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Kovalev-Ward PPV numbers – low 160K says Iole

Andre Ward Sergey Kovalev


By Dan Ambrose: The light heavyweight mega-fight this month between IBF/WBA/WBO 1745lb champion Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward brought in less than spectacular pay-per-view numbers, according to Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports News. Iole is saying that he’s hearing the Kovalev-Ward fight brought in numbers in the 160K for PPV buys for their fight at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Those numbers obviously would be less than earth-shattering if they turn out to be the final results for the fight. The fight ended with controversial with Ward winning a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 114-113, 114-113 and 114-113.

Many boxing fans were upset with Ward being given the victory, as they felt that the 33-year-old Kovalev had done more than enough to keep his three titles. What was very disturbing to many fans is how the judges give Ward almost all of the last six rounds of the fight. The fight didn’t look like Ward had won that many rounds in the eyes of a lot of fans. They felt that Kovalev had won at least half of the last six rounds in some cases.

This writer had Kovalev winning the right 8 rounds to 4 in first viewing. The second time I saw the fight, I had Kovalev inning 9 rounds to 3. I couldn’t give Ward rounds in which he did little more than hold and stall out the fight.

“Hearing that the Kovalev-Ward PPV numbers are going to come in in the low 160s,” said Iole on his Twitter.

With these pay-per-view numbers, it might be in HBO’s best interest to not televise the rematch between Kovalev and Ward on PPV. With all the holding and wrestling that was going on in Kovalev-Ward fight in November 19, the boxing fans might not be eager to see a second fight between them on PPV. It would be understandable to put the two fighters back on PPV if it brought in large figures or if the fight had been an exciting one, but the fight was neither exciting nor apparently did it bring in big PPV numbers.

A rematch between Ward and Kovalev would make sense on PPV if they were on the undercard of a Golovkin bout. Ward-Kovalev would be a nice co-feature bout on a Golovkin vs. Danny Jacobs fight card. The two fights would be a decent PPV card. It might bring in 300,000 buys. That would be a good card. But putting Ward vs. Kovalev in as the headliner for a second pay-per-view on HBO would be a gamble.

If the fight didn’t bring in good PPV numbers this time, it likely won’t in a second fight, because it was a really boring fight to watch for a lot of boxing fans. There was a lot of wrestling and holding by Ward, and the outcome of the fight was controversial.

When boxing fans pay their hard-earned money to see PPV fights, they want to see exciting fights and they don’t want controversial results. In the Kovalev vs. Ward fight, the fans got both of those two undesirable things.

If fans are asked to purchase a second Kovalev vs. Ward fight, they might not be interested in that. It’s like with anything. If there’s a bad movie playing in the theaters with a horrible ending, the moviegoers aren’t likely to want to see that movie again. That’s why it might not be a good idea for the rematch between Kovalev and Ward to be put on HBO PPV a second time if the first fight brought in around 160K buys. You would have to figure the second fight would bring in even less than the first due to how awful the fight was from start to finish. It didn’t resemble a boxing match. It looked more like an MMA fight in the eyes of some boxing fans.

It was a big ask to put Kovalev-Ward on HBO PPV and assume the fans would pay to see it in large numbers. Ward was out of the sport for two years due to promotional issues. He was never a PPV fighter before he became a part time fighter in 2011. Kovalev wasn’t a well-known fighter with the casual fans. A fight between Ward and Kovalev would have made sense in early 2012, because Ward had won the Super Six tournament in late 2011. He was probably more popular than he’ll ever be. But making the fight between Ward and Kovalev PPV now just looked like a really bad idea.

Ward received a guaranteed $5 million purse for the fight, according to ESPN. Kovalev received a $2 million purse. Hopefully, the fight card didn’t lose money. In comparison, middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s unification fight against IBF champion David Lemieux last year in October brought in a reported 150,000 buys on HBO PPV. That’s pretty good considering that Golovkin was facing a non-star in Lemieux.

If Golovkin was able to pull in those kinds of numbers fighting Canadian Lemieux, then you can only assume that a fight between Golovkin and a bigger name like Saul Canelo Alvarez will bring in tremendous numbers if the fight takes place in 2017. Golovkin would have to be seen now as the No.3 pay-per-view attraction in boxing behind Canelo and Manny Pacquiao. That’s pretty impressive. IBF heavyweight Anthony Joshua hasn’t fought on PPV in the States, so he’s not figuring into the top PPV fighters in the U.S as of now. Joshua is a PPV fighter in the UK only. It’s unclear whether Joshua will ever become a PPV fighter in the U.S. He’s kind of in the same boat as former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, who never became a PPV attraction in the U.S. despite being popular with a segment of the U.S. boxing public.

In hindsight, HBO might have been better off if they stuck the Kovalev vs. Ward fight on regular HBO rather than on pay-per-view. If all the fight generated was 160,000 PPV buys, then it suggests that there wasn’t a huge demand for the fight. The card obviously wasn’t helped with the undercard being arguably a lackluster one with few interesting fights. The undercard had the following fights:

Oleksandr Gvozdyk vs. Isaac Chilemba

Maurice Hooker vs. Darleys Perez

Curtis Stevens vs. James De La Rosa

The Hooker-Perez fight ended in a controversial 10 round draw. A lot of boxing fans felt that Perez should have been given the victory. Hooker is one of Roc Nation Sports’ fighters. They were one of the two promoters running the card. In the Stevens-Rosa and Gvozdyk-Chilemba fights, there were injuries to Chilemba and Stevens that caused both of those fights to lack excitement.

Kovalev vs. Ward 2 will definitely take place, but what’s not known is whether it will be on HBO PPV again. Kovalev has a rematch clause in his contract, so he’ll get the rematch with Ward. It’ll be interesting to see if Ward and Kovalev will get the same purses as last time. If the promoters for this card are going to insist on it being televised on HBO PPV, then they’ll need to stick a good undercard with it, and make sure they get good judging. The last undercard was not good. The two top fights on the card had controversial endings. That’s not good. I don’t know if fans are going to want to see a second fight between Ward and Kovalev on PPV given the controversy of last time unless they have a great undercard.


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