In the end, it’s all about eyeballs. And Al Haymon may have decided that a strategy of putting Showtime cards directly up against HBO cards will ultimately prove to be a savvy move. This seems at first glance rather strange since whenever a Showtime fight card goes head to head with an HBO card, Showtime ends up the worse for wear in the ratings. The question is, does Haymon end up worse for wear?
Take the recent Adrien Broner vs Khabib Allakhverdiev card on Showtime. It went up against HBO’s Lucas Matthysse vs Viktor Postol card and, predictably, got trounced in the ratings. Yet the Showtime card still netted in hundreds of thousands of viewers, viewers which may have otherwise watched HBO. Add that to the fact that Broner also appears on general network television, unlike Matthysse and Postol, and Haymon’s scheme starts to become clear.
Or not. Haymon and his circle are never open about whatever plans are being pursued. Still, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to produce a feasible scenario here, namely that Team Haymon is working to take eyes away from fighters represented by competing entities while at the same time saturating the (more or less) free broadcast airwaves with its own Premiere Boxing Champions cards.
Look at it this way: Broner appears on free network television. Matthysse and Postol don’t (at least not anymore). That means in 2015 Broner not only has gotten access to all of North America’s television viewers, he’s also taken away from the far fewer number of viewers Matthysse and Postol have access to. See how it works?
Again, Team Haymon might not be planning for this sort of thing to happen; it just may be good fortune. But either way, by ruthlessly draining viewers from their shows, he’s diminishing the competition’s chances of creating consumer awareness. Boxers (like all athletes, musicians, writers, etc…) are products, and products can’t earn anything if the public isn’t aware of them. There’s little doubt the public at large – whose interest in boxing is fleeting at best – has been presented with large doses of Adrien Broner. Can the same be said of Matthysse and Postol?
Remember that he biggest and most lucrative stars in boxing, Mayweather and Pacquiao, became famous by having lots of people watching their fights. They made their bones on pay cable, but would their ascents have been as fast if big name fighters appeared on other networks each time they stepped into the ring?
Truth be told, there’s nothing really wrong with what Haymon is up to here – if, in fact, he’s up to it. The free market inspires competition and Haymon may just be engaging in a particularly ruthless and aggressive form of it. What, though, might the end result be if Haymon emerges from this possible war of attrition victorious?
It’s smart to keep in mind that Haymon has a reputation for giving big name fighters soft touches – over and over again. Oh, big matches are known to be made under the Haymon banner, but they’re exceptions and often seem to happen when one of the man’s bigger stars has no other options. If Haymon’s fighters become the only ones the general public gives a whiff about, however, there won’t be as much of a need for Haymon to orchestrate truly interesting matches under any circumstances.
Indeed, if Haymon lures in a huge fan base which has previously been largely ignorant or unaware of boxing, it will be possible for Haymon to push faux interesting matchups that a gullible public might think are legitimate. Is that the end goal here? It’s hard to say it is, but it’s also becoming harder and harder to say it isn’t.
If there’s a single trend one can point to regarding Haymon it’s that his star clients often do very well financially for very little risk. If you don’t believe me, just consider how much Adonis Stevenson and Leo Santa Cruz have earned for all those easy fights. Does anyone think that trend will change if PBC creates a steady stream of casual fans?
People sometimes indicate Haymon doesn’t care about most of boxing’s current followers, that he only cares about the casuals and the fanboys. Evidence indicates there may be truth in such an assertion. While it’s also true that we live in an era where a single loss can insanely effect a fighter’s earning potential, we also live in an era where boxing fans (as opposed to fanboys and casuals) are pushing for major fights that simply don’t get made.
Again, Haymon is doing nothing illegal here. He may just be marketing to a new demographic which will be happy to see top fighters face soft touches over and over again simply because they – for lack of a better way of putting it – don’t know any better.
That will be good for the new demographic (who will almost be guaranteed to see lots of brutal knockouts or slick ring dominance). It will also be good for Haymon, who will be apt to earn untold Titanic-sized boatloads of cash. It will also be good for his top fighters, who will be handsomely paid without ever really having to worry about getting hurt or losing much.
It won’t be good, however, for the sport, which will be sorely lacking in true competition. Imagine watching the Patriots playing the equivalent of a high school football team Sunday after Sunday and you’ll get the general idea here. It also won’t be good for those poor bastards who are going to get their heads splattered in the ring in order to make a highly paid attraction look good.
Boxing is not immoral. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Promoters, managers and “advisors” should take that into consideration the next time they want to put a Rod Salka up against a Danny Garcia. People who want to watch boxing should be tuning in to a sporting event, not assault and battery against what is essentially a helpless victim.
One more matter of note – people aren’t stupid. If Haymon’s plan truly is to create a popular product where people will generally be presented with one-sided matchups, people will get wise to the act and move on. It may take a while, but they will. At the end of the day, boxing is more sport than business or entertainment. If the sportsmanship is taken out of it, the viewers will eventually depart as well. — Sean Crose