Business model

Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. prove boxing’s business model is broken and in serious trouble

Terence Crawford has taken to social media to try to explain why he will fight David Avanesyan next and not Errol Spence Jr. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

If you’re wondering why boxing is losing importance week after week, month after month, year after year and, sadly, decade after decade, head over to Twitter and check out the thread between Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford from Wednesday.

The two undefeated welterweight champions bickered like spoiled brats over why they chose not to fight.

Yes, it was a choice. Crawford and his supporters blamed Spence, and vehemently. Spence supporters equally emphatically blamed Crawford. Of course, instead of bickering over who would win what should be a fantastic fight, their fans are arguing about something they have no idea. They have no idea the truth of the matter, they don’t understand the case and yet they fill social media with these rants instead of discussing the actual fight.

That, in a nutshell, is boxing in 2022.

Here’s why the fight wasn’t made: exclusivity and expectations. Crawford was for years with Top Rank, which has an exclusive TV deal with ESPN. Spence is with the Premier Boxing Champions, which has its TV deal with Showtime.

Top Rank heavily overpaid Crawford and PBC overpaid Spence. Top Rank lost millions on Crawford to Shawn Porter. He sold a small amount of tickets and flopped on PPV, but Crawford walked away with $6 million.

People thought that once Crawford left Top Rank, it would be simple to fight Spence. But that’s where expectations come in. Because both fighters have been overpaid, they now find themselves in a situation where they expect to fight for a huge salary that would cause massive financial loss to anyone who uses it. financed.

It makes the sport ridiculous and the rent decidedly low. There is no central authority – a commissioner’s office, say – and so boxing has no rules, no sense of sport, no order or fair play. It’s every man and every woman for themselves. No one in a position of authority lifts a finger to fix it because they can make money out of it. Some are smarter than others and rush a little more, but the company is on life support.

An obscene amount of fighters make the overwhelming majority of money in boxing, while a large number make next to nothing. There is no middle class and so there is less and less incentive for athletes to get into boxing because the chances of them hitting it and making big money are in order of those against you or me hitting the Powerball.

Take, for example, the card in Los Angeles on September 4 which was headlined by heavyweights Andy Ruiz and Luis Ortiz. Ruiz won $1 million and Ortiz won $550,000. Of the 16 fighters who competed that night, eight won $5,500 or less. Antonio Lopez and Juan Carlos Lopez won $5,500 each; Anthony Cuba, Oscar Perez, Anthony Garnica and Jesus Carillo each won $5,000; Matt Gaver and Kel Spencer won $4,000 and Deljerro Revello $2,000.

After Revello paid his debts, such as manager, trainer, cutman, license, drug test, etc., he was lucky if he could afford a medium pizza with extra pepperoni and cheese and a bottle of two-liter soda.

There’s no way a boxer is making a living earning $2,000 or $4,000 a fight, and so who knows how many would-be champions walk away and quit because they have a spouse and a kid to take care of and rent to pay? They are crushed by a system that does nothing to replenish itself.

Meanwhile, Crawford and Spence have been acting crazy as they squabble over $25 million worth of stock exchange collateral, hedge funds, who has a boss, and other nonsense that has nothing to do with the fights. It just alienates the sport further from its fans, and especially from its potential fans.

There are no rules in boxing and fewer barriers to entry. Even in the NHL – where at one point John A. Spano Jr., who didn’t have nearly the amount of cash to complete the deal, but was still somehow approved to buy the Islanders from New York – there are policies and procedures in place to enforce minimum standards.

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 16: Errol Spence Jr. enters the ring against Yordenis Ugas at AT&T Stadium on April 16, 2022 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Undefeated Errol Spence holds the IBF-WBA-WBC welterweight titles but couldn’t reach a deal to fight WBO champion Terence Crawford. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Because of these policies, the teams operate under an agreed set of rules, and each year each team in the league plays the other and there is a playoff and then a championship final.

None of this is true in boxing. So too many fights go unstaged due to the exclusive TV deals, lack of any higher authority, and lack of rules to regulate how those in them operate.

Things are happening almost daily in boxing that would shake the pillars of major team sports. You can’t imagine the things that regularly happen in boxing in the NFL because the NFL has systems in place to prevent it.

Exclusive TV deals are the death of the sport, period. If Showtime and ESPN, for example, were open to all promoters and bid on fights they thought their audiences would like, that would boost the sport tremendously. Exclusivity simply prevents a lot of potentially good fights from happening.

In the United States, there are three main broadcast outlets for boxing: ESPN, which has an exclusive deal with Top Rank; Showtime, which does business primarily with PBC; and DAZN, which does business primarily with Matchroom and Golden Boy. There are no viable options for other promoters to have their shows televised. And without TV, they are dead.

A dispute on the network who should televise an interesting fight between Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis has this fight on life support. Showtime has Davis, who is with PBC, and DAZN has Garcia, who is with Golden Boy. The NFL has broadcast deals with CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and Amazon, and no games are ever scheduled or staged as a direct result of them, as too often happens in boxing.

Jimmy Cannon once called boxing “the red light district of sport”. But even this terrific observation does not go far enough, because if you go to any of the places in Nevada where prostitution is legal, you will find that there are many rules and regulations that govern the operation of brothels. Boxing? Not really.

Many fighters were led to believe that putting his pay-per-view fights was reaching the promised land, due mainly to the success of Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson, Manny Pacquiao and a very small handful of others in pay-per-view fights. . .

Too often a fight goes to pay-per-view because no TV network wants to fund and air it. That’s how even a quality fight like the one on Nov. 26 in Carson, Calif., for the vacant WBC super lightweight title between Regis Prograis and Jose Zepeda ends up on pay-per-view.

It retails for a ridiculously high price of $59.99 and has zero chance of getting nearly 100,000 sales, even though it’s a top-down fun card. Both Prograis and Zepeda are great fighters who are exciting to watch, but neither has a high profile and few will shell out $60 to watch.

The sport of boxing is fantastic and, at times, impressive when you see the courage, bravery and desire shown by these athletes. But the Company of boxing is miserable. It’s a broken system with too many scoundrels to count and no organization in place that would help make the fights the public want to see.

The public turns away and the business is going to keep shrinking because there’s no one who cares enough about the sport and the business as a whole to do anything about it.

The sad reality is that boxing’s demise is self-inflicted, and no one seems inclined to try and find a way to solve its many problems.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JULY 16: Ryan Garcia prepares for his fight with Javier Fortuna in his dressing room on July 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sye Williams/Getty Images)

Exclusive network television deals make it difficult for Ryan Garcia (above) to fight Gervonta Davis. (Photo by Sye Williams/Getty Images)