This Saturday (Nov. 21), HBO Sports will look to put the icing on the cake of what has already been a record-setting year for pay-per-view boxing when it distributes the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez fight for Cotto’s World Boxing Council middleweight championship belt.
The bout comes six months after HBO and Showtime’s historic PPV boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, which generated 4.7 million buys and more than $400 million in revenue. While Cotto-Alvarez isn’t expected to match Mayweather-Pacquiao’s lofty performance, industry observers have said the fight between two marquee champions will finish as the second-most lucrative PPV event of the year.
The Cotto-Alvarez fight also marks HBO’s last under the tutelage of HBO Sports president Ken Hershman after three years at the helm. Hershman, who prior to joining HBO served as executive vice president and general manager for Showtime Networks, overseeing that pay service’s boxing events, will leave HBO at the end of the year. A replacement has not been named.
Hershman and Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead discussed Saturday’s fight, as Hershman reflected on his time at HBO Sports and looked ahead at what’s next for the PPV boxing category.
MCN: The pay-per-view boxing category has already broken every performance record heading into Saturday’s Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez fight. Put into perspective how big this year was for boxing and the PPV category.
Ken Hershman: It was clearly a record-breaking year. Clearly, when you do 4.7 million buys for one event, it signifies that boxing is far from dead and it’s a strong category. I think the handing off of the baton from Mayweather-Pacquiao to Cotto-Canelo is the perfect transition to keep the sport vibrant and thriving.
MCN: What are your expectations for Cotto-Alvarez from a PPV performance perspective?
KH: I think it will clearly be the second-biggest fight of the year — and under ordinary circumstances, it would have been the biggest fight of the year. I never predict buys, but I know that this is an extraordinarily compelling matchup, with the new leader in the sport in Canelo Alvarez against one of the biggest names and most impressive fighters in terms of career success and longevity in Miguel Cotto. It will be a great night for all involved in the event.
MCN: What are the PPV boxing prospects for 2016?
KH: I think fighters will continue to emerge, and the mantle — it’s just inevitable. When Michael Jordan retired people said, what’s going to happen to the NBA? And then you had Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal come along, and now you have LeBron James. There’s always someone to replace the former biggest star of the sport, so that will happen. Canelo has a bright future, Gennady Golovkin [International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association middleweight champion] has a great future, Sergey Kovalev [WBA, IBF and World Boxing Organization light heavyweight champion] and Andre Ward [former WBA super middleweight champion] are in the mix. There are plenty of great names to take the mantle.
MCN: Is the Cotto-Alvarez fight a bittersweet one for you, given that it’s your last big PPV event as head of HBO Sports?
KH: Look, it’s been a great experience, and I had a great 20-plus years in and around the biggest fights and the biggest boxers in the sport. I really feel very blessed to have had an amazing career being a part of all the great content over the years. This is a nice way to go out — it’s a special event and it will be a special night, and I’m going to love just sitting there as a fan and not really worrying about the business underneath it. That’s a nice place to be.
MCN: What’s next on your career horizon?
KH: I’m working on a number of things that I’m not ready to talk publicly about yet, but there are a lot of exciting things for me in my new chapter — I have a lot of career left in me and I’m looking at some exciting things. Right now I’m focused on the Nov. 21 Canelo-Cotto fight.