Nearly two months into the year, the pay-per-view industry
has precious few boxing matches to hang its budget hats on, and there are no signs that
any will be set in the near future.
A flurry of injuries and canceled fights have operators
wondering whether the industry will come close to the $240 million that it generated from
fights last year. Two weeks ago, light-heavyweight champion Roy Jones backed out of his
highly anticipated heavyweight debut against James 'Buster' Douglas, which had
been scheduled for May 2. Also, a Feb. 21 Larry Holmes-James Toney fight was recently
canceled due to an injury, although no one could say for certain who was hurt.
Just last week, welterweight champion and hot PPV draw
Oscar De La Hoya injured his left wrist, postponing his Feb. 28 Home Box Office fight with
No. 1 challenger Patrick Charpentier until March 14.
However, De La Hoya's scheduled June PPV fight against
a yet-to-be-named opponent is still intact, if he gets by Charpentier, said Dan York, vice
president and general manger for TVKO. '[The injury] in no way affects Oscar's
next PPV event, which is currently scheduled for June 6,' York said.
Further, York said TVKO expects De La Hoya to fight in a
second PPV event Sept. 19.
But outside of De La Hoya, only a March 7 Showtime Event
Television Julio Cesar Chavez-Miguel Angel Gonzalez fight is on tap for the industry.
'The operators are excited about that fight and the
opportunity for revenue because there isn't anything out there right now,' said
Debbie Barackman, vice president of programming for Request Television.
And the prospects for future mega-PPV bouts don't get
any better. Current heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield said at last week's ESPY
Awards that he would begin training for a mandatory title defense against lightly regarded
fighters Vaughn Bean or Henry Ackinwande. But neither fight would be much of a PPV draw,
according to PPV observers.
Showtime, however, is still exploring a possible
Holyfield-Frans Botha fight from South Africa for late spring or early summer.
A potentially lucrative Holyfield-Lennox Lewis unification
fight fell through last month over the fight's purse. Instead, Lewis is fighting
unheralded Shannon Briggs next month on HBO.
With Mike Tyson's boxing status still unclear until
July, when the Nevada Athletic Commission rules on whether to reinstate his boxing
license, operators aren't sure when or if a major lucrative boxing match will happen
'Right now, it looks like this could be our worst year
for boxing revenue in the 1990s,' said one top 10 PPV executive.
While cable is struggling to find PPV boxing matches, U.S.
Satellite Broadcasting will distribute an exclusive Feb. 21 fight card from promoter Don
King. The event will feature heavyweight contender Ray Mercer, said Colleen Galloway,
director of PPV for the direct-broadcast satellite service.
The show is the second in an arrangement between King and
USSB to offer exclusive PPV bouts. The first aired in December, and USSB offered it
free-of-charge to its subscribers, Galloway said.
'With that fight, we wanted to get the word out about
the event, as well as the new boxing series,' Galloway said.
This time, USSB is offering a $5 discount off the March 7
Chavez-Gonzalez fight to buyers of this week's event.
'It's an added-value offer to purchase this
event, as well as an opportunity to cross-market the Chavez-Gonzalez fight,' Galloway
To support the event, USSB is heavily marketing the card
through national telephone conference calls with the fighters and King, as well as in the
home cities of the boxers on the card, said Pat Milan, director of corporate
communications for USSB. In addition, the network will deliver an on-screen message to
subscribers promoting the Chavez-Gonzalez discount.
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