Will Barrera-Juarez II be another pay-per-view success in 2006? - HoganPhotos.com
By Paul Upham: There are some people who will tell you that boxing is struggling. But at the top end of the scale at HBO Pay-Per-View, figures suggest that boxing is on target for its best year of sales since 1999. While there has not been a million-buy-plus mega-fight so far in 2006, a series of successful super-fights has seen a bonanza year of residential pay-per-view sales.
"2006 has been a very big year for HBO Pay Per View," said Mark Taffet, HBO's Senior Vice-President Sports Operations and Pay-Per-View. "It is our biggest year since 1999 and it may be our biggest year ever. Back in 1999, we had four mega-fights that generated 4 million buys and US$200 million in pay-per-view revenue. De La Hoya vs. Trinidad, De La Hoya vs. Quartey, Lewis vs. Holyfield I and the rematch Lewis vs. Holyfield II. That was a very big year. But 2006 so far has generated nearly 2.8 millions buys and about US$135 million in revenue."
The majority of boxing's biggest stars in the USA and abroad have been on HBO Pay-Per-View or HBO this year in some very meaningful fights.
"The biggest fight so far in 2006 was De La Hoya vs. Mayorga which generated 925, 000 buys," said Taffet. "But the year has been marked by a series of extremely competitive fights featuring the stars fighting one another. There are not only competitive match-ups, but big name recognizable match-ups. As a result, the fans have come back month after month after month."
Year 2006 - Total Buys = 2,755,000
Morales vs. Pacquiao II - 21/01/2006 - 355,000
Vargas vs. Mosley - 28/02/2006 - 420,000
Mayweather vs. Judah - 08/04/2006 - 375,000
De La Hoya vs. Mayorga - 06/05/2006 - 925,000
Tarver vs. Hopkins - 10/06/2006 - 330,000
Mosley vs. Vargas II - 15/07/2006 - 350,000
"The performance of our pay-per-view fights in 2006 has been incredibly consistent, more so than ever in our history," said Taffet. "It is a year characterized not by the mega-fights of 1999, but by consistent performance, significantly ahead of expectations for a series of competitive fights between some of boxing's biggest stars with very recognizable names."
Taffet agrees that by having the best boxers in the sport fighting every month on either HBO or HBO Pay-Per-View, it has a flow on affect, which gets fans into the routine of sitting down to watch boxing at the highest level.
"There is a momentum now," he said. "There is a saying in boxing, that styles make fights. Well in pay-per-view, success makes success. Fans are excited by the consistent flow of high quality match-ups between the stars and when you have Morales-Pacquiao II and III, Mosley-Vargas I and II, an historic event like Tarver-Hopkins, Oscar De La Hoya coming back against Ricardo Mayorga and Floyd Mayweather Jr continuing to expand his presence on pay-per-view as the best pound for pound fighter in the sport, you begin to create momentum of your own that feeds the fights that follow on pay-per-view. I think that has definitely contributed to our success. The fans are excited and their excitement translates into more interest in the following months."
Year 2005 - Total Buys = 2,605,000
Morales vs. Pacquiao - 19/03/2005 - 350,000
Barrera vs. Fana - 09/04/2005 - 75,000
Trinidad vs. Wright - 14/05/2005 - 450,000
Gatti vs. Mayweather - 25/06/2005 - 365,000
Hopkins vs. Taylor - 16/07/2005 - 375,000
Barrera vs. Peden - 17/09/2005 - 115,000
Tarver vs. Jones III - 01/10/2005 - 450,000
Taylor vs. Hopkins II - 03/12/2005 - 425,000
As can be seen from the two tables, 2006 has been an excellent year for HBO Pay-Per-View compared to buys in the previous year.
"It just gives you a sense of how big 2006 is," said Taffet. "Then you look at what we still have scheduled. We have great matches still to come this year. Barrera-Juarez II, with that incredible televised undercard coming this Saturday night. Mayweather vs. Baldomir, what a test for the pound for pound king against the welterweight king. Then there is nothing like a trilogy in Pacquiao-Morales III, with two big fights behind it already and I think, a chance of becoming the biggest of the lighter weight fights in history."
Taffet also revealed that there will be a HBO Pay-Per-View event on October 21 promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Titled "Mexican Glory", it will be a triple-header including fights headlined by Mexicans Juan Manuel Marquez, Daniel Ponce de Leon and Juan Lazcano.
This weekend's card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas titled "Too Close to Call" with Barrera-Juarez II, Guzman-Barrios and Gonzalez-Vazquez, is a real treat for fans.
"This is the best pay-per-view card top to bottom that I can recall on HBO Pay-Per-View and we have had some exceptional cards over the years," said Taffet. "This card pound for pound is simply outstanding. I give Oscar De La Hoya, Richard Schafer and Golden Boy Promotions a tremendous amount of credit for stepping up because they knew the value of delivering a card like this on the Mexican holiday. There are awards given every year for 'fight of the year' and 'knockout of the year', I don't know if there is such a category, but this looks like the 'card of the year'. I'm sure boxing fans are going to respond to this great event that has been put together by Golden Boy Promotions."
It is likely in future decades that boxing fans will look back and marvel that three greats such as Manny Pacquiao, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales were all around competing at the same time.
"The match-ups between Barrera, Pacquiao and Morales can go on forever," said Taffet. "Those guys can fight each other in any combination over and over and over again and the fans and the public will never tire of them. They are incredible fighters. They actually fight with their hearts. They just happen to wear gloves. But when they fight one another, the fans get to see the passion, the emotion and the electricity that defines boxing at its best. The fans will always be there to support those match-ups."
As frustrating as controversy in boxing can be at times, it can also be argued that it has helped keep boxing in the headlines and is one of the reasons people love to watch. There is always a sense of never being sure what could happen at any time.
The scoring controversy of Barrera-Juarez I in May, where an announced draw was changed to a Barrera win around twenty minutes after the contest, will more than likely add to the interest of what already is a highly anticipated rematch.
"In pay-per-view, I always say that we are story tellers," explained Taffet, "and our job is tell the fans the story of the fight and give them the reason they should buy it. With Barrera-Juarez I having been such a great fight and having the controversy surrounding the change in the scoring after HBO got off the air, that definitely tells the story and sets the stage for what has to be an exciting rematch.
"You have got a future Hall of Fame fighter in Marco Antonio Barrera. Rocky Juarez, a champion in his own right. The younger guy coming on strong, giving Barrera everything he can handle and more. Then, a decision that was re-stated because of an error in counting on one of the scorecards. You add to that Golden Boy Promotions putting together an incredible undercard where all three fights are 'fight of the year' potential fights. And you compound all of that, by having that great card taking place on Mexican Independence weekend. That's a very exciting show and a very rewarding experience for everybody involved."
In addition to the success of HBO Pay-Per-View, the HBO premium television network has had an increase in boxing-related programming which has been a big positive for boxing fans who subscribe to HBO. Senior executives are pleased with the interest that boxing can still command at the highest level, despite the sport's problems and are willing to invest in the future.
"When you look at our success in 2005 and 2006," explained Taffet, "it's not only the quality of the match-ups and the stars facing stars, we've also been able to bring exciting, value-added programs to HBO boxing fans. We now regularly feature what we call 'HBO Classics'. Great library fights of the main event participants, which are being watched on the HBO2 programming service. Boxing fans really appreciate this extra value programming and we also do for many of our pay-per-view shows what we call a 'Countdown' show on HBO. A thirty minute documentary which really gives the fans an emotional attachment to the fighters themselves. Not just talking about the fight, but talking about the athletes, the background, their history, their families, where they grew up. We know it is creating a lot more interest, but it is also a lot more value to our HBO subscribers, so we are happy on both fronts with that."
The HBO Countdown programs are specifically designed to preview the events and showcase the boxers in a new light.
"Historically, many of the preview shows that typically ran on the cable and satellite systems were thirty minutes of fight footage and a lot of interviews," said Taffet. "The HBO Countdown show, which is produced by the award winning HBO production staff, is actually a documentary. We send crews on the road to visit the fighter's hometowns and really get into their backgrounds, all types of places that help define who the athlete is. Not as a boxer, but as a person. It is really a form of reality programming, documentary style, done only the way an award winning production unit like HBO can deliver. We are receiving tremendous feedback from our fans, which is very rewarding and fulfilling for us. It casts an echo that lasts well beyond the fight, creating a long term benefit for the fans and everyone involved."
The story of the older great fighter against the rising star, such as Barrera vs. Juarez this weekend, is a familiar one in boxing that always seems to appeal to the fans.
"Boxing fans have a tremendous affinity for those true crossroads fights," explained Taffet. "That's what makes Barrera-Juarez and Barrera-Juarez II so special - a fight in which a great legendary champion who is in the latter stages of a Hall of Fame career accepts the challenge to face the young, hungry future star. That is exactly the story line that existed for the two pay-per-view fights between Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins. It just adds another dimension to the story and to the value of the fight."
The team at HBO Pay-Per-View spend countless hours planning and marketing the biggest fights. They are not always easily made in the unique business world of boxing, but over a period of time, the biggest and best fights are more often than not brought into the ring and to the television screen.
"I always say," said Taffet, "when the best fighters are taking the best fights, where the best are fighting the best time and time again there are no losers. The fans will always come back for more. That's what HBO and HBO Pay-Per-View have done so well in 2006 and we expect it to carry into 2007."
"To really set the stage for 2007," continued Taffet, "you have to look not only at the HBO Pay-Per-View success this year, but also at the more important success live on the HBO Premium television network. HBO delivered on a mission of putting big fights live on the network. Rahman vs. Toney, Klitschko vs. Byrd, Gatti vs. Baldomir, Barrera vs. Juarez, Taylor vs. Wright and we have double-barreled action on two big fronts still to go with Nicolai Valuev and Wladimir Klitschko in separate heavyweight fights in October and November.
"Boxing After Dark has seen the development of new stars such as Paul Williams and Carlos Quintana and we had some big image advertising campaigns on HBO with Jermain Taylor and Winky Wright and soon to come image advertising campaigns with Wladimir Klitschko and Floyd Mayweather Jr. You have got more fights on the air, more significant live fights on the air and a successful HBO Pay-Per-View schedule, all of which sets the stage for a big 2007."
From Mark Taffet's perspective at HBO Pay-Per-View, boxing isn't doing too bad at all.
"Whenever I hear people talking about boxing slowing down," he said, "I wonder what they are looking at because when you look at what we have had happen in 2006 and what we know is going to take place in 2007, it is nothing but non-stop and full steam ahead on every front."