that Taffet states usually takes the form a storyline that is “unique and memorable.”

The likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Errol Spence, Deontay Wilder and Keith Thurman may be on the next tier of boxing’s stars that have all of the above except the fact that they have yet to translate their in-ring success to monetary gain on PPV.  None of these fighters have headlined a PPV.  This is likely due to the fact that they see GGG and Canelo having trouble to gain traction in garnering PPV buys and are weary of pushing an event that might flop.  Recall Terrence Crawford fought Viktor Postol on PPV and drew 50-60K PPV buys.

While Canelo’s last PPV outing was disappointing, Golden Boy will continue to promote its premier star.  He has all of the seven factors above and if set with the right opponent, the fight could draw big PPV buys.  GGG lacks the natural rivalry that would help him equate his talent and persona.  The long-awaited showdown with GGG is in the offing and could give him a spark.

Anthony Joshua might be the next PPV boxing star.  It is still unclear whether his UK marketability will equate in the U.S., but last week’s event which aired on Showtime and HBO drew great ratings.  More importantly, once people tuned in, they saw a great fight in which he was knocked down but eventually came back to stop Klitschko.  With 13 sponsors already in his portfolio including big brands Jaguar, Under Armour and Beats By Dre, the former Olympic Gold Medalist has the pedigree, the look and the “It” Factor to succeed.

Clearly, Joshua’s marketability can translate to U.S. dollars as it did for Manny Pacquiao.  Notwithstanding the last year or so of his career, Pacquiao’s fighting style and large Filipino following allowed him to be one of the biggest boxing stars of the last 20 years.  He was able to accomplish this despite not being from the United States.  With his Mexican roots, Canelo is doing almost the same.  Joshua may have an advantage over Pacquiao and Canelo as he speaks fluent English.  Not to discount Manny or Canelo, but each has difficulty with carrying on interviews in English.

This year could be a big year for boxing starting with Saturday’s Canelo-Chavez fight.  If Canelo wins, it should ready us for a showdown with GGG in September.  If Chavez scores an upset, we can see a rematch later this year.  In June, we will see the rematch between Ward-Kovalev and see if that spurs more buys this time around.

Despite the wealth of networks that will show boxing, pay-per-view is the gold standard for boxing as it generates the most revenue for all in this sport.  For one reason or another, boxing fans have decided to hold off on buying their fights and instead wait for the next one on television.  In a post Manny-Floyd era, the lack of star power to drive boxing PPVs must be a concern for promoters.  But, there are several boxers that could fill the void.  The question is how to build these stars.

42 Responses to “Where is boxing’s next PPV star?”

  1. d on May 6th, 2017 9:34 AM

    Most, if not all of those ppv numbers are inflated figures the promoters release.

    The Cotto-Canelo fight has been reported to have been well below 900k, the Canelo-Khan fight was rumored to have done under 400k and GGG-Jacobs was closer to 100k than 170k.

    Regardless though, boxing ppv is at an all time low. The only big fights they have on the horizon involve McGregor(which probably won’t go down anyway) and GGG-Alvarez which De La Hoya is trying to avoid until GGG is 50.

    Taffet should have been fired a while ago, because he had the opportunity to jump all over the UFC and strike a deal, which would have given HBO such a huge advantage over Showtime in the sports department right now, and he passed because he is a dinosaur who felt like mma was too barbaric. Now, he’s left with boxing and its tumbleweed. HBO boxing at this day and age is almost invisible. Their budget was slashed to 20m annually(which is likely considerably lower than Bellator’s deal with Spike) and they have no big ppv fights on the horizon. This fight this weekend is arguably the biggest fight they’ve had in nearly 2 years and it is at best a 500-600k buy ppv(and I doubt it even gets there). Just the sign of the times for boxing.

    Joshua’s no US ppv star. We can tell based on his ratings on Showtime and HBO which were okay, but not great and involved Klitschko who has always drawn pretty well on both premium channels. If he were to fight on ppv in the US now against anyone, you are looking at a 100k-200k buy ppv. Demetrious Johnson numbers. He’s also not good enough to build a lengthy title stretch against elite boxers. He barely won that fight against a has-been Wlad.

    I’d say Bellator has a better ppv future than HBO or Showtime boxing.

  2. Etops on May 6th, 2017 10:06 AM

    Boxing need to start promoting double headers. Fans tired of paying $60 for one match. Conor ppvs draws well because he always on stack cards.

    Why not promote a ppv with both Joshua and Thurman on the show?

  3. d on May 6th, 2017 10:33 AM

    It’s a proven fact that stacked cards or heavy undercards do not sell ppvs, the headliners do.

    McGregor’s biggest ppv was the 2nd fight against Diaz and the undercard was not impressive. They could’ve replaced the entire undercard with mediocre talent and the number would be almost the same. McGregor is the reason the buys are so high. There is a reason why Demetrious Johnson fights only do 150k buys and McGregor does 1.3-1.5m.

  4. Wil on May 6th, 2017 12:31 PM

    hopefully nowhere. I prefer watching for free.

  5. Etops on May 6th, 2017 1:17 PM

    To D: Rumble and Cowboy are not names?

    If you talk to ufc fans, you can’t get away with just a main event.

  6. d on May 6th, 2017 4:43 PM

    They are names but those weren’t big fights and again they added very little to the ppv buys. These are things that have been proven and analyzed. Perfect example is UFC 187 which was headlined by DC vs Johnson. The undercard was far more loaded than McGregor-Diaz II and DC-Johnson did 375k buys while McGregor-Diaz II did 1.5m. You could replace Johnson-Teixeira, Cerrone-Story with anyone and they still would have done around 1.5m buys for that fight. Another good example would be UFC 191 which had Demetrious Johnson vs Dodson with Rumble on the undercard as well as Arlovski-Mir and the fight only did 115k buys. That’s arguably a better undercard, yet only 115k buys. That alone shows the drawing power of the undercard.

    If you analyze the numbers, you’ll find that the undercard can be complete garbage as long as the headliner is big, you’ll get big numbers.

  7. Fight Fan on May 6th, 2017 4:50 PM

    D is in full damage control, this fight is about to do over 1 million buys and he can’t process it. I’m in vegas and this place is buzzing.

  8. Fight Fan on May 6th, 2017 4:51 PM

    The ufc or as I call it Under financial concern has nothing on their outlook. Even Floyd vs de la Hoya still tops all their events lol

  9. d on May 6th, 2017 5:31 PM

    What’s going to do 1m buys? Canelo-Chavez?? HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Fight Fan still talking about boxing matches from decades ago attempting to spin what’s going on.

  10. Joey Vagas on May 6th, 2017 6:32 PM

    About 10 years ago a lot of money was spent in the Heavyweight Division I think we will see a return to really meaningful Heavyweight boxing. Something we have missed since the 90’s early 2000’s. Boxing yes does lack a young charismatic Olympian type. Shakur may be the one. He does have a very good framework. All above mentioned do too. Nobody has really grabbed you though yet. Definitely Heavyweights can very easily!

  11. Fight Fan on May 6th, 2017 8:16 PM

    New record set tonight at t mobile arena for attendance

  12. JW on May 6th, 2017 10:34 PM

    Anthony Joshua vs Wlad drew more than 1.5 million buys on PPV in the UK. Putting it in the same region as Conor/Diaz 2. Joshua could easily break a million against Fury, Wilder, Haye or with a Wlad rematch too.

    Even if nobody ever buys an AJ ppv in the US, he is already a huge PPV draw just on the strength of the British market alone.

  13. Wil on May 7th, 2017 12:59 AM

    Well that was a complete dud, that was painful to watch. One guy showed up to fight and the other to not get knocked out. The silver lining is that the announcement of Canelo vs. Golovkin was announced. That one is going to be another huge global event. I suspect both men will make 8 figures when its all said and done on that one. I wonder what the attendance and gate was and it will be interesting to see what the ppv buys were on this one. Two weekends in a row of big boxing…and in 2 weeks Tank Davis defends in the UK, and a week later Spence vs. Brook in another big one…..even though last night was a dud, boxing promoters are on fire with fights this year, absolutely slaying it

  14. d on May 7th, 2017 7:10 AM

    TRIGGERED!! Hahahaha.

  15. Fight Fan on May 7th, 2017 7:34 AM

    D still in meltdown mode knowing ufc has nothing big planned and this fight was huge.

  16. d on May 7th, 2017 7:35 AM

    Huge???? Hahahahaha.

    TRIGGERED!!! HAHAHA!!!!

  17. d on May 7th, 2017 7:46 AM

    Big purse money on the undercard:

    Garcia….6k
    Esparza…4k
    Salazar….3k
    Curiel…….4k
    Sanchez…$2,500
    Noriega…8k
    Aguirre…3k
    Aispuro…7k

    Looks like these guys could use some UFC money. Hahahaha.

    The least you can make for a UFC fight is 10k to show, 10k to win, and $2500 in Reebok money.

  18. Fight Fan on May 7th, 2017 10:07 AM

    There goes d changing the subject lol. Full meltdown mode continues.

  19. Wil on May 7th, 2017 11:05 AM

    Yes he is in total meltdown…he even adopted one of my phrases…lol. I guess its tough on him to see boxing getting so much global play. Like they said in the Army he will “adapt, improvise, overcome.”

  20. d on May 7th, 2017 12:33 PM

    Hahahaha. Wil thinks I’m using his phrases seriously. He doesn’t realizing I’m mocking him. Hahahaha. TRIGGERED!!

  21. Wil on May 7th, 2017 12:40 PM

    20,000+ fans packed the AT&T Stadium last night. Canelo will be paid $5m flat with a percentage of the PPV and gate. Chavez made $3m for his dismal performance in which he should not have been paid anything. For what amounted to a tune up for Golovkin, thats some serious money changing hands.
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianmazique/2017/05/07/canelo-alvarez-vs-julio-cesar-chavez-jr-results-purse-and-by-the-numbers-recap/#18fbeab92594

  22. d on May 7th, 2017 12:54 PM

    Not as much as McGregor made for his last 2 fights against lower profile opponents.

  23. Wil on May 7th, 2017 1:10 PM

    TRIGGERED! lol

  24. Wil on May 7th, 2017 1:32 PM

    Correction, not AT&T stadium.

  25. d on May 7th, 2017 1:41 PM

    Yeah, at soon to be T MOBILE/UFC ARENA!! HAHAHA!!!

    TRIGGERED!!! Hahaha.

  26. Fight Fan on May 7th, 2017 2:27 PM

    D ufc can barely afford to keep the lights on, cutting costs everywhere lol. TV deal is gonna flop they only have one buyer fox. Keep dreaming.

  27. d on May 7th, 2017 3:20 PM

    FF, I think you are confusing the UFC with PBC. Hahahahahaha.

  28. Fight Fan on May 7th, 2017 5:13 PM

    pbc isn’t the only boxing outlet d, showtime and hbo have been on fire.

  29. d on May 7th, 2017 5:57 PM

    …and by on fire you mean slashing their budgets to Bellator levels while producing poor ratings for the past 2 years.

  30. Fight Fan on May 7th, 2017 11:38 PM

    You wanna talk about slashing look at Under Financial Concern’s cuts to personnel. Ufc has nothing to show except 4 billion in debt and no stars lol. Meanwhile boxing is selling out venues across the world. Boxing is worldwide, ufc isn’t even King in the states.

  31. d on May 8th, 2017 5:29 AM

    They made those personnel cuts immediately upon buying the company genius. You think they laid out a business plan, bought the company and then second guessed all of their decisions immediately upon purchase?? Haha. That’s not how a business plan works. They were planning to do that.

    More like, meanwhile, boxing still hasn’t had a ppv reach anywhere near 1m buys in 2 years now. You are still thinking about May-Pac. Hahaha.

  32. Fight Fan on May 8th, 2017 6:34 AM

    A cut is a cut d

    Oh yeah the ppv that did over 4 million buys and broke every record there is? I don’t even think ufc has done an event with over 2 million buys lol. But feel free to correct me on that if you can.

  33. d on May 8th, 2017 7:50 AM

    No it isn’t. This isn’t the same thing as a business that isn’t doing well and has to lay off workers. This was part of their business plan, genius.

    Sure, I can correct you, the UFC did over 6m buys that year and outdrew boxing. Haha. The only year out of the past decade that boxing did more buys was when the UFC had all of their headliners on the shelf and boxing still barely squeaked by.

    20 years from now you are still going to be bringing up this argument when boxing isn’t even doing ppvs anymore. Haha.

  34. Wil on May 8th, 2017 10:28 AM

    33 responses…..Cruz these boxing articles you post seem to be light years more popular than the mma specific ones

  35. Fight Fan on May 8th, 2017 2:51 PM

    D any ufc ppv ever done more than 2 million buys? A single event? Lol keep spinning your facts.

  36. Fight Fan on May 8th, 2017 2:52 PM

    And 20 years from now the ufc if it still exists will still have not topped the 4 million may pac did.

  37. d on May 8th, 2017 4:17 PM

    Hahaha. Boxing paid t.rolls spinning their fiction.

    Wil, that’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

  38. Fight Fan on May 8th, 2017 4:58 PM

    D still in full meltdown

  39. Wil on May 9th, 2017 1:36 AM

    He really is, he is hating life right now…..must be tough on Hanson

  40. TopsE on May 9th, 2017 3:17 AM

    Keep posting boxing news .no news with the ufc hahahaha

  41. d on May 9th, 2017 7:48 AM

    Wil and FF…TRIGGERED!!! HAHAHA!!!

  42. Andre on May 11th, 2017 12:01 AM

    D u are an idiot, be real bro

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