At first glance, the Oct. 20 Mike Tyson-Andrew Golota fight seemed like a disastrous event for Showtime Event Television and the pay-per-view industry.
Tyson's first PPV appearance in nearly two years was easily his worst ever. SET's estimate of 450,000 to 500,000 buys for the fight (operators placed the number closer to 400,000) was well short of Tyson's previous low of 770,000 buys during his last PPV fight, against Frans Botha in January of 1999.
In his heyday, Tyson could have fought a rock on PPV and drawn a million buys. Instead, in what some industry observers expected to be the biggest PPV event of the year, Tyson-Golota couldn't even outdraw The Rock, whose appearance in the World Wrestling Federation's Oct. 22 event helped the show generate nearly 550,000 buys.
Further, the fight's disappointing conclusion-Golota walked out of the ring after just two rounds-rekindled the bad feelings and angst consumers have experienced during previously unsatisfying endings to Tyson fights. It was revealed days later that Golota had a broken cheekbone, a concussion and a slipped disk in his neck that could have paralyzed him had he continued. Unfortunately, that did little to quell fight fans' anger over the event's ending.
Given all of those factors, SET would be hard-pressed to make a case for putting Tyson's next fight on PPV, unless he fought Lennox Lewis for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.
But in retrospect, the Tyson numbers were respectable, given the marketing and promotional challenges that surrounded the event.
First, the fight was offered on a Friday night, not the traditional evening for PPV boxing events.
Then, handicapped by a shorter-than-normal PPV marketing window, the event's message was all but lost in a unusually busy early October advertising marketplace that included the Summer Olympics, Major League Baseball playoffs and a heavy run of political advertisements. Traditional week-of-fight media coverage was overshadowed by news surrounding the rare "subway" World Series in New York.
Yet, the fight drew 400,000 buys.
True, the Tyson of the-mid 1990s would have at least doubled that figure, even with all of Tyson-Golota's negatives factored in. But the fight's approximately $20 million payday in a PPV event-revenue-starved year was more than welcomed by operators. In fact, industry executives would be happy if both the Nov. 11 Lennox Lewis-David Tua and Dec. 2 Fernando Vargas-Felix Trinidad fights did comparable business.
The fact is that Tyson, with all of his transgressions and problems, is still a very viable draw in the PPV boxing business. He may not be the undisputed champion anymore, but he's still a very credible and profitable contender.