He may be the pound-for-pound king, the undefeated middleweight champion of the world and an Internet darling, but Gennady Golovkin's popularity hasn't exactly translated to pay-per-view (PPV) buys as yet.
According to ESPN's Dan Rafael, "GGG" and his latest opponent Daniel Jacobs only generated 170,000 PPV buys. That is despite the usually-effective HBO marketing machine's extensive efforts in promoting its fight at New York City's Madison Square Garden, which saw Golovkin emerge as the controversial winner by unanimous decision.
This was only Golovkin's second contest broadcast on PPV, but the figure of 170,000 PPV buys is still a small increase on the 153,000 buys achieved in 2015 when the Kazakhstani boxer dominated Canadian David Lemieux in a world title unification bout. The reverence and mystique surrounding GGG's unbeaten name and abilities—helped by his knockout streak of 23 before it was ended by Jacobs—has long been building, but it is yet to have truly translated into big money for Golovkin himself and his promoter, K2 Promotions.
Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions, claims he is happy with the modest increase on PPV buys: "The projection we are now getting is in the 170,000 range, which we feel is a good improvement over GGG's first pay-per-view show and many recent pay-per-views."
In a startling show of mismanagement, K2 messed up by counterprogramming GGG's fight against the first weekend of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament which has traditionally attracted huge television audiences—which no doubt affected its PPV numbers. "Going against the NCAA tournament wasn't easy," conceded Loeffler. "But that was the date that worked for Madison Square Garden and TV and it was a great boxing weekend in New York."
While there was an increase of around $1.5million in gate revenue, PPV numbers are the biggest and best bargaining chip in fight negotiations when both parties are proving it difficult to come to mutually-agreed terms. Putting Golovkin on PPV was a gamble which simply did not pay off and it is obvious this could cost K2 and its client further down the line in any negotiations with Golden Boy Promotions for a superfight against Saul "Canelo" Alvarez with both promoter and fighter already proving to be unwilling participants so far.
Not long after Rafael's ESPN report went live, Oscar De La Hoya—founder and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions—had seemingly smelled blood already, telling the LA Times he is "pulling off the table" the verbal deal for Golovkin in line with these low PPV numbers and the perceived lack of GGG drawing power.
"GGG and Jacobs does between 100,000 and 200,000 homes, it's a big risk for me to put up a lot of money up front," De La Hoya said. "So if we want to make this fight happen, we have to work with each other. It all depends on the pay-per-view and that's the risk we all have to take.
"It obviously shows you there's only one pay-per-view guy and that's Canelo," De La Hoya said. "People talk about Golovkin being this big superstar. Why is he selling only between 100,000 and 200,000 homes?" De La Hoya asked. "He's no Canelo, that's for sure."
With all the "A-side" and "B-side" talk stemming from the rumours swirling around a potential fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor, it is clear Canelo—with his extensive Mexican backing—is on the A-side in these negotiations.
Canelo's fight with Miguel Cotto is the closest boxing has come to breaking the 1,000,000 PPV buyrate, with 900,000, since Mayweather's 2015 fight against Manny Pacquiao. Then there are the 2,200,000 buys Canelo helped put together in his 2013 fight against Mayweather and the 300,000 buys, which are meagre by his standards, garnered against little-known British light-middleweight Liam Smith—and that's not mentioning the fact that fight took place at the AT&T Stadium in front of over 51,000 people.
While Golovkin vs. Canelo is the fight everyone in the boxing world wants, there are already some existing obstacles in the way in addition to this latest chapter in negotiations between K2 and Golden Boy Promotions. Canelo is slated to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 6, while Golovkin is expected to face England's Billy Joe Saunders in June in a bid to win his WBO belt to become the undisputed middleweight champion of the world—a potential fight the Canelo camp is not happy about.
Obviously, if either Canelo or Golovkin lose their next bouts, a lot of the lustre of a superfight between the two is lost.
But this latest spanner thrown into the works is troubling. To me, K2 has made a strategic misstep in thrusting Golovkin back onto PPV after the first venture had failed. Golovkin's star would have benefitted more if he continued to be showcased on network television to enhance the allure of an unbeaten knockout artist who had already captured the imagination of the internet. Instead, K2 and GGG's cards have been shown too early—and they've been dealt a bad beat hand.
K2 and Golden Boy Promotions had already come to multiple negotiation stalemates with the latter wanting deals the former deemed unreasonable. Now, Golden Boy Promotions are outwardly seeking to take advantage of Golovkin's perceived lack of drawing power which could kill this fight altogether.