By Dan Ambrose: The decision by PBC to stick Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman’s comeback fight against Mario Barrios on FOX Sports PPV on February 5th is a move that will almost surely result in only a small number of fans purchasing it.
As bad as Thurman has looked in his last two fights against Manny Pacquiao and Josesito Lopez, it’s questionable whether it will bring in even 50,000 PPV buys.
Thurman looked shot to bits in those fights, and he’s obviously even worse now given the 31 months he’s been out of the ring.
Will fans buy Thurman-Barrios?
What Thurman needed for his February 5th comeback was to be seen on regular FOX so that the masses could see him instead of being hidden away behind a PPV firewall with a massive $74.95 price tag.
Charging that kind of money during the pandemic for what amounts to be a tune-up that’s disappointing to the extreme. If this is what PBC had to do for them to cover the costs of bringing Thurman back, so be it, but it’s still disturbing.
You got to wonder what the price tag will be for a fight between Thurman and WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford later this year. If fans are asked to pay $74.95 for Thurman to fight a tune-up, it’s reasonable to assume that they’ll be asked to pay $100 on PPV to watch him fight Crawford.
I’m predicting we’ll see that kind of number, especially if Thurman’s fight with Barrios beings in a respectable number of buys. I don’t think it will, but if it does, you can bet that a Crawford vs. Thurman fight will have a $100 asking pay-per-view price.
With the 33-year-old Thurman having been out of the ring for almost three years, boxing fans have forgotten him, and the younger fans have no idea who he is.
Many fans won’t see Thurman
PBC’s decision to place Thurman’s comeback fight on pay-per-view will hurt his visibility, significantly limiting the number of fans that will see this fight. It seems like a foolish money grab on their part, and it makes you wonder whether they’ve misjudged Thurman’s popularity.
He’s not Floyd Mayweather Jr, who can come back and make massive money selling his sideshow circus events to gullible, unknowing fans.
Thurman isn’t that kind of a name, as he only became popular in 2017 and immediately broke down with injuries and disappeared until 2019. After fighting twice in 2019, Thurman took another long break, but this time for close to three years.
The fight card is going for $74.95, which is the kind of price that is typically seen for significant boxing events involving world champions in competitive fights. You would expect to see great battles involving world champions for that price.
Instead of seeing world champions, we’re seeing Thurman fighting in the main event against a former secondary 140-lb champion in Barrios. Former three-division world champion Leo Santa Cruz will be taking a tune-up bout against little-known Keenan Carbajal in the co-feature.
If the fight turns out to be competitive, it’s only because Santa Cruz is on the downside of his career, coming off a vicious knockout loss to Gervonta Davis in 2020.
What we have with Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) and Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs0 is a fight between two guys coming off defeats with no world titles on the line.
Thurman vs. Barrios = $74.95 on PPV
“75 bucks for Keith Thurman vs. Mario Barrios, but are you kidding me?” said Chris Mannix on his Podcast. “Seventy-five dollars for Thurman-Barrios?
“This is a problem in boxing where you’re going to get like 50,000 hardcore fans that buy this, and maybe that’s enough to cover the expenses associated with Thurman-Barrios, but what does that do for either guy?
“Keith Thurman rocketed to the top in part five years ago now because he got two titles, but also because he was fighting on CBS. He was viewed by five million people in one of those fights, whether it was [Danny] Garcia or Shawn Porter. He was a visible guy.
“To put Thurman-Barrios on pay-per-view, it’s not even the end of the year where ‘Our budgets are gone on Showtime, we can’t spend.’ It’s the first card in 2022, and it will be on pay-per-view. What are we doing?”
“One of the most common topics in the world right now is inflation, and it seems like it’s hit boxing pay-per-views as well,” said Corey Erdman of ESPN.
“That number has steadily one up over the years from 39 to 49 [dollars], and now, we’ve hit the point where if there’s a marquee fighter involved in the fight, it’s 70+ dollars no matter what.
“For most people, how are they going to afford that after they order Trevor Bryan vs. Jonathan Guidry the weekend before? Who has that kind of spending cash?”
“Seventy-five dollars for Thurman vs. Barrios is ridiculous,” said Mannix. “‘Jake Paul is bad for boxing. Everybody shut up and pay 75 bucks for Thurman-Barrios and go and watch Munguia-Ballard.’ What are we doing here?
“This is a great sport. It’s self-inflicted wounds of any sport that’s out there. It’s just unbelievable.”
“I’m not a PBC accountant, but maybe that number is what they need to make this profitable. I don’t know,” said Erdman. “But in a general sense, this is a guy [Keith Thurman] that casual boxing fans have forgotten about.”
The asking price for Thurman vs. Barrios should be low in the $20 range if not for free. Even $20 would be too much for this level of a fight, but $75 is shocking.
Thurman needs to be reintroduced
“He’s been out of the spotlight for two and a half years. Keith Thurman, I’m pretty sure, was a part of the most-watched boxing match in modern history in the last 10,15 years because it was on FOX, and it was one of the premiers on PBC” said Erdman.
“So there are people that care about him, but if I were doing it and again, I don’t know what the finances are, I would have given him [Thurman] some kind of reintroduction that was easily accessible and then move him back to pay-per-view in perhaps a better fight.”
“If he wins, there’s a chance that Terence Crawford could be out there waiting for him, and that’s a big fight,” said Mannix about Thurman. “But to make that fight even bigger, don’t you want to be visible in a battle against Mario Barrios? I don’t get it.
“It’s just maddening, man, because that’s a pretty good FOX fight, a pretty good Showtime fight,” said Mannix about Thurman vs. Barrios. “Any PBC platform, it’s just not the right one.
“It’s not coming out of my pocket at all. It’s the listeners out there. Pay-per-view has its place. Fury-Wilder, I’ve not heard one person complain about the cost. Thurman-Barrios, I’m guessing there will be a few people complaining about that.”
Thurman is no longer relevant given how long he’s been out of the ring and how he was only briefly fighting in 2019 after another extended two-year break.
With only two fights under Thurman’s belt in the last five years, he hasn’t been seen enough for him to be on PPV. In five years, Thurman should have fought 15 times if he fought three times a year.
But for him to only have fought twice, there are no words to describe how poor that is.