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Amazon Prime Steps Into the Ring to Take Boxing’s Best Swing at Success in Years

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As boxing prepares for its latest reinvention via Premier Boxing Champions’ distribution deal with Amazon Prime Video, the reach available to grow the sport seems infinite.

Amid figures including 170 million-plus Prime subscribers in the U.S. and 230 million worldwide, the sport that easily transcends language barriers will be accessible to more people with one common click than ever before.

What will that mean?

It depends on who you talk to, it depends on whether the commitment to maximize that interest by all parties is sincere, and it depends if boxing can attract a younger audience while retaining its older loyalists.

The sport’s most compelling transition in years launches March 30 when a Prime Video pay-per-view card headlined by the WBO/WBO junior middleweight title fight between Australia’s Tim Tszyu and California’s Sebastian Fundora occurs at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.

Separating itself from domestic distributors, Prime Video will offer an exclusive peek at the pre-pay-per-view portion of the card, with two fights beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Pacific.

Top-ranked middleweight Elijah Garcia of Phoenix can clinch a WBA title shot by defeating veteran Kyrone Davis, and jilted WBC junior middleweight title challenger Serhii Bohacuk will meet Brian Mendoza, who knocked out Fundora last year.

Additionally, fight insiders are taking heart that PBC has opted to fill its pay-per-view portion with four championship fights, including the compelling 140-pound title fight between talkative champion Rolando Romero and Mexican slugger Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz.

For years, fans have argued that high-profile main events are preceded by naked undercards, leaving customers exposed to the hollow, embittered feeling of being pilfered when the main event disappoints.

Boxing has to do something to revive itself when it’s been left reeling by the exits of HBO and Showtime as its leading broadcasters. Showtime departed last year when parent company Paramount turned its full attention to entertainment.

While the heavyweight division has enjoyed a renaissance, and champions including Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Terence Crawford and Jermell Charlo elevated to undisputed crowns during recent years, a lack of activity from some top fighters has zapped the year-round interest the sport once delivered.

Substantial purse money offered by streaming service DAZN at its 2019 birth and a prior influx of massive investment capital into powerful manager Al Haymon’s PBC have dried up, leaving the sport’s power brokers reaching for solutions.

DAZN just split with its North American CEO.

Few of the details about the Prime Video-PBC association or their operation plans are known. A Prime Video spokesman confirmed that a multi-year agreement is in place.

Additionally, PBC and Prime Video are planning to complement their pay-per-views with 10 to 12 fight cards per year available exclusively to Prime subscribers at no extra cost.

While one official confirmed there is a target date in June for the first of those subscriber-only cards in this debut year, the Prime Video spokesperson declined to say whether a date has been finalized.

Following Tszyu-Fundora, Alvarez will defend his undisputed super middleweight title against Mexican countryman Jaime Munguia on May 4 in a Prime Video pay-per-view. Another is expected June 15, featuring separate fights including Gervonta “Tank” Davis and unbeaten former super middleweight champion David Benavidez.

An official told BoxingScene this week that former Showtime World Championship Boxing host Brian Custer and play-by-play broadcaster Mauro Ranallo will head the Prime Video boxing crew.

PBC’s move from Showtime to Prime Video might seem glacial to fight fans, but a PBC spokesperson explained that it required the negotiation to broker the shift. Additionally, equipping an internet site to handle a glut of same-time pay-per-view buys while constructing and populating the site’s boxing page with shoulder programming, special series and coverage to best promote the sport and future events is a time-consuming process.

“You want people to come there, and when they do, you want that content to be fresh,” PBC spokesperson Tim Smith said.

The power of Amazon puts that information and, most importantly, the fights themselves, at the fingertips of a global potential audience that has never been so immense. For instance, Showtime offered less than 30 million subscribers. ESPN, which televises Top Rank bouts, has 72.5 million viewers.

One million pay-per-view buys stands as the current standard of a successful PPV event. The greatest pay-per-view fight of all time – the 2015 bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao – generated 4.6 million buys.

We know that Amazon Prime subscribers spend. The service generated a reported $40.2 billion in revenue last year, and subscribers reside in boxing-interested locales throughout Europe, in Japan and so many other places in the world where the sport boasts champions.

“You’ve seen the numbers for Amazon,” PBC’s Smith said. “The potential audience for that – when we can do the type of shoulder programming we’re planning to pique people’s interest and bring them to the sport – it’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room and a tremendous win for the sport of boxing.”

The timing might be sublime, as Saudi Arabia has invested deeply in the sport in recent years.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is readying to stage the undisputed heavyweight championship between champions Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury on May 18, and then will host the all-Russian undisputed light heavyweight championship fight featuring Artur Beterbiev versus Dmitrii Bivol.

With Amazon also stepping into the ring, a sport that has been sabotaged by greed, get-rich-quick schemes, selective matchmaking and firewalls between rival promotions appears to have the substantial financial backing in place to take its best swing at a boost in global interest.

Certainly, old habits die hard in this sport. But the fresh start – and opportunity – beckons.

“I know there are people out there who like to pick sides and say, ‘I like this promoter better than that promoter,’” Smith said. “But for the real boxing fan, the more good, quality boxing there is, and the more portable it is to watch … the better off the health of the sport.

“We’re trying to lift the sport up and bring as many new eyeballs as we can to the tent. That’s the only way this sport survives and thrives.”

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