2017: The year in boxing

January 6, 2018

2017 was a great year for boxing which saw some great fights and the spectacle that was Mayweather-McGregor.

The year started off with the talk about Mayweather-McGregor as the UFC’s lightweight champion stirred the pot by going on a rant on Instagram where he wrote “F*** the UFC.”  Dana White warned that if Conor went on without the UFC it would be an “epic fall.”

January also saw Al Haymon get a court victory with a dismissal of Golden Boy’s Antitrust lawsuit.  In a ruling which did not include oral argument, the Judge determined that Golden Boy did not come fort with genuine issues of fact to support its claims.  Most importantly, and a word of caution for the Plaintiffs in the UFC Antitrust lawsuit, the Judge reiterated that the antitrust laws protect competition, not competitors.

Although Golden Boy suffered the loss in court, it inked a deal with ESPN with 42 fights airing on ESPN starting in March 2017.  As the prevailing party, they requested legal costs in the amount nearing $35,0000.  Golden Boy appealed the dismissal but it appears that the sides resolved the case as the appeal was dismissed by agreement of the parties.

The Deontay Wilder-Alexander Povetkin/World of Boxing lawsuit went to trial in February and it did not take long for a jury to decide that Povetkin took Meldonium after January 1, 2016.  However, the case continues with the parties litigating the other claims as well as the issue who receives the millions of dollars that has been placed in escrow.

Wilder was also sued by rival Dominic Breazeale for a hotel melee.  The case was thrown out as the episode happened in Alabama but Breazeale sued in California.

Showtime Boxing had the highest rating of 2017 with Adrian Broner taking on Adrian Granados drawing 779,000 viewers.  The fight also aired on Twitter as the service continued to expand its offering of streamingClaressa Shields became the first female boxer to headline an event on premium network television. In March.

The GGG-Daniel Jacobs PPV drew between 130-150K PPV buys.  GGG’s next PPV appearance against Canelo would draw much higher as the draw drew 1.2 million buys.  The fight also had a higher price tag than usual:  $79.99 HD.  A rematch for May 2018 seems imminent.

March saw the second highest-rating for network viewership as Keith Thurman faced Danny Garcia in the battle of unbeatens on CBS.  The fight drew 5.1 million viewers while the overall telecast drew 2.7 million viewers.

After going through a lot of money, the viability of the PBC obtaining a media rights deal was brought into question.  Its deal with Spike TV ended but the organization found a home on FS1.

In 2017, it seemed as those everyone applied for a boxing license:  Conor, Nate Diaz, Cyborg…

Anthony Joshua faced Vladimir Klitschko in one of the biggest fights of the year.  The event aired live on Showtime and tape delay on HBO.

May’s Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. PPV drew 1.3 million buys and its replay on HBO drew 769,000 viewers.

In May, we took a look at where was Boxing’s next PPV star.  Aside from Canelo Alvarez, there are several contenders to be the next star on PPV including Anthony Joshua.

In June, The Money Fight was announced.

Also in June, Top Rank announced that it had a deal with ESPN to air fights with the first one being Manny Pacquiao fighting Jeff Horn in Australia on July 1st.  The debut earned big numbers as Pacquiao lost a controversial decision to Horn.

The Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev II PPV in June drew between 130-135K PPV buys.

July saw a 4-city tour to promote the Mayweather-McGregor bouts.  It was an ambitious tour that fans clamored to be a part.  It was announced that the PPV price would be $99.95 HD.

The Money Fight drew huge numbers and was a big financial success.  We wrote about it here.  The event had streaming issues on both UFC Fight Pass and Showtime platforms.  As you might expect, there were lawsuits which are still matriculating through the court system.

Despite the big event, HBO ran an event featuring Miguel Cotto and it did well considering as it drew 730,000 viewers.

Capitalizing on the publicity of The Money Fight, announced an ESPN deal which will include airing its fight library on an OTT service that will launch in 2018.

Austin Trout sued the WBO which included claims under the Ali Act.  The case was moved to federal court in Puerto Rico where the WBO is seeking to dismiss the case and move it to arbitration.  The case will be an interesting look as to whether the court will allow a claim under the Ali Act will go to arbitration.

In September, Magomed Abdusalamov settled with the state of New York for $22 million for injuries sustained in a fight in 2013.  Abdusalamov was left with a brain injury and paralysis due to improper conduct and lack of training by the New York State Athletic Commission.

A huge ESPN fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeux drew 1.73 million viewers.  The overall telecast drew 1.487 million viewers.

In December, Showtime announced Mayweather-McGregor drew 4.3 million domestic PPV buys.  This is off from the 6.7 million Dana White had stated.  After hearing of the announcement, White took issue with Showtime’s numbers.

One of the bigger stories to watch going into 2018 is the announcement by Dana White that he will be promoting boxing.  Zuffa Boxing, a t-shirt worn by White during The Money Fight press tour, was a hint that White was up to something.  White made it official late in the year.  He indicated that he was meeting with Floyd Mayweather.  Despite stating that he will never work with Showtime again, he said he would be willing work with other promoters with the exception of Bob Arum.

White rails on Showtime, vows to never work with network again

January 4, 2018

Dana White believes that he can do boxing better.  In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, White believes he has ideas that could make boxing better.

“You need to get a real TV deal,” said Dana White to Yahoo! Sports Kevin Iole in a shot made against Bob Arum’s Top Rank deal with ESPN.  White’s foray into boxing is not to take over the landscape of promotion but the belief that he can do it better than those who are presently promoting the sport.

White spoke with Iole at length on a variety of subjects including his boxing promoting aspirations.

One of the more notable quotes he had was stating his displeasure with working with Showtime during the Mayweather-McGregor fight.  This is not the first time White has had problems with Showtime as he butted heads with the network when Zuffa took over Strikeforce.  In the Iole interview, White disputes Showtime’s press release touting that The Money Fight drew 4.3 million domestic buys.  White contends the fight did 6.7 million buys and that it would have done more if there were not technical glitches.  It may have seemed that White took a shot at Showtime’s streaming service but that may have been just an inference based on tone as there were other online options.  There have been lawsuits filed as a result of the tech failure.

Payout Perspective:

It comes as no surprise that White does not like Showtime and maybe the feeling is mutual.  One of the reasons why The Money Fight was such a surprise to me when it was made so quickly was White’s disdain for the network.  As for the issue of boxing promotion, the issue of fighter pay and whether White can secure a TV deal as he suggested in the interview are two big questions when White begins to promote boxing.  White is not going in this blind as he stated he has meetings with those in the boxing business and previously stated that he had a meeting with Mayweather.  He also is friendly with Al Haymon which may mean the two work together down the line.

Loma-Rigo draw 1.73M viewers on ESPN Saturday night

December 12, 2017

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Saturday night drew 1,730,000 million viewers.  It is the second-highest rating for Top Rank since partnering the network in July.

The event featured Vasiliy Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeux in the main event.  Loma easily earned the victory when the Cuban challenger quit on the stool due to a hand injury.

The highest-rated event was the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight which averaged 2.8 million viewers and peaked at 4.4 million.  Although there was no peak viewership disclosed for Saturday’s event (yet), the Loma-Rigo fight likely had the highest peak viewership since Pacquiao-Horn.

According to Nielsen, via ShowBuzz Daily, it drew 0.59 viewers in the A18-49 demo and 0.84 with males in the 18-49 demo.  It drew 0.52 in the A18-34 demo.

The telecast was preceded by The Heisman Trophy Presentation which drew 2,175,000 and 0.58 in the A18-49 demo.

Payout Perspective:

Good ratings for an event featuring two fighters in the 130-pound division.  It’s rare that you find a lot of interest in a fight involving fighters in the smaller weight divisions but Lomachenko and Rigondeux were Olympic gold medalists and Loma is considered one of the best in the world.  The true test will be to see if Top Rank can continue to put on fights that will increase visibility for its boxers.

Loma-Rigo 2nd highest rated boxing telecast on cable this year

December 10, 2017

Last night’s Vasiliy Lomachenko-Guillermo Rigondeaux fight was the second highest-rated boxing telecast on cable in 2017 according to Nielsen overnight ratings via ESPN.  The fight which was won by Lomachenko, was second only to the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight this past July.

Although no viewership ratings are yet available, Nielsen indicates that it drew a 1.3 metered market rating.  Pacquiao-Horn drew 2.4 rating.  Third and fourth on the list of highest-rated shows were the two undercards on Saturday night.  Shakur Stevenson vs. Oscar Mendoza and Michael Conlan-Luis Molina drew 1.1 metered market ratings on ESPN.

Payout Perspective:

The Heisman Trophy Presentation which preceded the big night of boxing likely helped the event.  The lead-in is one of the reasons why Top Rank decided to move to ESPN.  Lomachenko-Rigondeaux was a marquee matchup from the time it was announced and it received major hype from boxing community and many casuals were interested.  Without knowing the UFC or Bellator numbers, its clear this event was the main viewership for combat sporting events on Saturday night.

Report outlines Top Rank’s path to its ESPN deal

November 22, 2017

Last week’s Sports Business Journal reported on ESPN’s return to boxing.  The article focused on Top Rank’s deal with ESPN this past July and how it transitioned from premium cable to basic cable.

There was interest from Top Rank into obtaining a rights fee deal the likes of the UFC and Fox.  A key point was shoulder programming which would help with promoting the fights.  Top Rank Boxing president Todd DuBoef analyzed the promotion’s ratings on HBO and saw that they were comparable to the shows the UFC put on FS1 and thought there might be interest for shopping his rights with the knowledge that the UFC was doing the same.  DuBoef sought help from CAA about the possibility.

According to the SBJ article, there were three reasons for ESPN’s dive back into boxing:

One is the opportunity to capture all of the promoter’s fighters and fights, without the concern that the stars they develop will then move to premium cable. Another is the soon-to-be launched OTT service, which will rely on deeply engaged fans who will pay for content like Top Rank’s fight library, and also brings the distribution of pay-per-view into play. The third is the data narrative that DuBoef and CAA brought to the initial conversation.

The article notes that Al Haymon’s PBC was an archetype for Top Rank to gage the level of interest boxing may have with a broader audience.  The interesting take is that despite the sport skewing to the older demographic, it grabbed a slice of the 18-49 demo.  PBC’s business model to buy time on the air with the hope to “flip” the model has not worked.  The article notes that deposition testimony from the litigation involving PBC professes that the flipping of the script for PBC to turn the model for networks to pay for PBC rights was to have occurred in 2018.

Ratings reflect that young male demo is watching boxing.  The first Top Rank fight featuring Manny Pacquiao taking on Jeff Horn drew well in the 18-34 demo as 836,000 of them tuned in when Pacquiao stepped in against his Aussie challenger in July.  The next month, a fight featuring Vasyl Lomachenko beat out a UFC Fight Night in the demo 137,000 to 109,000 and 317,000 to 271,000 for males 18-49.  Although the UFC show on FS1 fared better overall, the ratings saw the younger male demo scoring better.  In September a Top Rank card headlining Oscar Valdez drew better than a UFC Fight Night on FXX.  Boxing beat the UFC 706,000 to 502,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

It’s an interesting article because of the perceived newfound partnership between each party and its duties with the main goal of attracting a broader audience which includes a younger demographic.  There is an inference that television boxing consumption skews to the older demographic which may be true.  However, there is a sense that the premium channels on which boxing aired, as well as the lack of advertisements on those networks were key factors as to the older demo.  The ESPN deal helps both boxing and the network.  ESPN gets live content while boxing has the chance to be viewed by a broader audience and will be aided by programming that will help its own events on the network.  So far, ratings seem to show that it is successful.  We shall see how it does in the long run.  As of now, it seems that Top Rank has learned from PBC’s falters in what works on the network and what does not.

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN draws 1.487M viewers Saturday night

November 14, 2017

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Saturday night drew 1.487 million viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The main event saw Jose Ramirez defeat Mike Reed in a junior welterweight matchup.  The victory keeps Ramirez in line for a shot at the title vacated by Terrence Crawford.  In addition, Artur Beterbiev beat down Enrico Koelling to win the vacant IBF World Light Heavyweight title and remains undefeated.

Surprisingly, the ratings rank 2nd behind the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight for Top Rank Boxing on ESPN.  The event’s lead-in was the Alabama-Mississippi State game which drew over 7 million viewers.

Headliners for Top Rank on ESPN since July 2016 and the telecast overall rating:

7/1/17:  Pacquiao-Horn – 2.812 million

8/19/17:  Crawford-Indongo – 965,000

8/05/17:  Lomachenko-Marriaga – 728,000

9/23/17:  Valdez-Servania – 706,000

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are a success for Top Rank as the fighters on the card are not really known to the casual boxing fan.  Still, the placement on ESPN after a big college football game likely aided the ratings in this case.  It is hard to think that this telecast did far much better than one with Terrence Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko on it.

Top Rank and Plaintiffs in Antitrust Lawsuit Resolve Discovery Dispute

October 2, 2017

Top Rank and the Plaintiffs in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit have resolved their discovery dispute regarding a motion to compel production of documents and for the attendance of the deposition of Bob Arum.

A notice of resolution was filed late last week.  The agreement between the parties avoids a motion to compel brought by Plaintiffs in the Zuffa Antitrust lawsuit seeking financial information and the deposition of company head Bob Arum.

Resolution Re Top Rank Motion to Compel by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Originally, the motion was to be heard in early September but was continued until later in the month, but the parties came to an agreement.

Top Rank argued that a subpoena for the production of documents from the company was not relevant to the Zuffa lawsuit.  It also argued that the Plaintiffs failed to show a “substantial need” for Top Rank’s information. It also stated that the Plaintiffs’ document request were overly burdensome.

Top Rank Oppo to Motion to Compel by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Plaintiffs argued that they were entitled to the discovery as it is relevant to their lawsuit against Zuffa, there is a substantial need for the documents and believe the discovery is not overly burdensome.

Reply to Opposition to Top Rank MTC by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Top Rank noted in its opposition that it “cannot have it both ways.”  It argued that in its lawsuit it claimed that the “relevant market” was limited to the sport of MMA and noted that it was different from boxing.  Yet, it was requesting “ten years’ worth of revenue, profit, loss and payment information.”  Yet, Top Rank claimed that However the Plaintiffs lawsuit against them, claimed that it had differentiated itself from pro boxing and thus its financial information was not relevant to the instant lawsuit.

Top Rank argues that the document requests are intrusive and it is a way for Plaintiffs’ experts to “compare financial data from Top Rank’s promotion of boxing events to Zuffa’s promotion of MMA events and create “benchmark percentages of revenues.”  Moreover, it claims that Plaintiffs do not explain why they are unable to obtain this information from other sources.  Top Rank’s opposition brief claims it has told Plaintiffs where it might obtain public data about the company.

Top Rank lists some of the requests in its brief:

REQUEST NO. 1: Your Company’s Income Statements, including event-level profit and loss statements for the Relevant Time Period [defined to be from January 1, 2005 to present], including without limitation All Documents, including depositions, declarations, affidavits, or other statements under oath, You produced in any lawsuits or arbitrations, or to any governing athletic commission or sanctioning body, relating to TOP RANK’s accounting of its revenues, expenses, and profits.

• REQUEST NO. 2: Data in as granular form as it is maintained (itemized ledger entries, if they exist) sufficient to show all bout-related revenues and expenses (including for championship bouts, bouts where victory leads to championship, and all other Professional Boxing Events), payments made to individual Professional Boxers (including purses, bonuses, pay-per view, and any other event and non-event related payments), and non-bout related revenues and expenses.

• REQUEST NO. 3: To the extent not included in Your response to Request Nos. 1 and 2 above, documents sufficient to substantiate Bob Arum’s statement that TOP RANK pays 80% of event revenue to the Professional Boxers who participate in bouts promoted by TOP RANK….

• REQUEST NO. 4: A Representative Sample of All Agreements between TOP RANK and any Boxers, relating to participation in a Professional Boxing Fight or Professional Boxing Event, and any Documents and Communications relating to the negotiation, termination, cancellation or transfer thereof. Responsive Documents include, without limitation, executed Agreements, draft Agreements, side letters, all negotiations between TOP RANK and any Boxer, including any Professional Boxer,
or their agents, managers, promoters, or other representatives (regardless of whether such negotiations resulted in an executed Agreement), copies of any form agreements; and all Documents relating to the effects any such actual or potential Agreements between TOP RANK and any Athlete, including any professional Boxer, had on TOP RANK’s revenues, valuation, or ability to operate profitably as a Boxing Promoter.

Zuffa Plaintiffs claim that the information is vital for their case and that the UFC denied the differences between boxing and MMA in its answer to the lawsuit with the inference that they were interchangeable.  Notably, in its Reply brief it claimed that the business of promoting fights is the same for all combat sports.

Payout Perspective:

Plaintiffs Reply Brief includes quotes from Lou DiBella and Dana White’s deposition but most of the citations are redacted.  The order which spells out what Top Rank and the Plaintiffs had agreed upon is heavily redacted so we specifically do not know what the parties agreed to provide and whether or if the deposition of Bob Arum will take place.  It could be that Top Rank agreed to provide a portion of documents so long as Arum is not deposed and/or someone else within the company is deposed.

GGG-Canelo replay on HBO draws 726,000 viewers

September 26, 2017

HBO’s Boxing telecast which included a replay of the GGG-Canelo fight drew 726,000 viewers via Nielsen.  The live fight of the telecast drew 687,000 viewers.

Saturday night’s event which replayed GGG-Canelo peaked at 840,000 viewers and drew 0.24 in the A18-49 demo.

The fight between Jorge Linares and Luke Campbell peaked at 726,000 viewers and drew 0.23 in the A18-49 demo.  Linares won via split decision.

Canelo PPV replays on HBO:

Canelo-JCC, Jr:  769,000

Canelo-Khan:  767,000

Canelo-Smith: 459,000

Canelo-Cotto:  901,000

Payout Perspective:

Despite the hype for this fight it is only third on the above list in terms of replay viewership.  This is surprising considering the draw and how most thought this

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Friday night draws 706,000 viewers

September 25, 2017

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Friday night drew 706,000 viewers on ESPN according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event featured title defenses by Oscar Valdez and Gilbert Ramirez.

The ratings for the event are the best thus far for Friday night boxing on ESPN since the agreements with Golden Boy and Top Rank went into place earlier this year.

The Valdez-Genesis Servania ended the night of fights which started at 11:42pm ET.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are promising as these Friday night fights are used to promote up and coming fighters.  Those that tuned in to see Valdez-Servania saw a great action-packed fight.  Notably, Top Rank Boxing did much better than the UFC on FXX Friday night which drew just 502,000 viewers for its main card and 416,000 for the prelims.

Appeal to 9th Circuit for plaintiffs that felt duped from Pac-May fight

September 20, 2017

Late last month, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the class action lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming that they were duped by the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight in May 2015 due to the fact Pacquiao did not disclose a previous shoulder injury.

Despite the order dismissing the case, the plaintiffs have filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  But first, let’s look at the facts and the district court opinion.

Order Dismissing Pacquiao-Mayweather Boxing Match PPV Litigation by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

As we know, Manny Pacquiao faced Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Mayweather won via unanimous decision.  After the fight, Pacquiao indicated that he had an injury.  However, the facts would suggest that this was never disclosed prior to the fight.  In fact, on his pre-fight questionnaire, he did not indicate an issue with his shoulder.

Many believed that the injured shoulder was a factor in the outcome of the fight.  Those that paid for the fight on PPV ($100), bought a seat at the venue or watched on closed circuit or in a movie theatre were angered that they did not see the best Pacquiao and/or the injury was not disclosed.  Obviously, something like this has a trickle-down impact to the consumer but also to those that placed money on the fight.

Lawsuits were filed as a result and were subsequently consolidated to this court.  Plaintiffs allege that “Defendants were motivated by huge profits” to continue with the fight despite the alleged injury.  They claim that they affirmatively concealed the injury in promotion of the fight.

Attorneys for Pacquiao, Mayweather, Top Rank, Mayweather Promotions, and its related entitites filed a Motion to Dismiss the lawsuits.  On August 25th, the district court agreed with the defendants that this lawsuit should be dismissed.

The opinion emphasized that the legal system is not the proper place for unhappy fans to vent their anger over a result of a sporting event.  The court made a determination as to whether to determine the complaints per a “license approach “to assess the rights of fans that purchase a ticket to a sporting event.  Under this approach, purchasers are entitled to “nothing more than a revocable license” regardless of what transpires at the event.  However, the court noted that this specific issue was a novel occurrence and it had to determine whether it should apply this standard.

The court did cite to a ticketholder/PPV purchaser case from 2000 where Mike Tyson was sued after a fight between Tyson and Evander Holyfield.  You may recall that this was the bout where Tyson infamously bit Holyfield’s ear.  Plaintiffs in that case claimed that Tyson’s plan was to get disqualified if he could not win and this was a “premediated plan” to end the fight.  In that case, the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was dismissed and the appeal upheld the dismissal rationalizing that fans got what they paid for.

In addition to the “license approach,” the opinion discusses a set of cases which do not use the theory.  Instead, this line of cases have had plaintiffs assert their legal rights when sports teams allegedly lie to promote ticket sales.  Two lawsuits involve professional teams that were moving but did not tell their fan base and one case in which a team stated it was financially able to finish a hockey season but folded 13 games into the season.

So, the court determined which of these approaches it should take.  Either the “License approach” cases which resulted in no legally cognizable injury or the lawsuits against sports teams which reflects a legally cognizable injury.

The court found the “License approach” was the correct application since the alleged omissions and misrepresentations were based on athletic competition (i.e, concealing Pacquiao’s injury).

From the opinion:

The Court holds that a misrepresentation or omission implicates the core of athletic competition, and therefore does not constitute a cognizable injury to a legally protected interest under the license approach, if it is related to: (A) competitive strategy, or (B) the quality or outcome of competitive performance.

It’s also noteworthy that the court argues public policy as to why it ruled against the Plaintiffs here:

Thus, allowing sports fans to sue over the vicissitudes of competitive sports could destroy the
very thing that makes sports fandom so special. A holding in favor of Plaintiffs in this case could be construed to require near total transparency in sports, whereby any inflated, unreliable, or cryptic prevent statements would beget lawsuits. Gone would be the days of headstrong athletes declaring their complete readiness to destroy their opponents. Athletes would never again publicly predict that they will prevail, or even conclude that an event will be exciting. Sports teams and athletes might even be required to disclose the weak spots in their game plans or preparations before every event for all to see (including their opponents).

The judicial opinion is highlighted by a cite to a Joe Rogan podcast related to the uncertainty of sports.  The court commented that the “unpredictability and uncertainty” of competitive sports is important to it.  The point is that the unexpected nature of sport is inherent in sport and expected by fans.

Payout Perspective:

At first read, you wonder why Plaintiffs have decided to appeal this case to the 9th Circuit.  There’s a lot of money that goes into an appeal and the success rate seems in doubt.  However, if you read the opinion closely, you can tell that the district court is making up their own law as they go.  Perhaps that’s a little strong, but they are definitely applying a legal standard they feel is right for this circumstance.  While the “license approach” has been used to decide cases in disgruntled fan lawsuits in the past, there is no real precedent setting case (as the court notes in the opinion).  Thus there’s a line of cases which could be helpful to Plaintiffs but is not applied.  Moreover, the public policy as argued by the Court gives us the old “slippery slope” argument which I personally take offense.  Even if you think that this is ridiculous to follower, there is a telling piece of law here that may be more important than whether someone gets their $100 back.

 

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