Canelo vs Smith Looks Like Bad Day For HBO Boxing – The preliminary pay-per-view numbers for September 17th’s HBO Boxing PPV showdown between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Liam Smith are in and the numbers are not good. Several sources are reporting the number to be in the 290,000 to 310,000 range, with some sources putting the number closer to 250,000.
Even the best estimates for the fight have the sales at less than half the purported 660,000 buys that Alvarez did against Amir Khan this past May 7th. If the numbers are truly that low, then neither HBO nor Golden Boy will ever come forward with a trustworthy final figure.
It is now roughly 18 months since the May of 2015 match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., an event that shattered the all-time record for PPV buys. It is now clear that the overwhelming majority of the people who bought that were disappointed and they have not been buying since. HBO has already showed signs that they have felt the differences in the PPV market, and they are assessing their strategy on boxing going forward.
Canelo vs Smith Looks Like Bad Day For HBO Boxing
HBO Boxing returns on November 19th for another pay-per-view offering as the network presents Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward in a fight they have invested a year in making.
HBO recently turned down Bob Arum’s Top Rank offering of Manny Pacquiao vs. Jessie Vargas that was set for November 5th. The network has featured Pacquiao in many large scale PPVs over the years, and their rebuff was painted by Arum as a lack of loyalty. But Pacquiao is now 38 years old and well past his prime as an international draw. It was purely a business decision by the cable giant which has been investing in the pairing of Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Gennady Golovkin, the aforementioned Kovalev vs. Ward fight and, until last weekend, the return of Canelo, who was (but may no longer be) the sport’s top draw. Pacquiao’s forthcoming fight was a bad fit on their schedule, plus he no longer has the magnetic pull that he had in the past.
Face it, “Canelo” has had a bad year. His entire approach to marketing has backfired and he has gone from a beloved Mexican champion and young up-and-coming superstar to being ridiculed for avoiding Gennady Golovkin, the one opponent who could make his next match mean something. Through it all Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya has remained steadfast, invoking the privileges he believes that Alvarez deserves as boxing’s biggest attraction. With 290k to 310k PPV buys this last time out, the public has spoken quite emphatically that they are not buying what Golden Boy has to offer.
At the end of the day, De La Hoya’s rhetoric is relatively unimportant. What will become infinitely more important will be how Oscar and GBP handle their relationship with HBO going forward. Was the expectation set that this PPV had a chance of equaling his last disappointing outing against Khan? Did anyone take into account that a flat performance in that fight combined with a poor media campaign could result in less buys? What was the number of buys expected? Was that number reached? Did HBO executives hear at every turn that “Canelo is #1” and a surefire sell?
In the days after the fight, De La Hoya and Alvarez mounted a PR campaign that included pictures of the pair signing contracts for a Gennady Golovkin fight. The intent was to make it look like the ball was in Golovkin’s court, but a deeper look revealed that the offer was a flat fee, something that is not standard at the level at which the two operate and certainly not something that can be viewed as a serious offer.
The low PPV numbers may have HBO examining their boxing strategy for 2017. HBO will certainly have a choice to make come Cinco de Mayo 2017 if Golden Boy pushes for Alvarez vs. David Lemieux. That may cause the network to re-think their relationship with Team Alvarez. Though there is no indication that it is on Canelo’s mind, if things continue down this path the young Mexican superstar may be left asking who is responsible for his fall from grace.
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