The Sept. 18 Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad
welterweight-unification fight proved to be a knockout attraction for the cable industry
on two fronts.
The much-anticipated fight generated more than $64 million
in pay-per-view revenue and pulled an incredible 1.25 million buys -- both records for a
nonheavyweight title fight.
Further, the fight's ending -- a controversial
decision win for Trinidad -- could lead to an even more lucrative rematch sometime in
With most boxing rematches, the second fight is often made
because the first fight was such a memorable event, or because it left some question as to
who really was the best fighter. While Trinidad was declared the victor, most boxing
observers believe De La Hoya did enough to win the fight, although not very impressively.
Sometimes rematches live up to lofty expectations, but
sometimes they fall short. Or on rare occasions -- as with the upcoming Nov. 13 Evander
Holyfield-Lennox Lewis heavyweight-championship fight -- a rematch is created to help
people forget about the first encounter.
The first Holyfield-Lewis fight in March was supposed to
unify the most coveted and revered individual championship in sports. Time-tested warrior
and World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champion Evander
Holyfield versus talented new-jack champion Lennox Lewis was supposed to be the biggest
fight of 1999.
But while it was a financial success -- earning more than
$60 million, with 1.2 million PPV buys -- the action in the ring was lackluster, at best.
Even more disappointing, the majority draw decision left unsatisfied many fight fans
hoping to see the first unified heavyweight champion since the early 1990s.
The decision was so controversial -- many observers at
ringside thought Lewis won a close decision -- that it spurred several local New York and
federal investigations into fight fixing and judge tampering.
With so much bad karma surrounding the first fight, many
industry observers weren't sure whether a second encounter would be made for fear
that the smell of the first event would inevitably hurt potential PPV sales.
Yet the industry decided that the risk was worth the
effort. The hope is that there are many fight fans who still want to see the heavyweight
championship unified -- even if the same two fighters failed to do so the first time.
TVKO and operators are betting that boxing fans have short
memories. PPV executives are also hoping that viewers' tastes for unification fights
were whetted enough with the De La Hoya-Trinidad PPV event.
The industry may even get an assist from former heavyweight
champion Mike Tyson, who fights Oct. 23 on Showtime pay TV, three weeks before the
Holyfield-Lewis rematch on PPV. Undoubtedly, fans will be reminded of the two
Holyfield-Tyson battles, and they will yearn to once again see Holyfield defend the titles
he won from Tyson.
But inevitably, the key to the Holyfield-Lewis bout's
success is the same formula that made De La Hoya-Trinidad so profitable: The industry will
have to once again aggressively market and promote the event.
Getting the fight fan to order the fight won't be a
problem. But TVKO and the industry will have to work hard at convincing the casual boxing
fan to dish out $50 again to see the sequel to a disappointing opening event.