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Ward vs Kovalev 2 money, purses: Interest will again exceed revenue

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Boxing is ingrained in the public consciousness and the demand for it, whether in the movies or real life, is strong.

But in November, the light heavyweight showdown between Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev, a real-life Balboa vs Creed match-up of sorts, generated a mere 170,000 buys, probably 15% of what it should have garnered.

In addition, the purses were relatively low for a fight of that magnitude. Ward reportedly earned a guaranteed $5 Million and Kovalev was believed to have been guaranteed $2 Million. (Expect the fighters to receive a tiny uptick in the rematch)

(Ward vs Kovalev 2 purses)

Nevertheless, Ward vs Kovalev was one of the best match-ups over the last ten years, the biggest, most significant fight of 2016, and one of the most significant in light heavyweight history.

What happened?

Many surmise there was a lack of interest in the first bout, and don't think Saturday's rematch will perform any better. In fact, even fans have already uttered, "No one cared about the first fight and no one will have any interest in the rematch."

Indeed, 170,000 buys for Ward vs Kovalev is embarrassing for the sport but does that number only represent the number of purchasers interested? Perhaps it represents a segment of fans only interested enough to pay?

Last month, Canelo Alvarez vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr generated over one million buys so we know the American public is well-capable of supporting big PPV events without the names Mayweather or Pacquiao headlining.

If the first fight is any indication of how the rematch will perform, expect Ward vs Kovalev 2 to yield only about 200,000 - 225,000 buys, but look for it to be another hit on YouTube.

Ward vs Kovalev 2 News
Date: June 17
Broadcast: HBO PPV
Location: Las Vegas
Venue: Mandalay Bay

Division: Light heavyweight
Titles: WBA, WBO and IBF
Champion: Ward 

(Ward vs Kovalev 2 purses)

In the weeks following their first encounter, this YouTube post (which has since been removed) that contained the full fight generated nearly 400,000 views.

The combined tally of views from other posts containing fight footage that YouTube removed in December.

This highlights reel, posted after the first fight in November, generated nearly 200,000 views. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggCxvyUiUm0

This full fight video, published in late February, has over 170,000 views. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV4s1p3Su-U

Keep in mind, the above numbers don't include:

1) The tens or hundreds of thousands who presumably accessed an illegal stream the night of the fight (this is a major problem)

2) The tens of thousands who caught he replay on HBO

3) Full fight posts on other video sites such as Vimeo or

4) Other full fight posts on YouTube that may have been previously removed for violation of copyright that we didn't catch

HBO's Ward vs Kovalev preview has generated over 800,000 views on YouTube alone. Keep in mind, that doesn't include those who watched the live broadcast of the show on cable or via other video sites.

In all, unique views of the actual fight footage probably eclipsed well over 2 million while views of the pre and post-fight coverage have probably exceeded 4 million.

A new era in boxing
If, during the 1980s and 1990s, you failed to purchase the PPV, you were usually SOL unless a friend who ordered the bout taped it for you and subsequently went out of her/his way to personally hand you the tape. 

Today, however, there are so many ways (illegal and legal) to watch a fight and sans contributing to the actual live gate, all but one are free.

Perhaps Kovalev's trainer, John David Jackson, said it best in March:

“They tell me Sergey signed something," Jackson told BadLeftHook.com.

"But if Ward is wanting to get more money, OK, God bless him. Thing is, (the first fight) didn’t do well, pay-per-view-wise, so I don’t see more money coming in but, if he can get it, get it."

"...We will need better promotion this time.... They are both not well-known…they are well-known but not outside of this realm. They are two great fighters but not (the utmost) marketable names.”

Interest level within the boxing fraternity is high and even casual fans are showing "some" interest. However, today's social media, for better or worse in this case, give fans a bunch of viewing options.

Too many options.

... There are fight cards you're interested in that you're glad to pay for and cards you're interested in that you won't.

The biggest challenge today for fighters, boxing promoters and others involved in the boxing industry is not generating widespread interest among hardcore and casual fans... It's getting them excited enough to pay for the product. 

(Ward vs Kovalev 2 purses)


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