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Officials hope Ward-Kovalev rematch does better on HBO PPV

Photo by: Tom Hogan
Fighters Network

The eternally optimistic Roc Nation president Michael Yormark believes the rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev on June 17 will do considerably better on HBO PPV than it did the first time, when the telecast produced around 160,000 buys, a result Yormark described as discouraging.

“To be honest with you, I think the first one was a little disappointing,” Yormark told on Monday of the PPV numbers last year. “We have to do more. We have to build up the hype. We have to make sure that people understand how special this fight is. I know rematches don’t typically do as well but I think this is a unique situation. The way the first fight ended —  you’ve got two great champions in their prime and unlike last fight they don’t like each other. And that’s what’s going to fuel the excitement and anticipation and the motivation for people to say, ‘You know what? I can’t miss this. I’ve got to buy it on HBO PPV.’  So we anticipate the rematch doing much better.”

Kovalev seemed to put the burden on Ward for the PPV struggles of the first fight. Ward won by three scores of 114-113 on Nov. 19, rising from a second-round knockdown to wrest away Kovalev’s three light heavyweight titles. Observers seemed split on who really won, leading to a built-in storyline for a rematch, which is also for the RING’s light heavyweight belt. “Was Ward ever an exciting fighter to have a pay-per-view fight?” Kovalev asked rhetorically, speaking through a translator on Monday before the kick-off press conference. “No. Even the Super Six Tournament — he’s a boring fighter. He’s technical. People who like boxing, who know boxing, he might be technical, but he’s a boring fighter and boxing fans, he never sells out, except Oakland. He was never a pay-per-view star and I don’t think he’ll ever be.”

Main Events CEO Kathy Duva admitted there were brief discussions (“Maybe a minute”) for the rematch at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas to take place on regular HBO instead of pay-per-view. The economics of the bout, however, dictated it took place on PPV. Regarding the first fight, there were a number of hurdles to overcome in explaining the PPV result. “I feel more heat this time already,” Duva said. “I feel more interest, people are excited about it, more so than the first time. It had an awful lot going against us and it wasn’t just Pacquiao fighting a week before. It was the election. It was everything that was going on. The NFL was down 20%. Everybody got affected. This time it’s a little different.”

Duva said the driving force behind the rematch isn’t PPV dollars. “Our feeling in this is that it was made very clear to me a day after the fight, ‘I want my belts back,’” Duva said of Kovalev’s insistence to get his belts back. “So this one isn’t for the money so much as it is for the belts and I don’t really care if it does better,” she said. “But I think it might. We’ll do our best.”

Yormark believes more of a promotional effort has to be pooled by all the entities involved to make it a success. “We don’t want to make any predictions but we also have to work it,” he said. “HBO has to push this thing hard. Roc Nation in conjunction with Main Events has to work this thing and push it really hard.”