There may be some hope after all for a strong pay-per-view
boxing year, as both TVKO and Showtime Event Television pursue major fights slated for the
first half of 2000.
TVKO is close to finalizing plans for an April 29 Lennox
Lewis-Michael Grant heavyweight-championship fight. Meanwhile, SET wants to revive a
potential March Felix Trinidad-David Reid junior middleweight event, sources from the
The Lewis-Grant fight would pit the unified heavyweight
champion against arguably the best division contender. TVKO senior vice president Mark
Taffet said that while the deal isn't finalized, the company is "working
diligently" toward making the event.
"We've been focused on Lewis and Grant because we
think that it is not only the best heavyweight fight out there, but literally the biggest
fight for PPV," he added.
The development of the Lewis-Grant bout is a surprising one
for the industry. TVKO initially believed that Lewis would fight a lesser opponent first
on Home Box Office before taking on a top contender like Grant.
But while Lewis-Grant may be the best fight available, it
will be hard-pressed to match the performances of the prior two heavyweight-championship
PPV fights between Lewis and Evander Holyfield last year. Those two events pulled in a
total of approximately 2 million buys and more than $100 million.
Lewis has yet to prove that he can carry a PPV event on his
own -- his best performance outside of Holyfield netted fewer than 300,000 buys. Grant is
well known in boxing circles, but he has yet to establish himself as a household name,
although his HBO fights have generated strong ratings.
Nevertheless, Taffet believes the fight could generate
decent PPV numbers despite Grant's relative obscurity. He pointed to the PPV success
of last year's Oscar De La Hoya-Ike Quartey PPV fight, before which very few people
knew of Quartey.
"Lewis-Grant is the best fight to make in the
heavyweight division, and we're committed to marketing and promoting the event,"
he said. "We've faced similar challenges last year and the industry exceeded
expectations every time."
Lewis-Grant is not the only PPV fight on TVKO's plate.
The network will distribute a March 4 Hispanic-oriented fight card featuring World Boxing
Association bantamweight champion Paulie Ayala. The fight card will retail at a suggested
price of $24.95
Meanwhile, SET is looking to resurrect a much-anticipated
March Trinidad-Reid fight, which appeared dead late last year due to contract problems
surrounding Reid. With those problems now resolved, network executives said the company is
hopeful of distributing the bout to operators.
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