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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: BURN BABY BURN!

By Paul Magno | May 04, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: BURN BABY BURN!

A few years back, in a piece written about me and my work as a writer, it was said, "He’s willing to destroy the village in order to save it."

Truer words were never written.

As fans and media count the days to boxing's return and daydream about a resumption of business as usual, I'm here hoping that this pandemic stuff completely levels the sport's house of cards. I'm rooting for a collapse. A full collapse. Burn, baby, burn!

Why be so mean, so cruel, so inconsiderate of those making a living in the business or from the business?

Because, honestly, a total collapse is the only way we're ever going to get a full-- and much needed-- rebuild. And a rebuild would do everyone good, fatten everyone's wallet, rebuild a lost base while strengthening and fortifying the sport's future. 

Rather than the slow strangulation we're now seeing, a post-collapse restructuring would open things up for actual growth. 

DAZN is doing no good for the business. Actually, the upstart streaming service is probably doing the most harm of any business entity in boxing. Mind you, the CONCEPT behind DAZN is not inherently bad. A reasonable subscription fee for boxing and increased accessibility is a good thing. But by roping off content behind a paywall and stubbornly remaining entirely behind that paywall, how can they hope to grow business to make their venture profitable and sustainable? At least with the old HBO/Showtime model, there was a chance that curious non-fans could be exposed to the sport. At DAZN, the sport is entirely segregated from all but the most die-hard of fans willing to pay to see it. There's zero chance of non-fans being exposed to the sport. How in the hell do you contribute to the sport making the best possible fights when your business model makes it imperative to keep "your" guys at home, only? If you can think of a mutually beneficial way in the present tense to match Devin Haney, for example, against non-DAZN guys like Vasiliy Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis, or Teofimo Lopez you are a smarter man than I. 

Premier Boxing Champions' return to the pay-per-view format is also troubling. PPV is never good in the long-run, it's always a short-term solution that, at best, kicks the can down the road when it comes to boxing's problems. The free PBC on Fox programming is good, but only up to a point if everything "high-end" is pushed off to pay-per-view.

A return to the premium cable business model is also not the least bit helpful. 40 years of boxing tucked away on HBO and Showtime caused the shrinking base problems the sport is seeing now. If the sport goes back to premium cable, it's only a sign that there was no other way to go.

The Top Rank-ESPN alliance has been, perhaps, the most disappointing business development of all. No other network was as capable of taking a niche sport like boxing and making it mainstream, but, very early on, ESPN showed itself indifferent to the sport's growth and ambivalent about its boxing programming in general by clearly using the sport as nothing but subscription fodder for its ESPN+ subscription-only service. Boxing's treatment by the "Worldwide Leader" leads one to believe that their investment in the sport was less about building the sport up and more about trying to make a quick buck from a fan base already conditioned to pay for everything.

So, yeah. Let this shit burn down. Then, rebuild from the ashes. Let's not even clutch at the remnants of the current business model.

The long-term solution for boxing is in, possibly, a subscription-based service that taps both traditional TV and internet stream. But it needs to have a cooperative element to it, bringing all promoters in on the deal, so big fights can be made without having to move heaven and hell to get things done. There also needs to be a "free" component to this-- maybe through YouTube stream and/or television-- so that the casual/curious can be exposed to prospects, rising stars, and the established main stage players.

This boxing stuff CAN be done right. But it WON'T be, as long as the current ways of doing things drag it down and keep it anchored to failed and failing business models. So, yeah, tear it all down so we can rebuild it right. Burn, baby, burn!

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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