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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: PAY-PER-EVERYTHING

By Paul Magno | June 10, 2024
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: PAY-PER-EVERYTHING

Believe it or not, I kinda, sorta take this boxing writing gig seriously. I don’t take the shit-heads, cucks, and stooges seriously-- of course. They deserve to be mocked and ridiculed and poked with sharp sticks from outside their chimp cages. But I do try to build my entire media presence around the premise of fairness. Holding people equally accountable and held to the same standards is a big deal if you’re going to approach media work as something of even marginal worth.

So, when I say that Gervonta Davis and David Benavidez are two of my favorite active fighters and, in the same breath, say that their upcoming shared-bill pay-per-view [versus Frank Martin and Oleksandr Gvozdyk, respectively] is a cynical misstep, people really shouldn’t be all that surprised.

I’ve railed against the non-stop pay-per-view business model employed by boxing companies these days. Passing the hat always, for everything, may be a short-term necessity to stay afloat, but it’s nothing but a long-term killer as the sport’s best and most attractive talent gets buried behind sometimes two or three paywalls. Boxing people have us so conditioned to having our pockets picked that we forget that even subscription services are pay-per-view. And let’s not even talk about the absurdity of these people charging for subscriptions and STILL putting anything decent behind a fat PPV price.

This aggressively anti-consumer atmosphere only serves as a breeding ground for Robin Hood illegal streamers, who can make more and more of an argument that what they do is a fair play slap in the face to the greedy bossmen.

My take when people ask “is this show worth the price” has always been-- It is if you choose to pay it. That’s still the right answer. But, in the big picture? Boxing businessmen are pocketing pennies at the expense of quarters down the road.

And that takes me back to this coming Saturday’s twin-bill Gervonta Davis, David Benavidez double-header.

Of the fighters currently on the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) roster, Davis and Benavidez are the most attractive and in-their-prime bankable. There are blockbusters within an arm’s reach for both as Davis has any number of potential legacy fights in the 135-140 lb. range and Benavidez is still the only real and true contender to Canelo Alvarez.

So, maybe the best idea would be to showcase these talents and attract as many eyeballs to them as possible before grabbing at the generational wealth money in their next fights-- which would be there if more people were exposed to these exciting fighters. But, no. They’ll be behind an $80 PPV paywall-- in decent but, let’s be honest, not earth-rattling matchups-- that pretty much ensures only the most die-hard, already-sold fans will be watching.

Getting the quick money and getting out is very much a boxing mindset. It brings to mind a quote from UFC president Dana White-- the only thing from him with which I’ve ever agreed-- where he described boxing’s business model as one forever “going out of business sale” where no concern is ever given to future business.

Boxing is openly embracing the mindset of a perpetual harvest with no effort to plant for the future.

Maybe this is just the boxing world we live in. Maybe without the promise of “PPV” money, these guys wouldn’t be around. But, at the same time, this is also the world we built and continue to build, thereby ensuring that things won’t likely change until some great and glorious collapse facilitates a much-needed rebuild.

I don’t know. But right now, in the present tense, I’d like for my friends and boxing-curious acquaintances to get a look at some of boxing’s most electrifying talent without having to dish out a few days’ worth of grocery money to do so and without me having to drag all of them over to my place to watch.

This isn’t me being cheap, this is me having common sense. How can we grow the sport when we’ve walled off everything good? If, back in the 80’s, I would’ve had to pay a crazy fee to watch Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns, etc., I never would’ve become a fan in the first place. Why would I invest hard-earned money into a sport I wasn’t familiar with and into athletes I had never really seen?

While it’s true that boxing revenue is up in some areas and with some events, that’s just an illusion, a bubble ready to burst. Having fewer people paying more for the privilege of watching is not a winning business model if your goal is to run a business beyond 5-10 years.

Gervonta Davis has done exceptionally well for himself, despite everything, becoming the type of grassroots star everyone in boxing says we so desperately need. In “Tank,” we’re looking at someone who could be that crossover mainstream star we haven’t had since Mayweather and Pacquiao-- something way beyond just being a “boxing” star.

But how do we get more and more people to see Tank do his thing?

It’s not by sticking him, in what should be a showcase fight, behind a way-too-high paywall.

Maybe Team Davis and PBC are hoping for cool viral clips from the fight on social media to further build a PPV buying base. If so, that’s fantasy land thinking, something akin to making out your household budget based on hopeful lottery scratch-off wins.

But what do I know? I’m just some shit-head boxing scribe sporting this ridiculously unrewarded and wildly unappreciated pro-boxing bias.

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

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