By Jake Donovan
From the moment the fight was announced, the November 21 showdown between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Miguel Cotto was one that fight fans recognized as the centerpiece of the 4th quarter boxing schedule.
Confirmation of that level of interest came in the HBO Pay-Per-View results, with the network reporting on Thursday that the telecast sold 900,000 units.
Alvarez won in the evening’s headliner, scoring a 12-round unanimous decision to win the middleweight championship. The show also included a Fight of the Year candidate in Francisco Vargas recovering from a knockdown and on the verge of a stoppage loss when rallying to knockout and dethrone super featherweight titlist Takashi Miura in the 9th round of their non-stop thriller.
Such numbers tend to fluctuate in the months to come, but for now it’s a strong number that comes in the wake of both Alvarez and Cotto delivering huge ratings in separate showcase bouts earlier in the year. The tally is good for the second-highest selling PPV event of 2015, although no fight in history will lilkey ever surpass the 4.6 million mark set by Floyd Mayweather’s points win over Manny Pacquiao on May 2.
“It puts an exclamation point on the biggest year in pay-per-view history,” Mark Taffet senior vice president, Sport Operations and PPV told BoxingScene.com on Thursday. “I couldn't be more thrilled for boxing, Golden Boy, Roc Nation and the fans.”
It’s also the best-selling PPV in the past 13 years to have not starred Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao or Oscar de la Hoya, the three biggest box-office attractions of the 21st Century.
The latest PPV telecast to perform that strong without including the aforementioned trio was the long-awaited heavyweight championship clash between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson.
“At 900,000 buys and $58 million in PPV revenue, Cotto-Canelo performed superbly,” noted Taffet of the last card for which he will be involved, as the HBO PPV whiz has announced his resignation effective end of year. “Not since Lewis-Tyson in 2002 has a pay-per-view fight generated at least 900,000 buys without featuring Mayweather, Pacquiao or De La Hoya.”
Their June ’02 clash – which Lewis emerged victorious by 8th round knockout – drew just shy of 2 million buys and set the record for the highest grossing boxing PPV telecast, a mark since broken three times over, all three occasions featuring Mayweather in winning performances.
Included among those record-breaking wins was his Sept. ’13 victory over Alvarez, the lone loss in the career of the superstar boxer from Mexico who has since won four straight. Separate pay-per-view headliners of his own were well-received given the budget and relevance of such fights, but confirmation of individual drawing power came upon his return to HBO.
A 3rd round knockout of James Kirkland played to more than 30,000 in attendance at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The HBO-televised event also drew more than 2.1 million viewers, good for the highest-rated cable TV fight of 2015 and the most watched cable telecast in nine years.
Alvarez’ win was followed by Cotto scoring a 4th round knockout of former middleweight titlist Daniel Geale in June. Their bout also aired live on HBO, drawing nearly 1.6 million viewers to produce the third most-watched live cable TV boxing telecast on the year.
Together, they did big business in November.
Given Mayweather’s retirement in September following his 12-round win over Andre Berto and Pacquiao’s intention to call it career with his planned last-ever fight next April, a new face of boxing is needed moving forward. Given the year he’s had in the ratings and at the box office, Golden Boy Promotions believes to have the answer.
“Canelo is now officially the biggest star in all of boxing; period,” Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions told BoxingScene.com via email.
Of all people, de la Hoya knows a thing or two about star power. The Hall of Fame boxer-turned promoter was by far the biggest star of his generation all the way through his announced retirement in 2009. Separate losses to Mayweather (May ’07) and Pacquiao (Dec. ’08) toward the tail end of his career paved the way for the two fighters to carry the torch upon his departure from the ring.
Now, it appears that it is back in his house, though in the hands of his biggest client. De la Hoya has already taken measures to seize the moment in furthering Alvarez’ brand for the foreseeable future.
“By committing to fight on Cinco De Mayo and Mexican Independence Day – boxing’s two biggest annual dates -- Canelo’s popularity will only continue to soar for years to come,” de la Hoya insists.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox