by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
This past weekend’s fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Oscar de la Hoya shattered the pay-per-view industry’s all-time records for buys and gross revenue for a single event, with approximately 2,150,000 pay-per-view buys and $120 million in gross PPV revenue.
The number of buys for the show exceeded all expectations. Going into the show, it was believed that the event would break the all-time record for a non-heavyweight boxing PPV (which was 1.4 million and was set by De la Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad in 1999), but the event was not expected to break the sport’s all-time record of 1.99 million PPV buys. As it turned out, Mayweather vs. De la Hoya surpassed that mark by over 100,000 buys.
PPV RECORDS BROKEN
The previous all-time boxing PPV records were set by a 1997 fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield; and a 2002 fight between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
The last time Oscar de la Hoya fought, it was against Ricardo Mayorga in May 2006. De la Hoya vs. Mayorga drew 925,000 pay-per-view buys and generated $46.2 million in gross PPV revenue.
The UFC’s biggest event in company history, last December’s UFC 66 with Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz as the main event, drew approximately 1,050,000 pay-per-view buys and grossed approximately $41.95 million in PPV revenue.
Prior to that, the UFC’s biggest PPV in company history was UFC 61 (with Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock as the main event), as that event drew approximately 775,000 PPV buys and grossed approximately $30.96 million in PPV revenue.
LIVE GATE RECORDS BROKEN
Mayweather vs. De la Hoya is also expected to have broken boxing’s all-time records at the live box office, with over $19 million in gross ticket sales at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The previous record of approximately $16.9 million was held by the 1999 rematch between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Last May, Oscar de la Hoya’s fight against Ricardo Mayorga generated approximately $7.6 million in gross ticket receipts at the MGM Grand.
The UFC’s biggest live event in company history was UFC 66 at the MGM Grand in December of last year, which generated approximately $5.4 million in gross ticket receipts. Prior to UFC 66, the UFC’s biggest live gate was drawn by UFC 57 in February 2006, which featured Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture in the main event and generated approximately $3.4 million in gross ticket receipts.
FIGHTERS’ PAY, THE “24/7″ SERIES, & THE REMATCH
Oscar de la Hoya’s guaranteed, upfront purse for the fight was $23.3 million, and his final purse is expected to be nearly $50 million, according to both ESPN and the Los Angeles Times.
Floyd Mayweather’s guaranteed, upfront purse for the fight was $10 million, and his final purse is expected to be approximately $20 million, also according to ESPN and the L.A. Times.
A significant portion of the fight’s success is being attributed to the success of HBO’s four-part series, “De le Hoya-Mayweather 24/7,” which has come to represent the new state-of-the-art for promoting an individual fight. A point could certainly be made that prior to “24/7,” nothing else came close to the UFC’s “Countdown” specials on Spike TV in their effectiveness at promoting certain fights.
However, the intimate, in-depth look into Mayweather and De la Hoya’s professional and personal lives that was offered by “24/7,” coupled with the series’ incredible production values, have taken the game to a whole new level.
A rematch between De la Hoya and Mayweather, perhaps in 2008 after De la Hoya’s pregnant wife has given birth, would appear to be likely as a result of the overwhelming financial success of the event. While Mayweather said before and after the event that he is retiring from fighting, he has also said numerous times in recent days (including on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno) that he might have to come out of retirement “if the fans demand to see a rematch.”
Within the boxing community, it was widely believed even before the aforementioned comments that Mayweather would fight again if a huge financial offer was made, which would be no less than $10 million to $15 million per fight.
Now that the record-breaking numbers have come in, any doubt as to whether Mayweather would be worth that kind of money for a rematch with De la Hoya has seemingly disappeared.
THE MYTH OF BOXING AS A “DYING SPORT”
Much like Jim Lampley’s thoughts on the subject of mixed martial arts, the whole notion of boxing as a “dead sport” or a “sport that needs to be saved” is based largely on ignorance of the facts. The facts are that last year was the second-biggest year in boxing history at the pay-per-view box office, with $177 million in gross PPV revenue for HBO.
It would also be inaccurate to say that boxing can’t draw decent PPV buyrates without Oscar de la Hoya. While De la Hoya vs. Mayorga was boxing’s biggest event in 2006, it only generated $42 million out of the $177 million in HBO’s gross PPV revenue last year. The remaining $132 million in gross PPV revenue was drawn by fights that did not feature De la Hoya.
One of the reasons for the existence of this false perception about boxing’s fortunes is the dramatic rise of the UFC on the PPV landscape in 2006. Even with boxing having its second-biggest year ever in 2006, the UFC surpassed boxing for the first time ever in 2006, with gross PPV revenue of $222,766,000 generated by UFC PPVs in 2006.
The drastic increase in the UFC’s pay-per-view buyrates did not appear to negatively affect boxing’s PPV buyrates. In fact, a major boxing PPV and a major UFC PPV aired at the same time on PPV last November, and neither event suffered any significant ill effects as a result of the head-to-head competition. There is some crossover between the two sports’ fans, but nowhere near as much as one might assume.
Though many hardcore MMA fans hate the pro wrestling industry with a passion, the fact remains that MMA’s audience overlaps much more with pro wrestling’s audience than it does with boxing’s.
It has been pro wrestling, not boxing, that has seen its United States PPV buyrates collapse as the UFC’s PPV buyrates have increased. It is pro wrestling, not boxing, that shares a similar demographic breakdown with the UFC. The #1 demographic for boxing is people over the age of 50. The UFC doesn’t draw particularly well among 35-to-49-year-olds, much less people over the age of 50.
HBO SPORTS PRESIDENT & UFC PRESIDENT COMMENT ON EVENT
In comments to the media after the record-setting PPV buyrate was announced, HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said, “This fight never would have materialized if boxing was dying. It’s alive and well.” Greenburg expanded on that point in the L.A. Times: “The sport of boxing is alive and well. If it isn’t, how do you explain this? The naysayers can go take a nap.”
In numerous interviews with the media after the De la Hoya-Mayweather fight, UFC president Dana White voiced his disappointment with the fight.
In one interview with the Boston Herald, some of White’s statements included: “I went to the fight that night. Inside the arena, there was no energy whatsoever… I’m not bashing boxing, I love it, but all these people have destroyed this sport… It’s crazy. It just drives people further from boxing. You get one fight for 55 bucks. One fight for a $2,500 ticket. You get people all excited for the buildup and then the fight ends up sucking. Both guys try to outpoint the other and win a decision.”
White continued, “In the UFC, we give you eight or nine fights, they’re all good, and the guys are fighting their asses off trying to finish it.”