Prime Time TV Bout Shouts Back to Yesteryear

As the dust settled on Saturday’s Horn-Pacquiao fight, all anyone could talk about was how Manny Pacquiaio was robbed of a victory.  He led in points, he led in rounds yet after the fight, when the referees announced that the young Australian had pulled off the upset, fans were up in arms.

How could this be, they asked?  Boxing is rigged they yelled, as if that was some sort of newfound revelation.  It’s boxing, my friends.  The fix has been in for years.

My take on the fight is altogether different, however, for regardless of how you feel about the outcome, this bout featured something we hadn’t seen in ages and I am not referring to a changing of the guard.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, a primetime fight that actually held some relevance was broadcast on network television.  And people watched.  Not only did people watch but it got people talking about boxing again.  If you rebuild it, they will come.

Along with Floyd Mayweather (and Conor McGregor who doesn’t count because he’s not a boxer), Manny Pacquiao is really the only fighter people talk about.  They are the only boxers people care to watch and have been for some time.  Pacquiao is 38.  Mayweather is 40.  There is not a single twenty-something prize fighter worth mention, other than of course your new WBO welterweight Jeff Horn.

In fact, I bet you can’t name the heavyweight champion of the world.  That was once the most coveted position in sports; now it’s afterthought.  We won’t get into how and why boxing died but rest assured the exorbitant pay-per-view prices the sport started fleecing its customer for ranks high atop that list.

The Horn-Pacquiao fight wasn’t on HBO, Showtime or any of the other pay channels.  It was aired on ESPN.  While I haven’t seen any official ratings yet, I’m pretty sure they hauled in a pretty hefty Nielsen number.  If they didn’t, it was probably because fans were shocked to find a relevant fight on network television.  It had been THAT long.  In fact, I’d venture to say that the last time a fight of that importance was held on accessible television, most of those who tuned in to watch Saturday night’s fight weren’t even born yet.

No disrespect to the fights still held on network television but they can’t hold our interest.  Our love affair with boxing has waned faster than Don King can say “show me the money!” Putting major bouts back on prime time might just regenerate interest in the sport.  Lord knows it needs it.

Last night, in my already crowded bar, we turned up the volume, dropped down the big screen and everyone tuned in for the entire twelve rounds.  They oohed and ahhed with every blow.  I’m sure this happens during pay-per-view events but I haven’t paid for one of those in ages.  Have you?  Only select bars carry PPV fights due to how much they charge each establishment, which is by capacity.  In other words, my bar which fits 100 people comfortably is not paying $99.95 a head to show a fight that might be over in 90 seconds.  That’s not solid investing by any standards.

It’s not that families and friends can’t afford the fifty to one hundred dollars to host house parties.  It’s that we don’t want to anymore.  We have been there and done that.  I don’t have the statistics as to how drastically pay-per-view earnings have declined over the years.  Besides, those numbers are probably as fixed as the fights themselves.

But showing them on ESPN again, that’s a different story.  That can only help boxing and ESPN, two institutions desperately in need of regaining viewers.

Somewhere along the line, boxing priced itself out of its own market.  Supply far outweighed demand.  Those who got rich got theirs and could probably care less that they were individually responsible for the death of the sport.  After Saturday night, maybe it’s worth resuscitating.  Maybe there’s hope after all.

Or perhaps this is but a pipedream.  There is no way on God’s green earth (and blue canvas) that a fight the magnitude of Mayweather-Pacquaio would ever be shown on ABC… even though Muhammad Ali fought on that network all the damn time.  The times, they have a-changed.

Saturday night was a throwback to the old school.  This fight was no apology.  It was a title fight well worth watching.  I don’t know why they decided to show it on ESPN (demand) but kudos to them, even if it was a last-ditch effort to make a quick buck.  God knows the network can use it.  Again, so can boxing.

Personally, I think airing boxing in primetime, making it more accessible to a generation that is already out of touch with the sport, is a brilliant idea.  I don’t know that it’s doable but I’ll tell you one thing.  I’ll get back to watching a lot more boxing if I don’t have to pay $100 cover charge.

That fight Saturday night was all anybody could talk about the next morning.  That’s because everybody watched it.  People finally cared again.  I say we keep it that way.

Giving back to the people and not gorging them for a C-Note every time they want to see a decent fight might just be a way to save the sport.

Welcome back, boxing fans.  It’s been a while.  We’ve missed you.

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13 Replies to “Prime Time TV Bout Shouts Back to Yesteryear”

  1. Well said. Prime time is the way to go. I paid the price of no sleep to watch into the wee hours of the night for a decent fight even tho I know the fix was in after the fact. Wonder why the networks schedule their NCAA big time games for 8 pm starts? It’s a no brainer and you know it well working in a tavern with tv’s

  2. Here’s my takeaway from the fight , Manny Pacquiao is way past his prime and his opponent Jeff Horn showed more aggression than the champion anticipated. The old adage applies here also, you’re fighting on or in your opponent’s backyard as a champion , you go in be aggressive and you sure as hell take the opportunities provided to knock the challenger out. Pacquiao simply didn’t do that , relying instead on leaving it in the hands of the judges.

    The only person to blame here was Manny Pacquiao himself . All of this frigging whining by outsiders is simply a joke. I don’t know that he will actually have a rematch , even if there’s a clause in the contract which states there should be one.

    On paper I judged that the champion won the fight , but not by a unanimous decision. Yet I do feel the WBO who sanctioned the fight as it was their title up for grabs , should be doing more to make sure the ringside officials are better qualified. The referee for the bout showed some inconsistencies , but no more than you’d find in any other title fight.
    Manny Pacquiao has a great deal of thinking to do , but unfortunately with a manager and promoter such as Bob Arum calling the shots, I think the former champ will be forced back into the ring to avenge the loss, , purely for economical reasons. Pacquiao looked demoralized after the loss , physically he looked bad (cut to his head was serious) and at times Jeff Horn made Manny look his age , in fact he made Pacquiao look lethargic and like a geriatric. Manny Pacquaio has become a relic from a bygone age and that is an undeniable fact. Father Time has caught up with his @ss . He should retire , spend more time with his family , set his sights on his alleged political ambitions as a Philippine congressman and stop misrepresenting himself as one. He has nothing in that role as a politician other than using it for photo opportunities .

  3. I missed the fight on Saturday night, so I watched the replay on espn2 on Sunday. Not exactly ‘broadcast’ TV, like the Big Three networks used to be. But, still, ‘free’.
    Now, are they smart enough to have all 3 bouts in this series on free TV? And there will be 3, guaranteed.
    Favorite gets robbed/loses 1st bout.
    Favorite wins 2nd bout.
    Toss-up in 3rd bout… depending on who the ruling federation can make the most money from.*
    * same formula coming soon for Money vs Connie Mac

  4. Moose…

    Boxing has a long damn way to go before it enters our vernacular again but I honestly believe this was a step in the right direction.

    We’ll see if they continue this momentum? Why do I doubt it will happen?

  5. Al…

    You’re one of the few who’ve said that but I think I agree with you.

    I didn’t get to watch the fight in its entirety (I was working) but what I did see, Horn was in control, at least enough to win.

    He was the aggressor.

    To the victor go the spoils.

  6. Bleed…

    The fight peaked at 4.4 million viewers. It was the most watched fight on non-PPV TV in ten years.

    I wonder if anyone’s listening.

  7. Chris

    Boxing remains a shambles with too many international governing bodies and no one being held accountable for the irrational decision making seen among the officials . Consider the fact there has not been an undisputed champion in any weight category in over ten years. Even when Floyd Mayweather was champion , he did not clean up the weight categories to become an undisputed champion and neither has Manny Pacquiao (champion in eight weight categories ) for that matter . The sport of boxing has become a farce and it now relies on gimmicks rather than talented fighters with charisma. Does anyone really know who Andre Ward is , let alone Gennady Golovkin or Saul Canelo Alvarez ?

    It is now the main reason why I would rather watch MMA (UFC) rather than put up with the bull$hit we now see in the sport of boxing !! As to the Conor McGregor Floyd Mayweather farce . If UFC analyst Joe Rogan really believes McGregor is capable of beating Mayweather , then he is clearly in need of some form of prescriptive medication. McGregor has no boxing skills whatsoever and his footwork is absolutely fu#king pathetic .

    Boxing doesn’t need a commissioner, it is need of a complete overhaul of each of the international governing bodies ( WBA , WBC , WBO , IBF , IBO and WBU ). When you have that many entities in one sport , it becomes a complete cluster-fu#k on so many levels.

  8. The WBO will re-score the Jeff Horn Manny Pacquiao fight, but the result will still stand. That’s the sort of idiocy now within the sport and analysts believe boxing being placed on a prime-time broadcast will lure back the fans ? Isn’t that like suggesting fans will want to watch a knife fight between two blind individuals ?

  9. Gimmicks were always, at least in some way, a part of boxing, Al. But at least for the most part, things were legit.

    I agree with you. Whether it’s by commissioner or not, the entire sport needs an overhaul.

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