Sky’s Adam Smith defends Joshua vs. Pulev £24.95 pay-per-view pricetag

By Boxing News - 11/20/2020 - Comments

By Charles Brun: Adam Smith, the executive producer for Sky Sports Boxing, says the price tag of £24.95 for the December 12th Anthony Joshua vs. Kubrat Pulev fight even was necessary to make the event happen. If not for this, there wouldn’t be a fight because Joshua and Pulev need to get paid.

Pricing Joshua vs. Pulev at £24.95 is a good way of decreasing Joshua’s popularity. If this will be a permanent price for AJ’s fights, he could be destroying his popularity with fans deciding that he’s become too expensive for them.

Smith says the fans aren’t being forced to watch Joshua defend his IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles against Kubrat Pulev next month. They don’t have to watch it, but he’s hoping they’ll pay the £24.95.

The British fans don’t like the idea of paying the same price for Joshua-Pulev as they did for the much more compelling match last December between Andy Ruiz Jr and Joshua.

It may not seem like a big deal for the top brass with Sky to price the fight at £24.95, but it does matter to the fans. They’re not wealthy, making millions per year. Whoever set the price for the Joshua-Pulev fight, are they struggling like many of the fans?

Joshua-Pulev price = too high

That was a much more highly-anticipated fight compared to Joshua-Pulev, which is viewed as an easy title defense for AJ. Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) is 39-years-old, and he can’t punch, and he’s spent most of his career facing mediocre heavyweights.

Image: Sky's Adam Smith defends Joshua vs. Pulev £24.95 pay-per-view pricetag

Why fans aren’t excited about paying £24.95 for Joshua vs. Pulev:

  • It’s a mismatch on paper
  • Pulev can’t punch and isn’t popular
  • Fans not excited about Joshua-Pulev
  • High unemployment/fans can’t afford the fight

When Pulev did step up in 2014 to challenge former IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, he was stopped in the fifth round.

It’s a calculated gamble on Sky Box Office’s part to price Joshua’s December 12th fight at £24.95 because many UK fans are unemployed and cannot afford to pay that kind of money to watch a glorified mismatch.

Pretty much no one is giving the Bulgarian fighter Pulev a chance to win the fight. The reason for that, he can’t punch, has no defense for left hooks, and he’s not popular. In other words, there’s no interest from UK fans in seeing Joshua face Pulev.

By Sky Sports pricing the Joshua-Pulev fight so high, they’re likely to wind up with one of Joshua’s lowest amount of buys for his career. If they only blame that on the pandemic, they’ll be missing the point.

The real problem is that the UK fans aren’t excited about seeing Joshua fight Pulev because they already have a good idea of who will win that fight.

Image: Sky's Adam Smith defends Joshua vs. Pulev £24.95 pay-per-view pricetag

Adam Smith justifies Joshua-Pulev PPV price

“It’s the business that we’re in, it’s a Sky decision, it’s a business decision, and that’s all it is,” said Adam Smith of Sky Sports in talking to Boxing Social about why Joshua vs. Pulev is priced at £24.95 on pay-per-view in the UK.

“What you got to look at is the fact that there is no gate, there is no way we can get a crowd for any of these fights, and that’s a massive difference. 90,000 people came and watched AJ vs. Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley.

“You think about the gate for that, and you think about the gate when we were in Vegas for Fury and Wilder. I think it was the second biggest gate in the heavyweight history of all time. Anyway, the millions that they get from the gate is no more.

“They couldn’t make Tyson Fury vs. Agit Kabayel or anyone for December the 5th. There’s mediation going on but were there money issues as well because there’s no gate. Quite possibly. Everybody has got to adapt.

“Everyone is looking at the situation, and you’ve got to find a way of making these big fights work. This is a way of making this big fight [Joshua vs. Pulev] work.

Image: Sky's Adam Smith defends Joshua vs. Pulev £24.95 pay-per-view pricetag

“Anthony Joshua vs. Pulev is a huge fight. It’s the biggest after the Fury-Wilder of the year. It’s Anthony Joshua’s return to the ring after he’s become a two-time heavyweight champion of the world after he got his revenge out in Saudi against Andy Ruiz,” said Smith.

If raising the price on Joshua’s fights are the only way of making them happen, Sky may need to accept a lower amount of buys coming from the upper tier of the UK society, who can afford their prices. That, in turn, will make boxing even more of a niche sport and also one that only the wealthy can afford.

Would fans rather have Joshua vs. Pulev or not?

“Unfortunately, you’ve got to look at each and everyone,” said Smith. “There’s a lot of consideration that goes into this, and we always say with Box Office events, you don’t have to get it.

“If you want to get it, we’d love to have you with us, and we’d love to have you watching it. I’m sure that a lot of people would be interested in Anthony Joshua returning to the ring.

“Kubrat Pulev, a dangerous opponent who has only lost once and has had a long, illustrious career and was a good amateur as well. He lost to Wladimir Klitschko many, many years ago.

“He’s [Pulev] been in with everybody. He beat Chisora, and he’s beaten everyone that has been put in front of him. He was meant to fight Joshua a few years back, and Carlos Takam came in at short notice [in 2017].

“It’s [Joshua-Pulev] is a really good fight, it’s a big fight, it’s a prizefight, and we hope that everybody tunes in and watches it. We don’t have the Whyte-Povetkin fight this week.

Image: Sky's Adam Smith defends Joshua vs. Pulev £24.95 pay-per-view pricetag

“That’s a Box Office event that’s been delayed. This is a Box Office event; it’s a big event. We believe people will want to watch it and will want to tune in, and that’s the business we’re in.

“Would the fans rather have the fight or not have the fight? It’s their choice, and we hope they’ll choose to watch. We hope we’ll put in the biggest production. With no crowds, with no atmosphere, it’s very difficult.

“It’s very difficult for the fighters. They want to fight, and they’re making massive changes, let me tell you, to get out there. I think the answer is pretty evident,” Smith said.

What Smith doesn’t seem to be able to grasp is that if the fans don’t have the money to pay for Joshua’s fights, it won’t even be a choice. It’ll be a given that won’t order his fights because they won’t have the money.

With a mismatch like Joshua-Pulev, that fight should be priced very low to reflect a likely early stoppage. If you’re selling a product that you know will likely break apart and disappoint the buyer, you want to sell it as cheap as possible.

If you price it too high, the buyer won’t come back when the product falls apart on them. They’ll have been badly burned by the purchase, and they’ll vow not to buy from you again.

That’s why with a mismatch like Joshua vs. Pulev, you got to price that to almost nothing if you don’t want to turn away your fans for good.

Image: Sky's Adam Smith defends Joshua vs. Pulev £24.95 pay-per-view pricetag

Joshua and Pulev have to get paid, says Smith

“There’s no gate right now, and that’s exactly what Eddie [Hearn] said,” Smith continued. “I totally get it. There’ a lot of problems out there. Everybody has their own issues and their own things to deal with.

‘The most important thing is everybody gets through this, a very turbulent time. We all got elderly relatives we worry about, and we have people that have been affected by the COVID.

“The reality is, we are going through a pandemic, and it is extraordinarily tough. We’re trying to bring boxing back, we’ve brought it back, and we’re pleased about that.

“We think that’s put a smile back on people’s faces. It’s a business, and we want to entertain. Would I like everybody to watch Anthony Joshua come in? Of course, I would, but that’s not the business.

“The fighters need to get paid. These big fights cost a lot of money. Without a gate, it’s not possible. We could just not have it, and then AJ wouldn’t fight, and Pulev wouldn’t fight.

“People wouldn’t have the opportunity to watch the Sky Sports Office event on December 12th, which is going to be fantastic because it’s Joshua back in his mandatory fight with the possibility of Fury in 2021.

“It’s a huge opportunity to see one of our greatest sportspeople fight and appear. And it’s not just the fight. It’s the whole week it’s going to be a fantastic build-up.

“And it’s a choice. It’s not ideal, but it’s a choice. I really hope that people will tune in on December the 12th to see AJ defending his world heavyweight belts.

“He’s a big asset for us; he’s a valuable asset for us. We want to be watching the Anthony Joshua story. So let’s hope people do it,” Smith said.

Image: Sky's Adam Smith defends Joshua vs. Pulev £24.95 pay-per-view pricetag

Joshua and Pulev may end up not getting as much if their fight fails to bring in a lot of buys because of the steep PPV. They should have taken less to sell the fight at a price that the fans can afford. It’s what the market will bear.

If you price a product too high, people will turn up their noses spend their money on other things that are more affordable and important.

Joshua vs. Ruiz II NOT bigger than Pulev fight says, Smith

“Not really because it’s a world heavyweight title defense,” said Adam Smith when asked if Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr II was a much bigger fight than Joshua vs. Pulev, which is being priced by Sky Sports Box Office at the same price of £24.95 as that event.

“If Anthony Joshua loses to Kubrat Pulev, people are going to be stunned around the world like they were for the Andy Ruiz first fight.

“People don’t expect Kubrat Pulev to pull off the shock, but Pulev is a tough guy. I think people are underestimating him and overlooking him because he’s been in boxing for so many years.

“This is a huge opportunity for him. It’s a massive opportunity. He’s not going to have the crowd cheering for AJ. He’s used to fighting in front of huge crowds, and that’s a disadvantage for Joshua.

“Pulev is going to try and come in and upset the applecart. We saw what Povetkin did to Dillian Whyte, and we saw what Ruiz did to Joshua. These heavyweights aren’t scared.

“He [Pulev] already said that he’d embarrass him again and stop him again just like Ruiz did. It’s not as big a fight, of course. Look, Anthony Joshua is the world heavyweight champion.

“He’s defending all his belts against a mandatory challenger, who has only ever lost one fight. It’s a huge happening, a big fight, and a year like this; it’s particularly big when you can’t make other blockbuster fights.

“We’ve made these big fights happen. Don’t we [Sky Sports] deserve a little bit of credit for that? This is a really important night. It’s Anthony Joshua’s first fight of 2020,” said Smith.

Surprisingly, Adam Smith says that Joshua’s bout with Pulev is on the same level as AJ’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr last December.

Image: Sky's Adam Smith defends Joshua vs. Pulev £24.95 pay-per-view pricetag

Either Smith has badly misjudged the interest from fans in Joshua-Pulev, or he’s possibly confused.

There’s no comparison whatsoever between Joshua-Ruiz II and Joshua vs. Pulev. Fans are not excited about Joshua’s fight with Pulev because they know it’s a terrible match.

Pulev is just an old, weak guy who earned his IBF mandatory status by defeating the light-hitting Hughie Fury in 2018. The International Boxing Federation made it easy for Pulev by sanctioning his fight with Hughie as an IBF title eliminator.

Adam Smith: We don’t want to miss Joshua-Pulev

“We see this as a big fight, him defending his heavyweight world titles against Kubrat Pulev,” Smith continued.”It’s a star, star attraction in British boxing. I do see it as an important fight.

“You don’t know. All these fights for a world heavyweight title, especially when a British superstar is involved, are massive nights. We don’t want to miss it, do we?

“I would have everyone walk in and watch Anthony Joshua if I could. It’s a business, and to get a fight like this over the line, people have to adapt. It’s down to people’s choice

“whether they want to get the Sky Sports Box Office event. No one is forced to do anything. We hope they’ll enjoy the Anthony Joshua story and they’re there for the night because you don’t want to miss it.

“A lot of people I talked to can’t wait for the fight, and people do tune in. It’s business, isn’t it? You’ve got to look at that. You’ve got to look at America.

“They don’t change 24.95. They charge much more, and they’ve been charging much more for a long period of time. We’re always going to be criticized.

“We hope they are tuning in on the night because AJ-Pulev is another chapter in the history of this sport. We’ll also know if Joshua will be ready for Tyson Fury in 2021. That’s a massive fight,” said Smith.

If the buy rate for AJ’s fight against Pulev turns out to be horrible, the people who decided on the pricing with Sky Box Office will need to make some dramatic adjustments moving forward in the pricing for their events.

Image: Sky's Adam Smith defends Joshua vs. Pulev £24.95 pay-per-view pricetag

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