By Joseph Santoliquito
LAS VEGAS, NV (CBS) — The biggest pay-per-view fight of all-time was the 2007 Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather clash, which drew a record 2.5 million buys.
And yet, all anyone harped on was the sport of boxing being on life support.
De La Hoya-Mayweather was proclaimed “the fight that was supposed to save boxing.” By now, boxing should an infested corpse, a pariah to sports fans and certainly sports media.
Here we are, six years later on the brink of a mega-event that is expected to possibly exceed the record-breaking figures that Mayweather-De La Hoya attracted when Mayweather, 36, faces 23-year-old, red-hair, freckled Mexican Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Mayweather-De La Hoya garnered another record in generating $136 million for the promotion, making it the richest fight in boxing history. Mayweather-Canelo can exceed that, with an expected gross of $200 million, according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.
So if boxing is supposed to be dead, why did 12,200 show up for the Mayweather-Canelo weigh-in alone on Friday afternoon? And if the sport is supposedly on life support, as many so-called sports pundits like to say, though choose to ignore, why do pay-per-view records continue to tumble?
In one night, Mayweather-Canelo, which is being shown on Showtime PPV, may be able to generate almost as much money as a Super Bowl.
Mayweather is guaranteed a $41.5 million payday; Alvarez has a guaranteed $5 million coming his way; Danny Garcia, who fights Lucas Matthysse in the chief undercard bout, is contracted to make $1.5 million; and Matthysse $800,000.
Plus there are additional monies that will undoubtedly be made by the windfall of giant pay-per-view sales. Huge figures like that aren’t doled out to athletes in a failing, dried up sport.
Boxing carries this perception that it’s the red-light district of sports, confined to a corner of a darkened shed because many mainstream sports media simply lost touch with boxing.
Yet, this weekend at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, all eyes will be on “The One.”
It’s a fight that carries a lot of subplots, including the looming question if Mayweather’s amazing skills could suddenly diminish in one night. He is 36. Can Alvarez hit Mayweather one time hard enough to shock the millions watching?
And the undercard fight between Garcia and Matthysse could be the most compelling fight of the card. Matthysse is a knockout machine and Garcia carries an extensive amateur background and considerable power himself.
Boxing is not where it once was 40 years ago, or even 20 years ago. But the sport is still thriving and fans want to see the best perform. It’s the same as in any other sport, it has its ups and downs. But unlike other pro sports, criticism crawls out of the woodwork by some in the sports media to take lazy potshots. They only needed to look at the throng that showed up for the Mayweather-Canelo weigh-in to know dying sports don’t garner that kind of attention.
It’s just a matter of getting out from behind the computer screen to see.