Boxing’s upcoming schedule is filled with pay-per-views, which is a downer for those who understand that pay-per-view has made a select few fighters insanely rich, but overall has been a detriment to sustained, long-term growth for the sport.
Boxing will be far better if pay-per-view simply fades away, because the sport can’t grow if the best fights and brightest stars always fight in front of the smallest possible audience.
There are four notable (or at least somewhat notable) pay-per-view fights scheduled between now and the end of the year.
Shane Mosley and Ricardo Mayorga will kick it off on Aug. 28 when they meet at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Floyd Mayweather will fight for what he says is the final time on Sept. 12, when he meets Andre Berto at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. WBA/interim and WBC middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin will face IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux on Oct. 17 in New York. And on Nov. 21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez will meet to determine the world's greatest 155-pounder, the ridiculously unnecessary catch weight for their WBC middleweight title bout.
So let's take a quick look at each of these pay-per-views and then rank them in various categories to see which is the most interesting.
To start, let's do a ranking of the star power/notoriety of the fighters themselves, because that will factor into a lot of the other rankings:
8. Ricardo Mayorga (31-8-1, 25 KOs): Mayorga is the least interesting and most shot fighter on this list. He's probably got greater name recognition than Lemieux since he's fought Oscar De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, the late Vernon Forrest, Cotto and Mosley already. But he's long, long, long over the hill and his shtick is tired, as well.
7. David Lemieux (34-2, 31 KOs): The IBF middleweight champion is popular in his native Montreal, and is beginning to develop a name in the U.S., thanks to a recent appearance on HBO. He's an exciting fighter, but how good he actually is remains in question. He probably has the least name recognition of the eight pay-per-view fighters, but he's more competitive and more in his peak than Mayorga, so we ranked him just ahead.
6. Andre Berto (30-3, 23 KOs): Berto is well known to those inside the boxing bubble, but he's kind of an enigma to those outside of it. Certainly, he'll garner much more mainstream exposure during the promotion of the Mayweather fight and he'll be a bigger name coming out of the fight than he is going into it.
5. Shane Mosley (47-9-1, 39 KOs): Mosley was once regarded as boxing's best pound-for-pound fighter. But he'll be less than two weeks from his 44th birthday on fight night and hasn't fought in almost two years. He's 1-3-1 in his last five, but his wins over Oscar De La Hoya and his name recognition from big fights against Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao move him farther up on this list than his current talent would suggest.
4. Gennady Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs): The man known as "Triple-G" is one of the world's best and most exciting fighters. He's got a cult following among loyal boxing fans and his notoriety is expanding. It would most likely have been better for his brand for this fight to be on HBO rather than on pay-per-view, because he's going to take a significant hit in viewership, but he's a star on the rise and, hopefully soon, will be in some mega-events.
3. Miguel Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs): Cotto has been a big name ever since he turned pro following the 2000 Olympics. He's known as one of the best and one of the most exciting fighters in the business. The only knock on him, other than his frequent surliness with the media, are the ridiculous requests for catch weights he makes. He's the WBC middleweight champion. If you want to be the middleweight champion, you should be prepared to fight middleweights. Using catch weights makes a mockery of the rules, but Cotto has been money in the bank when it comes to entertaining fights for many, many years.
2. Canelo Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs): Alvarez almost certainly is the second-biggest name in boxing now, behind Mayweather. He seems to have passed Pacquiao for that position and clearly is the favorite to be the sport's biggest draw once Mayweather retires. The Mexican star doesn't get enough credit for the impact he had on the massive pay-per-view numbers his 2013 fight with Mayweather did. He's a star of the highest order, and a terrific fighter to boot.
1. Floyd Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs): He holds every record there is in pay-per-view and is coming off a mindbogglingly high 4.4 million sales from his May 2 bout with Pacquiao. He's a mainstream celebrity and he'll sell a lot of pay-per-views to his bout with Berto on nothing other than name recognition.
This category pays homage to the great 1985 middleweight title fight between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns that many rate as the most exciting fight ever. Here, we'll rank the bouts from four through one in terms of their potential excitement in the ring. This ranking has nothing to do with appeal and everything to do with entertainment in the ring.
4. Shane Mosley-Ricardo Mayorga, Aug. 28, Inglewood, Calif.: I was tempted to put this one at No. 3, because both guys will come to fight and they could create toe-to-toe action. But they're both far, far, far past their primes and it could get very sloppy very early. Mosley will have been out of the ring for 21 months on fight night and his prime is at least 10 years in the rear-view mirror. Mayorga flat-out stinks. Odds it is memorable: 1000-1.
3. Floyd Mayweather-Andre Berto, Sept. 12, Las Vegas: This fight is going to be a typical Mayweather fight: The opponent will attack, not be able to land, get countered and then slow down. Mayweather, in what he says is going to be his final fight, is good enough to stop Berto, but it's unlikely he'll want to take the risk. Whenever you throw punches, you're at risk of being hit yourself. With a perfect 49-0 record so close, it's likely Mayweather will be content to use the same formula he's used so often. He'll win with his defense, sting Berto here and there with a sharp counter and never get into any dangerous places. Odds it is memorable: 1000-1.
2. Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux, Oct. 17, New York: This fight will be entertaining for as long as it lasts. Lemieux is an action fighter, and in Golovkin, he's facing one of the sport's best action fighters. Golovkin simply punches too hard for Lemieux, but there will be intrigue as Lemieux will test Golovkin's chin as well as his cool under fire. But expect that after some spirited early exchanges, Golovkin will take control and stop Lemieux somewhere in the middle of the fight. Odds it is memorable: 8-1.
1. Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez, Nov. 21, Las Vegas: This is one of the best matches that could be put together in boxing. It's a renewal of the always heated Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry, and it pits one of the sport's long-time established stars against a younger star just hitting his prime. For an entertaining match with a high skill level, it's hard to do better than this. Odds it is memorable: 2-1.
In this category, I'll look at the match and rank them on how well they will sell on pay-per-view. Pay-per-view is an inexact science and it's not an easy business to crack. The ranking is a nod to the incredible PPV performance Mayweather and Pacquiao combined for in May.
4. Mosley-Mayorga: This bout features two name fighters whose primes were long ago. In addition, there is an intriguing matchup on ESPN just a few miles away that night between Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz. The Mares-Santa Cruz bout is a better fight and it's free, so that will badly hurt the sales of Mosley-Mayorga. It will also harm ticket sales. PPV Prediction: Expect around 25,000 purchases.
3. Golovkin-Lemieux: The main event should be fun, and the already announced undercard fight between Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and Brian Villoria is excellent. But the fighters don't have nearly the name recognition as the fighters on the other cards. PPV Predicition: While I could see this coming in under 200,000, I'm going to go with 200,000 as my pick. It has tough competition from Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, Game 1 of the National League Championship Series and several big college football games, including Florida-LSU, USC-Notre Dame, Michigan-Michigan State and Penn State-Ohio State. Say 200,000 with the possibility of dipping to 150,000.
2. Cotto-Alvarez -- This has everything going for it to make it a big pay-per-view: Fighters with fan-friendly styles and big names. It will be the final mega-fight of the year and will have the full attention of the boxing community. PPV Prediction: I concede this fight can get hot and potentially hit 1 million. Everything would have to go right for it to hit a million, and it doesn't seem realistic. Cotto has done well on PPV against Pacquiao and Mayweather, but not so much against Sergio Martinez. Given that, I'll go the conservative route and predict 750,000.
1. Mayweather-Berto: Hardcore boxing fans hate the fight. They absolutely hate it. But Mayweather fights sell no matter how angry the hardcore fans are. It's going to be promoted heavily as his final bout, and that's going to attract a lot of fans who otherwise wouldn't buy. PPV Prediction: I'm going to guess 800,000, which is an incredible number by most standards but a poor one by Mayweather's. It's less than 20 percent of what he did against Pacquiao in May, but it's still going to make both fighters a lot of money.
Mosley TKO 7 Mayorga, Aug 28: Mayorga was never remotely in Mosley's class and even though Mosley is only a shell of his one-time stellar self, it will be more than enough to put away Mayorga.
Mayweather UD Berto, Sept. 12: Expect two 119-109 scores and a 118-110. It wouldn't be a shock if Mayweather wins every round on one judge's card.
Golovkin KO6 Lemieux, Oct. 17: It will be good while it lasts, but Golovkin is the better fighter with the greater power and Lemieux's style fits him perfectly.
Alvarez TKO11 Cotto, Nov. 21: Cotto is one of the greatest fighters of his era. But he's trending downward and he's going up against a man just as skilled (if not more) who is in his prime and improving. It's going to be a memorable battle and Cotto will have his moments, but expect Alvarez to wear him down and stop him in the 11th.
Dollar for dollar, it's hard to top the Cotto-Alvarez pay-per-view. The rumor is that talented super midldeweight champion Andre Ward may appear on the undercard, but that doesn't figure to be a significant fight. We've had more than our fill of appearance fights and that's what a Ward bout on that undercard figures to be, if it happens.
The Mayweather-Berto fight figures to be hot, simply because it's Mayweather. Some may question it because the match is so poor, but the answer to that is simple. It's why McDonald's sells so many burgers every year. It's lousy food that is not good for you, but it's a highly recognizable brand that is well-marketed, easily accessible and affordable.
With Mayweather retiring and Cotto moving down that path, hopefully pay-per-view shows become less the norm. They're never going to go away entirely, but PPV should be saved for only the most special of fights.
Boxing would be better for it, but there is no one with the long-range interest to do what is best for boxing as a whole, now and into the future. It's a money grab, and for big-name fighters, pay-per-view is an easy way to grab it.