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Canelo-Smith does 250K-300K PPV buys

Canelo Alvarez

By Dan Ambrose: The pay-per-view results for Saul Canelo Alvarez’s fight against Liam Smith are starting to filter in and they’re not looking good for last Saturday’s Canelo-Smith fight on HBO PPV from the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. According to Lance Pugmire of the LA Times, the pay-per-view buys are from 250,000 to 300,000 for the Canelo vs. Smith fight on HBO.

This is obviously not good news for Canelo and for his promoters at Golden Boy Promotions. It means that the boxing fans were not interested in purchasing the Canelo-Smith fight on HBO PPV, which isn’t surprising though given that the 28-year-old Smith was a little known fighter to the casual fans in the U.S.

Instead of Canelo fighting a more recognizable 154lb champion like IBF belt holder Jermall Charlo, WBC champ Jermell Charlo or WBA champion Erislandy Lara, Canelo and Golden Boy went with the obscure champion Liam Smith from the UK. In hindsight, it seems like a poorly thought out idea that was bound to end in failure.

For the alarmist boxing fans that think the PPV industry is dying for the sport, Canelo’s recent fight against Miguel Cotto brought in 900,000 pay-per-view buys on HBO. The PPV isn’t dying for boxing. What’s happening is that fans aren’t willing to buy poor match-ups like the one we saw last Saturday with Canelo fighting a little known fighter named Liam Smith instead of a guy that the fans have heard of before.

It would be interesting to know which of Canelo’s bosses at Golden Boy thought up the idea of having him fight Liam Smith on HBO rather than a safer bet in selecting one of the Charlo brothers, Lara, or Demetrius Andrade. If this was a decision made by Oscar De La Hoya alone, then someone from the Golden Boy Promotions brain trust should have raised their hand and told De La Hoya that it wouldn’t be a good idea to match Canelo against Liam Smith instead of putting him in with a guy that is recognizable to the hardcore and casual fan of the sport.

Lance Pugmire said this on his Twitter:

“Canelo Alvarez’s shrinking pay-per-view audience not expected to surpass 300,000 buys. Early returns on satellite trends show the Canelo-Liam Beefy Smith fight is in the 290k-310k range for PPV buys, about 600k less than Cotto. My sources say new numbers just in ensure Canelo – Liam Beefy Smith is more likely in 250k-300k range. Numbers, interpreted by source, indicate the mainstream/crossover crowd wasn’t there for Canelo.”

I don’t know if Canelo’s pay-per-view numbers are eroding, but they don’t appear to be growing. Golden Boy wants Canelo to become a crossover star in the U.S, but for him to accomplish that, he needs to be facing high quality opposition each time out.

Here are Canelo’s pay-per-view numbers for his career:

September 14, 2013: Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo = 2.2 million buys

March 8, 2014: Canelo vs. Alfredo Angulo = 350K buys

July 12, 2014: Canelo vs. Erislandy Lara = 325K buys

November 21, 2015: Cotto vs. Canelo = 900K buys

May 7, 2016: Canelo vs. Amir Khan = 450K buys

What these numbers would indicate is that Canelo has failed to become a crossover star like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya. We’re hearing from De La Hoya that Canelo is the new face of boxing, but he’s turning out to be a poor replacement for Mayweather.

You can speculate all you want about why Canelo is failing to become a big draw in the sport, but it likely comes down to the soft match-making that is being done for him by his promoters at Golden Boy. The soft match-making should only occur AFTER Canelo had become a crossover star, not before.

Canelo still doesn’t career defending fight like we saw with Mayweather beating De La Hoya in 2007, and Pacquiao beating De La Hoya in 2008. The casual fans saw Canelo come up short in losing to Mayweather in 2013. You can’t expect fans to hitch their wagons behind Canelo off of a loss to Mayweather, can you? Canelo’s victories since his loss to Mayweather have come against Erislandy Lara in a controversial decision, Alfredo Angulo, James Kirkland, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan and Liam Smith. Those were the wrong fights for Canelo to become a star. He needed to fight Golovkin already. If Canelo was going to pool from the welterweight division for his opposition, then he should have been matched against a good welterweight instead of Amir Khan. Canelo should have been put in with Keith Thurman, Kell Brook or Errol Spence.

At junior middleweight, Canelo should have given Lara a rematch to establish to the boxing public that he was the better fighter, and he then should have fought the Charlo brothers, Julian Williams and Demetrius Andrade. Canelo’s fight against Cotto was a good step for him career-wise. Instead of giving up his WBC belt, Canelo should have been matched against Golovkin so that he could show the fans that he’s the real thing.

For Canelo to be a superstar in the sport, he needs to fight only quality opposition from this point on. If Golden Boy turns around and puts Canelo in with WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders in his next fight in 2017, then you can expect similar pay-per-view numbers that we saw from his fight against Liam Smith.

The casual fans in the States don’t know who Saunders is, and they’re not likely going to get excited about wanting to pay to see Canelo just for the sake of him challenging for a title. Golden Boy can’t sell the Canelo-Saunders fight to the casual boxing fans by trying to get them hyped up by saying repeatedly that Saunders is the best fighter in the 160lb division. I don’t think the fans are going to believe that. De La Hoya was saying that Liam Smith was the best fighter in the 154lb division. The fans obviously didn’t care or didn’t believe what De La Hoya was saying about Smith.

Canelo needs to be fighting these guys from this point on if he wants to become the crossover star in boxing:

Gennady Golovkin

Daniel Jacobs

David Lemieux

Jermall Charlo

Jermell Charlo

Julian Williams

Erislandy Lara

Keith Thurman

Errol Spence

Sergey Kovalev

Andre Ward

It’s okay for Canelo to lose some fights every now and then, as long as he’s fighting only quality fighters and he’s looking good. Canelo CANNOT keep fighting the mediocre opposition that he’s been feasting on since his loss to Mayweather, because he’s not seeing his PPV audience widening the way it should be. That’s not because the PPV industry is dying. It’s because Canelo is not taking on the fighters that the fans want to see. It’s as simple as that.

Canelo could also really help himself a lot if he at least tried to speak English so that he could connect with his fans. When you see guys like Golovkin, Gilberto Ramirez, and Sergey Kovalev speaking to the boxing media despite not speaking fluently, it shows that they’re trying to connect with the American fans. Canelo has been fighting in the U.S. for eight years now since 2008, and yet he’s still not speaking English. What’s up with that?

Golden Boy should have given Canelo a big nudge to get him to start speaking in English the best that he can to the U.S media and to the fans so that he could become a crossover star. Speaking English isn’t enough though. Like I said, Golden Boy has got to start changing the way they match Canelo by putting him in with only quality fighters from this point on, because they’re not holding him grow more popular as a fighter by stunting his career by putting him in with the likes of Khan, Angulo, Liam Smith and James Kirkland. Those are the type of fighters that Golden Boy should have matched Canelo up in his first year as a pro, not in his 11th year. Canelo’s popularity is being stunted.

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