Opinion: Will Terence Crawford finally become a PPV draw?
From the moment Terence Crawford-Shawn Porter was announced as an ESPN+ pay-per-view, it was doomed to have a poor turnout. 135,000 buys is nothing short of dismal but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
I have spoken to several fans who have told me that they refuse to watch fights exclusively on streaming apps over the last year. I don’t mind one way or the other but imagine if you were in the shoes of a 56-year-old who wants to recline on the couch, grab a beer and watch a fight.
Tuning in on a big-screen television is an entirely different experience than watching on a smartphone, which many older Americans don’t possess. When fans are alienated, it will always show. There should have been an option to watch the fight either on TV or the ESPN+ app.
Crawford seemed to agree.
“I feel like there was a lot of opportunities left on the table,” he told Porter Tuesday night on “The Porter Way Podcast.” “You know what I mean? Not only with fighters but also with pay-per-view. Like for instance, me and Shawn Porter fought on a app. There were so many people that was telling me they don’t know how to get the app on the TV; they don’t know how to do it.
“And, you know, the average elderly person that doesn’t, you know, know tech, they not gonna know how to get the app on the TV. So what do they do? They don’t buy it. You know, so I feel like, you know, that was a setup [in] its own right, right then and there.”
It’s plausible for Crawford to believe that it was a setup to an extent. Following his fourth round stoppage win over Kell Brook last year, Bob Arum questioned whether it was worth extending his contract.
“He’s got to promote like [Teofimo] Lopez does. He’s got to promote like Shakur [Stevenson] does. Like [Floyd] Mayweather did. Like [Manny] Pacquiao did,” Arum said.
“If he doesn’t, then who the f— needs him? He may be the greatest fighter in the world but, hey, I ain’t going bankrupt promoting him. The question is, ‘Do we want to keep him?’ I could build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights. A beautiful home.”
What it boils down to is an economic issue. The Porter fight was just another example of how Arum hemorrhaged money on Crawford. The PPV failed to reach the break-even point of 150,000 buys. And when you’re paying $10 million [Crawford $6 million, Porter $4 million] for a fight that doesn’t live to the bare minimum, Arum’s frustration has merit.
It should also be noted that not every great fighter was a PPV draw. Take Hall-of-Famer Andre Ward, for instance. Tremendous fighter but, from a stylistic standpoint, was not everyone’s cup of tea. His last two fights with Sergey Kovalev generated 165,000 and 130,000 PPV purchases, respectively. Not all that great but they didn’t prevent him from Hall of Fame enshrinement.
The same applies to Crawford, who has won titles in three weight divisions. His spot in the Hall is all but guaranteed but he still has time.
Crawford (38-0, 29 knockouts) has generated a combined 340,000 buys over three PPVs. One Errol Spence Jr. PPV typically produces more than that. Spence’s bouts with Porter and Mikey Garcia yielded 725,000 buys together.
If Spence-Crawford ever happens – and I’m slowly but surely losing all hope at this point – Crawford will likely have to live with a 60-40 or a 70-30 split based on what the numbers have shown.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. wasn’t always the guy; he had to earn it. When he fought Oscar De La Hoya, he was the B-side. De La Hoya was guaranteed $23.3 million and Mayweather $10 million for then the richest fight in boxing history.
Boxing is a sport of moments because someone’s life or career trajectory could be changed forever at any given moment. If Crawford beats Spence – and I believe he would – it would not only erase all the talk about him not being a draw but would also carry the possibility of him becoming a superstar, depending on how he chooses to carry that momentum. For instance, if he fights four times in 11 months like Canelo Alvarez and beats some top guys and maybe even fiddles with winning a title at junior middleweight, all of a sudden, Terence Crawford is not just a great fighter but a household name.
With Arum out of the way, the opportunities are abundant as a free agent or, as I like to say, the floodgates are open. Crawford can finally get a chance to fight myriad Premier Boxing Champions 147-pounders in Keith Thurman, Yordenis Ugas and Eimantas Stanionis. Furthermore Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Jaron “Boots” Ennis are also looking for significant opportunities.
There is no shortage of talent in boxing. The scarcity comes in the form of major fights that fans demand. And Crawford could be an instrumental part in getting this sport back on track.
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