Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward was billed as boxing’s biggest and most important matchup of 2016. Their November 19th main event was closely contested, very competitive, and after Ward was dropped in the 2nd round, he rallied to get a 114-113 (x3) unanimous decision to unseat Kovalev as boxing’s #1 light heavyweight.
Yahoo’s Kevin Iole reported on Monday that Kovalev vs. Ward drew in 160,000 buys on HBO pay-per-view. Neither man had ever previously headlined a PPV in their respective careers, so there were some question marks as to how well Kovalev and (more specifically) Ward would fare.
So is it a success? Is it a failure? It depends on what expectations were set. Roc Nations (Ward’s promoter) and Main Events (Kovalev’s promoter) did not make any comments on the reported buyrate, although leading up to the event, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva told BoxingScene that she would’ve “shot off fireworks” if the fight did more than 250,000 buys.
There are no details on the gate revenue for this event, which was held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, but attendance was listed at 13,310. Purses for the main event were $2 million for Kovalev and $5 million for Ward, although there was nothing noted on whether or not PPV points, for example, were written into their contracts.
One thing that is for certain, boxing had an incredibly rough year for PPV in 2016. Have a gander at these estimated totals in our first full year since Mayweather vs. Pacquiao shattered every record imaginable, courtesy of Jed Goodman.
2016 #boxing PPV estimates: pic.twitter.com/XNPfJFkWQ2— Jed I. Goodman (@jedigoodman) November 28, 2016
Note that Showtime did not run a single pay-per-view this year. In fact, 5 of those 6 pay-per-views were produced by HBO, while Manny Pacquiao’s win over Jessie Vargas was produced by Top Rank Promotions and independently distributed. Showtime had Canelo Alvarez as recently as 2014 before he returned to HBO, and Floyd Mayweather was their meal ticket when he signed a multi-fight deal with them back in 2013.
As for HBO, as was discussed earlier in the year, their reported budget-slashing has hurt their boxing program considerably, thus a reduced number of available fight dates, smaller purses, and we end up with legitimately quality fights like Crawford vs. Postol on PPV, as opposed to airing on the main network.
There are no more boxing PPVs scheduled for the rest of the year, although Anthony Joshua’s December 10th fight vs. Eric Molina will be a PPV in the UK, where purchase points are substantially cheaper — the Joshua vs. Molina fight will be about $45 US cheaper than the cost for Ward vs. Kovalev — and the plethora of champions and rising stars has led to the British boxing market looking far healthier than what we see in the United States.