Can Golovkin-Jacobs Get Boxing Up Off the Canvas?

Distributors hope PPV event will build momentum for category

After a Lackluster 2016, the pay-per-view boxing category, still a key revenue source for pay-TV providers, kicks off its 2017 campaign in earnest with HBO’s Gennady Golovkin-Danny Jacobs middleweight fight.

The hope is Golovkin-Jacobs will help develop the next generation of marquee PPV fighters, though the March 18 bout isn’t expected to reach the category’s gold standard of 1 million buys. Still, industry observers believe it could set the stage for more lucrative bouts later this fall.

“We’ve had a slow start for PPV boxing in 2017, but the schedule is starting to come together, and we feel real good about the shows that we have coming up on PPV,” HBO VP of programming Tony Walker told B&C.

HBO hopes to build on the momentum from CBS’s March 5 live primetime telecast of the Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia welterweight championship unification fight. The CBS/ Showtime-produced broacast drew 3.1 million viewers, making it the third most-watched live boxing event on over-the-air TV since 1988, the networks said. (Thurman won in a split decision.)

Broadcast TV exposure for up-and-coming fighters such as Thurman, Garcia and current heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder — who fought on a Feb. 25 live, primetime Fox telecast — helps promote the sport and drives interest for PPV events, Walker said.

Walker would not predict how many buys Golovkin-Jacobs would generate, but the industry hopes to kick-start a 2017 PPV boxing year that will prove more lucrative than 2016’s disappointing campaign. After reeling in more than $500 million in revenue in 2015 — more than $400 million just from the May 2, 2015, Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao welterweight title fight — the PPV boxing category barely generated one-third of that take in 2016, industry sources said.

HBO has scheduled a May 6 fight between Canelo Alvarez, arguably PPV’s biggest draw, and former champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. But the category suffered a setback last week when a proposed April Pacquiao-Amir Khan fight fell through due to financial issues, according to published reports.

Tony Paige, a boxing broadcaster and sports-talk host on New York radio station WFAN, said that the early lineup of broadcast, premium-TV and PPV boxing events could yield some big dividends for the category later this year.

“Given what we’ve seen so far, you have a chance to see some big PPV fights in the fourth quarter of the year,” he said.