While the pay-per-view industry approaches the dawn of a
new and hopefully lucrative millennium, PPV boxing seems to be moving backward to the late
1990s -- more specifically, to 1998, when the sport couldn't manufacture any major
fights and it generated a pitiful $40 million, the lowest revenue take of the 1990s.
So far, the new year seems to be following in the footsteps
of that awful year.
At press time, there weren't any major fights on the
PPV schedule for the first quarter of 2000. In fact, there aren't any marquee fights
being talked about by fight promoters and PPV-fight distributors.
The scenario is a far cry from the first quarter of 1999,
when boxing garnered a record $117 million, mostly from three major fights: Mike
Tyson-Francois Botha, Oscar De La Hoya-Ike Quartey and Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis.
One of the reasons for boxing's slow start is the fact
that several top draws have recently fallen from PPV grace either inside or outside of the
PPV champion Tyson is still trying to resurrect his boxing
career after serving a short jail term and once again fouling an opponent in the ring. The
former heavyweight champion will fight overseas later this month, on Showtime, before
testing the PPV waters again in the spring, possibly against title contender Shannon
De La Hoya is trying to re-establish himself as the
sport's pre-eminent PPV draw after failing to impress in his biggest PPV fight
against Trinidad. He will fight on Home Box Office in February before returning to PPV
sometime in the spring. Outside of a rematch with Trinidad, though, De La Hoya will be
hard-pressed to continue his string of heavyweightlike PPV performances.
The current crop of uninspiring or unknown heavyweights
will also struggle to meet PPV heavyweight expectations. While the division has its first
unified champion since Riddick Bowe in the early 1990s, no one expects Lewis to be as
strong a PPV draw as ex-champions Tyson and Holyfield.
It would be hard to match the PPV success of those two
fighters -- 12 of the top 13 highest-grossing PPV events in history involve Tyson and/or
Holyfield -- but the laid-back Lewis isn't even being considered for a PPV date
unless it's against Tyson.
Until a major fight surfaces, the category will most likely
rely on smaller, predominantly Hispanic-oriented fights to generate revenue.
Unless the sport can miraculously develop several 750,000-
to 1 million-buy PPV events, it will find itself struggling to reach the $50 million
revenue mark after generating almost $220 million last year. Also, operators will once
again agonize over trying to meet PPV-budget projections with wrestling and other smaller
sports and entertainment events.
Maybe one day, the Battle Bots and monster trucks will be
able to supplement boxing's enormous contribution to the PPV-event revenue pie. Until
then, operators will just have to hang on and ride boxing's seemingly never-ending