The sports pages have recently been inundated with stories
of multimillion-dollar athletes fighting each other in all-out, action-packed donnybrooks,
with thousands of enthusiastic fans screaming for even more blood.
Too bad they were describing basketball and baseball games,
instead of pay-per-view fights.
Unfortunately for operators, there's been more written
about pseudo punches being tossed between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat during the
NBA playoffs, and between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles in last Tuesday
night's game, than about the real punches that will be hurled June 6 between Evander
Holyfield and Henry Akinwande on PPV.
Nevertheless, operators are hoping and praying that the
sanctioned and skilled fisticuffs exhibited by Holyfield and Akinwande can bring the same
media coverage to boxing that the ugly brawls have seemingly provided, albeit negatively,
for baseball and basketball.
Right now, Holyfield-Akinwande will most likely top the
total of more than 300,000 buys that Showtime's March 7 Julio Cesar Chavez-Miguel
Angel Gonzalez bout brought, but it may have difficulty beating out the more than 700,000
buys earned by Wrestlemania XIV.
In fact, given the paucity of potentially lucrative fights,
wrestling may break boxing's long-standing PPV streak and finish with the most
successful PPV event of the year. That's not good news for operators, most of which
have factored in at least one mega-boxing event in 1998.
So far, only a proposed Oscar De La Hoya-Chavez rematch for
September has an outside chance to challenge Wrestlemania'sthrone.
But given De La Hoya's convincing win over Chavez two years ago, it's unlikely
that the fight will draw little more than hard-core boxing fans.
By then, the WWF or the WCW may have raised the bar again
with another of their incredibly popular PPV shows.
One other potential bout may draw significant interest: A
George Foreman-Larry Holmes fight for the geriatric heavyweight championship could be
enough of a spectacle to generate around 500,000 buys. But with both fighters pushing 50,
it's not the franchise fight that PPV distributors or operators were hoping for this
Unless Mike Tyson gets his boxing license back in two
months and fights before the end of the year, the industry may fail to register an
800,000-buy event for only the second time in the 1990s. Holyfield-Akinwande may not be
Tyson-Holyfield, but it may be the best that boxing has to offer to PPV this year.