NEW YORK — Legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum will team with HBO to kick off the 2016 pay-per-view boxing calendar with the April 9 fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley Jr., the third fight between the two former welterweight champions.
Arum spoke to Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead last Thursday (Jan. 21), prior to the fight’s press conference here, to discuss the upcoming bout, the state of the PPV boxing industry and the potential impact of new distribution platforms on the category.
MCN: Beyond Pacquiao’s return to the ring for the first time after his record-setting 2015 fight with Floyd Mayweather, what is the appeal of Pacquiao-Bradley to boxing fans?
Bob Arum: Bradley has changed his style under [boxing trainer Teddy Atlas] and is now a totally different fighter, so when he and Manny get in the ring, it’s going to be a very exciting fight. On the undercard, I have three fighters that could be the future of the PPV boxing category in Jose Ramirez, Oscar Valdez and Gilberto Ramirez. Ramirez is fighting Arthur Abraham for the middleweight championship, so it’s definitely a strong undercard, because I believe one or more of those guys are going to emerge as a future big draw on PPV.
MCN: Where do you see the PPV boxing business? The industry had a record year in 2015, but the two fighters mainly responsible for that record performance — Floyd Mayweather, who has already retired, and Manny Pacquiao, who says he’s retiring after this fight — won’t be around to lift the category.
BA: Again, everyone always says that the PPV boxing category is dead after a few years of success, ever since the days of [Marvin] Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard. I’ve been in the business 50 years and I’ve always heard that refrain, but that’s why I’m saying that there will always be other fighters who will carry the banner.
We know one guy that does really good business and that’s Canelo Alvarez, and I think Gilberto Ramirez, if he beats Abraham, wants to fight [middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin], which could be a big PPV draw if it happens. There’s also Terence Crawford who is a champion, so there are fighters that could become big PPV boxing draws.
MCN: Do you see the changing technological landscape as a positive development for the sport of boxing, in terms of distributing content?
BA: We all believe that technologies such as video streaming will be a benefit to boxing. Right now, we can’t put our hands on how to take advantage of it. We’ve been streaming these PPV fights with modest success. The cable distributors require us to charge the same price as somebody ordering it on television, and I can understand why they do that. If I could sell that fight for $10 to someone who wants to watch it on their phone, that would be interesting, but right now I can’t.
Where we are experimenting [with streaming] is in China, and that could tell us some things. We’re finding already that more people are watching fights (in China] via a stream than on television.
MCN: Oscar De La Hoya recently announced he is launching two boxing-based streaming channels. Is that something you might be interested in doing at some point?
BA: No. I commend Oscar for trying, but it will take a lot of experimentation and money to find the right answers. I look forward to Oscar experimenting and I’m rooting for it to be successful, but I don’t have a clear picture of how a [digital network] will work.
Without a clear picture for me it would be reckless to experiment. Maybe Oscar can find the solution … I wish him luck. If he does well, we’ll be a little behind, but we’ll catch up.
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