Friday, January 7, 2022

A Boxing Wishlist For 2022


The time has come once again where this observer shares his “Boxing Wishlist” for the coming year. Unlike previous years where this annual feature here on The Boxing Truth® has usually begins the schedule at the beginning of a year, for 2022 that was not the case. This was due to the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters staging cards on Christmas night and a pay-per-view card on New Year’s Day. While this column has been written in advance of those cards and will be released after both cards have taken place that will be the subject of a feature next week here on The Boxing Truth®, in a coincidence, it leads to the first item on the 2022 “Boxing Wishlist.”  To see promoters that have relied on the pay-per-view model finally embrace the benefits of the subscription-based streaming model that has gradually populated much of the Boxing broadcast coverage throughout the sport over the last three years thanks largely to the success of digital sports streaming networks DAZN and ESPN+.


It should be no secret to longtime readers that a consistent theme of my coverage of the sport over the last several years has been to point out the benefits of the subscription-streaming model as compared to what is often an overpriced and undervalued model of pay-per-view where consumers are charged fees that in the current landscape usually begin at the $60 or above price range on a per card basis. Unfortunately, as the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic has continued, there has seemingly been an increase in the amount of pay-per-view cards that has only furthered the decline of the model. This is due largely to multiple pay-per-view cards being scheduled within a narrow timeframe, which in addition to the price points has resulted in the returns of the majority of those pay-per-view events producing underwhelming numbers for the promoters who put the events on as well as for the networks that produce and distribute the broadcasts via the pay-per-view medium.  Although InDemand (Formerly Viewer’s Choice), the longtime number one pay-per-view cable distributor here in the United States has recently launched a pay-per-view-centric streaming platform under the branding, which should be seen as the distributor’s attempt to transition to streaming in response to more consumers opting for streaming television and leaving traditional cable/satellite pay-TV providers behind, the mere amount of events at the aforementioned price points could make the potential success of such a service debatable.


Some reasons for that in addition to subscription-based options offering more value to consumers for the price of a subscription, there are other streaming-based pay-per-view providers such as FITE that have been established for several years, which could make it a challenge for InDemand to succeed in the streaming realm. Another aspect of the traditional pay-per-view model that will likely not fare well if InDemand is simply looking to transition their existing distribution model to streaming, that has proven beneficial for networks like FITE and those networks that operate on a subscription model is the feature of on-demand access being made available either with a PPV purchase or a subscription. Traditional pay-per-view distributors do not offer such a feature and if they are looking to transition to streaming as the cable/satellite model continues phasing out, they will likely need to add the benefit of on-demand access for those who purchase events live if they hope to compete effectively in the space.


While I certainly have no expectation that the pay-per-view model will disappear in 2022 as promoters and some networks that have been resistant to adapt to subscription-based streaming, those that yours truly often refers to as hold outs, despite mounting evidence that adaptation is likely a better option, if pay-per-view is to remain, I would like to see more value added for the price of a pay-per-view fee. The best way to add value regardless of who might be at the top of a card, would be to see every bout on a card broadcast on the pay-per-view feed. This is something that both DAZN and ESPN+ do with most of their Boxing events. It is also worth noting that FITE has done this before with many of the events they offer that are not also offered through the cable/satellite model. Typically, pay-per-view cards that are produced by networks such as Fox Sports and Showtime here in the United States only broadcast the top three or four bouts on a card that could have anywhere from eight to ten bouts. It should not take much explaining as to why such a model lacks value, though Fox has aired a portion of preliminary bouts on either the national Fox network or their cable sports networks, which depending on a consumer’s pay-TV provider may not always be easy to access.  Even though I remain firm on my stance that the PPV model needs to be done away with or significantly revamped, putting every bout on a card available on a pay-per-view channel for those purchasing an event rather than simply the top three or four fights on a card would be a step in the right direction simply by adding value for the price.


This brings me to the second item on this year’s list. Reducing the pay-per-view price points to make it more economically reasonable for consumers. The bottom line in addition to the other aforementioned flaws of the pay-per-view model that has resulted in a consistent decline in pay-per-view revenue on a regular basis, beyond the fact that there are subscription-based alternatives on the market that offer generally better value for the price is, the pay-per-view model has gotten to the point where it has priced out many Boxing fans who can simply not afford a $60 or above price point on a per card basis, that would likely be more willing to tune-in if those price points were more reasonable.


Some personal perspective for the reader. I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s during the boom period of cable/satellite television. I can recall more or less pestering my parents whenever there was a Boxing or pro wrestling pay-per-view event coming up during those days. Back then, pay-per-view offerings were not every month or every few weeks, but were reserved for the legitimate “Big Fights.” The type of fights that everyone even those with only a casual interest in Boxing would be talking about in one form or another. You would also see much more promotion for such bouts on television via late night talk shows, advertisements, as well as radio interviews and such, but the one thing that I remember perhaps more than most was that in many cases, the price points for pay-per-view Boxing did not exceed a $35 price point regardless of what the main event might have been. I do however, recall instances where pay-per-view providers like InDemand, then known as Viewer’s Choice would offer promotions in offering events at a slightly reduced cost if ordered in advance while keeping the full retail price in place for those who ordered an event on the day it took place.  I will not bother explaining which method my parents and I would use when such a promotion was offered as it should be self-explanitory.


While obviously some events/cards will always do better than others with regard to buys, I would be willing to say that those events at a lower price point tend to do better in terms of overall buys as compared to those that have a much higher price point.  In the current landscape, the only region in the world that offers pay-per-view at a reasonable price point that is similar to my youth and even my early days as a writer covering combat sports in the mid-1990’s is in Europe and more specifically the United Kingdom where most pay-per-view cards do not exceed a £25 price point.  As much as I have criticized the pay-per-view model and will continue to do so for the aforementioned reasons as well as in many cases today, the model simply being used as a source of potential revenue regardless of what might be on the card as opposed to the legitimate “Big Fights,” if the price points were lower, the model may be more successful even if those promoters and networks, the “Hold Outs,” refuse to air every bout on a card as yours truly has suggested would add more value for the price as well as allow those “Hold Outs” as stubborn as they might be, to compete with subscription-based streaming alternatives.


Now, the reader may be wondering since I have spent the majority of this column pointing out the flaws of the pay-per-view model as well as offering suggestions as to what I think might at least make it more viable, what else I could have in mind for this year’s “Boxing Wishlist.” Well, the third item on this year’s list is something that frankly needs to happen for the benefit of the sport. Promoters regardless of television network affiliation need to work together on a regular basis to make fights that have significant public interest occur in a more reasonable timeframe than is typically the norm.


It is something that is as old as the sport itself that has always been a source of frustration not just for me, but anyone involved in Boxing that truly has the best interest of the sport at heart. How many times throughout Boxing history has there been a scenario where two fighters in or around the same weight class are able to garner significant followings and drum up interest amongst both Boxing fans and experts alike in a potential fight between the two, yet for one reason or another whether it be rival promoters that do not want to work together for their own business interests if nothing else, rival television networks that would rather take cheap shots at competitors rather than offering the best bouts that could be made for their audience, or simply the perception that one fighter, a fighter’s team, and/or a fighter’s promoter ducking another fighter, for one reason or another it results in fights at times taking several years to be made.


While some might say that such tactics end up drumming up more interest and make fights even bigger in terms of making them an event, more often than not, when two marquee fighters finally get into the ring, it can and has left a bad taste in the Boxing fan’s mouth and thus leaves the sport open to more criticism and ridicule than really should be the case.  In recent times, despite the willingness of networks like DAZN and ESPN to work together to make fights happen, the PBC side of the equation does not always show such willingness and seems more content to only make fights happen if it happens under their promotional banner and on their broadcast platforms, even if it may be in the best interest of not only the sport, but also the fighters that compete under the PBC platform to face fighters that may not be attached to their platform.  Unfortunately, this serves as a detriment to the sport and benefits no one involved. Much like my thoughts on the pay-per-view model, I don’t expect things to change in 2022, but I hope steps in the right direction are taken, even if it came as a result of a promoter or network trying to survive in the sport.


This brings us to the fourth item on this year’s “Boxing Wishlist.” For Boxing’s respective sanctioning organizations to finally come up with an alternative to “Interim/Regular Championship” designations. Those who have followed this observer’s “Boxing Wishlist” for years probably know that this particular item is something that is pretty much a mainstay on the list every year. Although I spend much time during a calendar year pointing out that such designations are not world championships, but are in actuality a number one contender’s designation, the short answer here is though it is well-intended by the sanctioning organizations as a way of ensuring that a top contender gets an opportunity to fight for a world championship one way or another, it is something that needs to be revamped or preferably done away with outright. In 2021, the World Boxing Association (WBA) at least stated their intent to eliminate such designations in their respective rankings per weight division. It goes without saying to any knowledgeable observer that the WBA’s rankings and “Interim/Regular” designations have created more confusion than it has solved problems that more often than not are related to the business end of the sport. Much like the other items on this year’s list, the elimination of “Interim/Regular” designations is something that will not happen overnight and will take time. It is my hope however, that the WBA sticks to their word and that other organizations in the sport that use a similar structure in their rankings follow their lead.


The final addition to this year’s “Boxing Wishlist” is something that yours truly has long advocated for and if it were not for the detriment of the pay-per-view model, would have been listed as the number one item on this year’s list rather than the closer. To see Women’s Boxing finally be moved to three minute rounds.


Anyone who is familiar with Women’s Boxing knows that the sport for women is in a period of long overdue exposure and recognition. Although thankfully, it is no longer uncommon to see a women’s bout headline a Boxing card either here in the United States or internationally that also features men’s bouts, one thing that continues to be a drawback is the fact that rounds in Women’s Boxing are scheduled for two minutes in duration. While the argument some have used is the two minute round length all but ensures an entertaining fast-paced fight for women competing in the sport, it usually results in fights that may not otherwise go the distance if it were fought under three minute rounds, the same length as men competing in the sport, or very closely scored bouts that could end in draws.


When one keeps in mind that the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) allows the women that compete in it to fight for either a three five minute round distance or a five, five minute round distance for world championship fights, the same distance as male MMA fighters, the argument that women boxers should not be allowed to fight for three minutes per round becomes less credible. One should also consider that during the delayed 2020 Olympics, which took place in the summer of 2021, women boxers were allowed to compete in three minute rounds and I personally felt that while there were still bouts that were very competitive and ended in close decisions, the women who competed in those Olympics were able to prove that women boxers are more than capable of Boxing for three minutes per round.  Those who read this observer’s coverage of those Olympics heard me state that it was my hope that those on the professional end of the sport would follow the lead of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Boxing taskforce and move women’s bouts to three minute rounds. While I would also like to see women allowed to progress to a twelve round distance for world championship fights, the same as their male counterparts, if those who regulate the sport from the respective athletic commissions around the world to the sanctioning organizations would take the step to three minute rounds for female fighters competing in the sport, it would be one more step in the right direction for Women’s Boxing.


Unfortunately, all of the items on this year’s “Boxing Wishlist” still comes under the midst of an ongoing global epidemic, which may or may not bring Boxing and the rest of sports to a halt at any given moment due to the several variants of the COVID-19 virus and the obvious uncertainties that come with it. Obviously, I hope that there will be no such pause and that the sport of Boxing will be able to have a full year of action in 2022 as was the case throughout much of 2021. We will have to wait and see what happens, but as a new year has now begun, yours truly is eager to see what is next for the sport of Boxing and to cover the events that unfold throughout 2022.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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