More HBO Boxing PPV boss Mark Taffet believes Tyson Fury’s third fight against Deontay Wilder could be a box-office smash despite the feared economic impact of COVID-19.
The global pandemic has shut down the world of sport since mid-March and boxing is just one of the areas to suffer. Fury had been due to face Wilder in July but they will now not complete their trilogy until October or November at the earliest.
Top Rank supremo Bob Arum, who promotes Fury along with Frank Warren, had been hopeful the Wilder rematch – which took place in Las Vegas in February – would top 2m buys with the combined might of ESPN and Fox to promote it. However it netted out at around the 800,000 mark.
But Taffet, who was senior vice-president of sports operations and PPV at HBO and oversaw blockbuster events such as Mayweather/Pacquiao (which generated a record 4.6m buys in 2015) and Mayweather/De La Hoya (which generated the previous record of 2.4m buys in 2007), still thinks there is great potential in a third fight.
Taffet – who is now manager to Claressa Shields – told BoxingScene: “They can potentially double the numbers the next time they fight. I think the expectations by many people was that the fight would perform better, yet, it was another great reminder about the importance of the sport being available broadly. Giving PPV projections works against negotiations. When you raise the stakes and set the bar too high with the media, you set yourself up for failure for not meeting expectations, even though you do extremely well.”
Taffet, who was the mastermind of HBO’s incredible PPV strategy for around a quarter of a century, even used to phone his brothers to give him a gauge on how big a promotion could be.
“I would ask them, ‘are you watching the fight Saturday.’ If they said, ‘yes’ I knew we had 1.5 million buys. If they said ‘no’ I knew we would struggle.”
While the impact on the global economy from COVID-19 appears to be disastrous, Taffet doesn’t believe it will stop boxing fans from paying for what they see as a premium product.
“You have to let the fighters build, and then expose them,” he said.
“Their last fight (Fury vs Wilder) was a great one, and it ended up being seen by large audiences, even on a delayed basis. People think PPV is easy until they do it. 20/20 hindsight proves how difficult it is to convince people that they should stay home and spend good money that they work hard for to watch a boxing match.