Boxing’s grip on the pay-per-view market is not as strong as it once was as Dana White’s Ultimate Fighting Championship gathers pace in the money-making stakes.
In 2016, two of UFC’s high-profile PPV offerings cracked the all-time top ten for revenue generated from household sales, something boxing has only managed to do once in the last three years.
Take away Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao, which blew all records out of the water, and the sport has only hit more than 1.5 million buys on two other occasions in the last ten years, something UFC did with both their major efforts last year.
Conor McGregor versus Nate Diaz I and II scored 1.6 million buys when airing in March and August respectively, topped only by Mayweather versus Canelo Alvarez (2.2m) in 2013 and Mayweather v Oscar De La Hoya (2.4m) in 2007 (MayPac apart).
You’d then have to go back to the days of the formidable Mike Tyson to gather further success in the top ten for the biggest names in prizefighting as UFC hits the right notes with former boxing fans disgruntled with some of the match-ups being made – or in some cases, not.
Three and a half years without a pay-per-view hitting a million buys (without the MayPac one-off) is a worrying sign for the top bosses at the likes of Top Rank, K2 and Golden Boy as the new wave of stars struggle to gain momentum.
Gennady Golovkin could only sell 150,000 when facing David Lemieux in a middleweight unification, whilst Terence Crawford v Viktor Postol – another unification, bombed at 55,000. Sergey Kovalev v Andre Ward, a fight billed as ‘Pound for Pound’ limped over GGG’s tally with only 160,000 when projected to gain at least 250,000.
Mayweather moving on has certainly hit boxing hard, and whilst the likes of Canelo and Pacquiao still have the reputations to reach the magical million mark, a fight between the two seems nigh on impossible to make.
Canelo is looking over and beyond 160 pounds for a potential outing against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., whilst Pacquiao has been mulling over a return to 140, leaving the pair in different solar systems regarding weight.
There’s no doubting Golovkin has the interest to be a PPV force, but without Canelo would need to move up to 168 or even to 175 and face the likes of Ward and Kovalev in order to get anywhere doubling his previous best efforts.
Since August when UFC posted their highest ever earnings from 1.65 buys, eventual victor McGregor has ominously switched his attention to landing a cross-codes fight with Mayweather, something many believe will never happen.
Here’s a look at the current top ten combat pay-per-views of all time:
May 2, 2015
Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao – HBO/Showtime (4,600,000)
May 5, 2007
Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. – HBO (2,400,000)
Sep 14, 2013
Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Álvarez – Showtime (2,200,000)
Jun 28, 1997
Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II – Showtime (1,990,000)
Jun 8, 2002
Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson – HBO/Showtime (1,970,000)
Aug 20, 2016
UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2 (1,650,000)
Jul 11, 2009
UFC 100: Lesnar vs. Mir 2 (1,600,000)
Mar 5, 2016
UFC 196: McGregor vs. Diaz (1,600,000)
Nov 9, 1996
Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield – Showtime (1,590,000)
Aug 19, 1995
Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley – Showtime (1,550,000)