You may have heard that the pay-per-view price for the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor fight next month is $99.95. You may have gasped at the enormity of the fee for a bout between a 40-year-old ex-con and a man who only got his professional boxing license in November. You may have said to yourself, “Wait, boxing? They still do that?”
Well, you heard wrong. Just about the price part. Sort of. The actual pay-per-view rate for Mayweather-McGregor is a paltry $89.95, with a $10 surcharge for high definition. So, when someone wonders what kind of fool would pay a nickel short of a C-note for a carnival act of a fight, you can correct them and ask what kind of sap would pay almost $90 for it in standard definition.
The answer, as always, is lots and lots of people. It’s not like Showtime pulled that price out of thin air, they know that there will be a willing audience lined up to pay, and expectations are that this fight will generate record revenues. The over/under in Vegas, because of course there’s an over/under in Vegas for this, is 4.99 million pay-per-view buys – which would make for half a billion dollars’ worth of revenues before a single ticket is sold at a minimum of $500 a pop.
Again, that’s to see a habitual abuser of women and a racist punching each other a whole bunch of times. Intriguing, sure, but also available for free on the sidewalks outside bars across America every night of the year.
Mayweather, 49-0 in his career, is approaching $1 billion in lifetime earnings, in a sport that generates extremely little buzz when anyone other than Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao is involved. Pacquiao, a senator in the Philippines and a member of murderous dictator Rodrigo Duterte’s ruling party, not to mention a player-coach for Kia Picanto in the Philippine Basketball Association, just lost a controversial decision this month to Jeff Horn in Australia, and at 38, it’s fair to wonder how much boxing he has left, much like Mayweather.
As bloodthirsty spectators continue to flock to McGregor’s usual sport of mixed martial arts, it’s generally been fair to wonder how much boxing anyone has left, and whether the sport is dying. But boxing has been supposedly dying for more than 20 years. It was in season eight of The Simpsons that Homer fought Drederick Tatum in a fight arranged because of the titular patriarch’s ability to withstand a beating and give the viewing audience an extended show.
Boxing is not dying, but it is in a different state than when it was a staple of the American sports existence. Some of that has to do with the fact that the top boxers rarely get in the ring due to the nature of the sport, and in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, there’s just not going to be a lot of hooks for right hooks. But the sport can still thrive when it connects on the chances it does have for massive impact, and with Mayweather-McGregor being a more viable business enterprise than most NHL teams’ entire seasons, that’s how you stay relevant.
The problem is the future, when the two biggest names in the sport are at the tail ends of their career. The solution is that there are plenty more boxers out there, just waiting to become the next big thing, and nobody is better at making that happen than boxing promoters.
We’ll know who the next big thing is when the boxing world tells us who it is, asks us to pay $150 to see them fight – $160 for high definition – and laughs all the way to the bank, the way they always have.