The Working Man's Pay Per View
By Martin Wade (April 21, 2005) 
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Boxing Junkies, ever open your cable bill and swear to god that you’d never support the sport of boxing again? You go on a rant about your hard earned dollar and getting more “bang for your buck”, you even chastised yourself because in all other aspects of life you can be pretty rational. Married men can attest to the impending dread of looking over a cable bill with the wife and getting “the look”. You know the look, the look she gives you that says “what a shame, this otherwise rational man I married becomes a complete idiot at the site of two men fighting in their underwear”. Some of us rail against our “dealers” (I mean promoters) for putting the junk out there, as if Bob Arum hit us over the head and made us buy Barrara/Fana. Some of us like me proudly give ourselves monikers like “Boxing Junkie” to cover up for our addiction as if this “empowerment” will somehow excuse me from purchasing televised sparring matches in the future. And then there’s resignation, I like the way Doug Fischer of explains his “boxing jones” by simply stating, “I’m a sick sick man”.

Who will save us?

Finally, on April 23 ESPN will ride in on its white horse and attempt to provide pugilistic methadone for an otherwise helpless group of boxing junkies. Though lightweight champ Juan Diaz had to pull out of a certain war with Ebo Elder (reducing the card to a tripleheader) fight fans will no doubt receive more “bang for the buck”. The residual upside to purchasing the event will be contributing to the resurgence of coverage of boxing on cultural Goliath (ESPN) and a warm look of appreciation (which can lead to other warm places) from your lovely wife.

Affordable pay-per-view, sounds like an oxymoron don’t it? Pay-per-view in a traditional sense was designed to maximize revenue from super fights that pit super “names” in significant championship bouts. The descendant of Closed Circuit Viewing, in recent years many so-called “events” have been too thin (in quality matches) or simply “pay permercials” that allow name fighters to fulfill mandadtories. In other words the dealer (I mean promoter) says to the junkie (you and I) “I’m gonna charge you to watch your favorite fighter stay busy”. And face it, these high priced workouts are genius in that they are scheduled when the “Jones” is aching, slow sports weekends. You know the lapse in the boxing calendar when you’re vulnerable to all kinds of crazy stuff like “expanding your horizons”. When we succumb to weak cards (out of weakness) this allows some guy in a suit (much more expensive than yours) to determine that “the market” is there, so you’ll need your work helmet because there’s more crap to come. What ESPN and Main Events are attempting to do by providing quality (if not big name) matchups is give the boxing junkie a better high for a mere 30 bucks!

As with most addictions, cheaper, more potent product will always be the “tipping point”, the one factor that can escalate an isolated “condition” (what we suffer from) into an epidemic.

But can ESPN do more?

If I am correct ESPN will utilize the “Friday Night Fights” franchise in concert with a Main Events roster to build interest (and develop stars) to showcase in pay-per-view broadcasts. With such a broad range of resources and programming I believe ESPN can do so much more. This is a network that contributed to the boom in NASCAR and even transformed poker into a mainstream “endeavor” (I’ll never call it a sport) with compelling figures. The only way to reach the mainstream sporting public with boxing is the “why” factor. With junkies, all ESPN had to do was give us the name of the fighters, the price and the “how” of the event. Boxers should be fully integrated into programming (SportsCenter, Cold Pizza, Hotseat) so sports fans can learn about them and understand “why” they should tune in. ESPN should produce a weekly show ala “NBA Tonight” to keep the average channel surfing guy updated on who the fighters to watch are. Hell, they could simply buy (thus expanding on great web cast like “TNR” and “Gym Wars”) and the venture into boxing would pay off tenfold.

The week of “Classics”

For years many boxing junkies have pulled out their hair at the maddening way ESPN Classic mismanaged such an enormous fight catalogue. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ali but damn! You’d think he was the only boxer who ever swapped leather! It was great to see the first Leonard/Hearns and a young Evander Holyfield going for his first title at light heavyweight. For ESPN to maximize on the fat check they cut Bill Cayton they need to pay someone to go into that film room with a swiffer and a flashlight (I’ll do it for food and beer). They have to broadcast more classic bouts in more variety to reintroduce a disenchanted audience to the sweet science. Joe Blow channel surfer needs to be reminded of what makes boxing so great because he’s under the impression that Mike Tyson is still relevant as the “image” of the sport. The average sports fan needs to be informed about Mayweather, Morales and Hopkins and only ESPN has the clout to bring the gospel of boxing to the altar of the average sports fan.

So what can we do?

Support this pay-per-view! Yes I know the Diaz injury was a buzz kill but if we stand up and be counted we assure ourselves the chance to see Diaz/Elder in the near future. If we support this pay-per-view fighters of stature (like Vernon Forrest) will see the wisdom of following the example of Sugar Shane Mosley. If we support this card we make a statement to promoters that we as workingmen want value for our hard earned dollars and will support the fight cards that best provide this despite the “names”. And lastly, if we support this card we’ll once again be considered cute to our girlfriends and wives; isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

Until The Next “Jones”
The fiscally responsible “Boxing Junkie”.

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