Gold standard

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

Everyone connected with last week's pay-per-view blockbuster at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, is quick to point out that no movie ever made as much in one night as the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya.

HBO executive Mark Taffet last week used baseball analogies to describe his expectations for the fight.

A home run was a million buys, he said. Setting the non-heavyweight pay-per-view record was an upper-deck shot. Reaching 2 million buys would have been a home run out of the stadium, Taffet said.

What he got when the numbers were counted was a grand slam out of the stadium in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series.

De La Hoya-Mayweather did a record 2.15 million pay-per-view buys. Total revenue, adding the $120 million from pay-per-view to the $19 million in ticket sales to the millions in closed-circuit sales to sponsorships and merchandising and all other sources will wind up at, or perhaps slightly above, $150 million.

But the problem for boxing is sustained success. In the movies, plenty of tickets are sold on the second night and the third and beyond.

The question which remains unanswered is whether boxing can capitalize on the De La Hoya-Mayweather bout and lift itself out of the gutter.

HBO and Golden Boy Promotions proved with De La Hoya-Mayweather that if you put together an intriguing fight, think outside the box and then vigorously promote it, people will be interested.

Too often in boxing, though, promoters think all they need to do is slap a few names on the marquee, open the doors and hire an accountant to tally their take.

It might have been that easy at one point, but after years of neglect, that’s not the case.

But Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, the mastermind behind the most financially successful night in the sport's history, believes Saturday's results weren't a single occurrence.

He concedes it will be hard to duplicate that success on a regular basis, but he believes the sport can rebound by using the multi-pronged approach taken with the promotion of Saturday's bout.

"It has to start and end with a quality fight, which is plainly obvious," Schaefer said. "If you don't have that, you have nothing. You can't expect a fight to hit the big time when 90 percent of the fans know who is going to win before the bell rings.

"But when you have the right fights – and the right fights are out there, awesome fights which could be made – what you do with them and the approach you take will determine your success. Some promoters think they've analyzed it and that by playing a little bit of music in between rounds and bringing some good-looking girls out, that's going to do it. I think that's ridiculous."

No single factor made Saturday's fight so successful. The matchup piqued the interest of the hard-core fans, who felt De La Hoya would be a serious threat to Mayweather's reign as the world's best fighter.

An 11-city barnstorming tour hammered home the point to a usually disinterested media: After five years, the mega-event in boxing was back.

The sponsorship deals Schaefer secured kept the names of the fighters on the tips of the tongues of consumers for months.

The online video campaign on YouTube and Will Ferrell's Funny or Die appealed to the younger demographic that has been increasingly showing more interest in mixed martial arts.

And HBO's four-part reality series promoting the fight, "De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7" was an unqualified success in burning the names of the boxers into the minds of folks who likely would never have paid the bout a moment's attention.

"24/7 opened the floodgates," said Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports. "It had prime real estate on our network, following 'Entourage,' which didn't hurt. But it connected the casual fan or even the non-boxing fan to the stories of these two athletes.

"People really connected to the Mayweather love triangle with Floyd Jr., Floyd Sr. and Roger. They really fell in love with that charismatic De La Hoya family and watching Oscar, Millie and Oscar Gabriel. And the guys were so willing to give of themselves that people ate it up."

This could truly be a big night for all of boxing if the lessons from that night are realized. There is too much competition for the entertainment dollar for boxing to thrive if it offers the public trash.

The television networks need to simply refuse opponents like Ray Austin, who shouldn't have been given a shot at IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. As badly as HBO or Showtime might want a relationship with a fighter, they have to consider quality control before all else.

"We're so committed to the best fighting the best now, because we saw first-hand what can happen when that occurs," Taffet said. "From this point on, it's going to be our mantra. You're going to hear that so much from us you'll be sick of it. But it's what we're going to do. It's what we have to do."

What to Read Next