Pay-per-view Sales High For Holyfield-bowe

Posted: November 13, 1992

Predicting the winner of tonight's heavyweight title bout between champion Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe is a tough call.

A no-brainer, however, is predicting who the biggest winners and losers will be, however it ends.

The winners? Promoter Dan Duva, partner Shelly Finkel and Holyfield

himself. As co-promoters of tonight's bout, each man's income is directly tied to the amount of pay-per-view purchases made. Duva said that if more than 800,000 homes purchase the fight, Holyfield will earn about $18 million, or a little more than 50 percent.

Bowe will be paid a flat $7 million.

According to several local cable systems, early pay-per-view sales were three to five times more than they were for June's title bout between Holyfield and Larry Holmes. That's a figure mirrored nationwide, according to

Duva, and a good indication that tonight's bout will far exceed the 730,000 buys attained for Holyfield-Holmes.

Duva and Finkel believe that a million buys will be approached or surpassed for this fight, a threshold surpassed only once before, when Holyfield fought George Foreman in April 1991. Then, 1.45 million buyers bit at a price of $36.95, for a gross of just more than $50 million. Add gate revenue of about $10 million, foreign television and closed-circuit sales and the total nut approached $70 million.

That brings us to the losers, at least on a relative basis. TVKO, and its president, Seth Abraham, projected about 600,000 buys for this bout, and thus offered only $12 million for its pay-per-view rights. Instead, Duva decided to retain the rights, taking the risk himself with his fighter's cooperation.

"We thought we could do better," Duva said. It now seems a lock that he was right.

Abraham's company was burned in the June fight, its losses estimated anywhere from $2.5 million to $6 million. Owned by Time-Warner, TVKO paid $21 million for all the rights to that bout, and, according to one source, spent an additional $10 million to market it. It also guaranteed purses of $33 million in the Holyfield-Foreman bout, but was saved by its phenomenal success.

But for this fight at least, TVKO has become, in essence, Duva's employee. It has distributed the fight to cable companies for a percentage that, said

Duva, "is less than 10 percent." Duva also said he spent about $5 million to market the fight.

Perhaps because of all this Abraham, a former public relations man, can't quite position himself in regards to the fight's success. In a New York Times article earlier this week, he cited factors such as the World Series, the election and pro football as his rationale for projecting sales of only 600,000. Yesterday, though, another Times article, this time appearing in the business section, quoted him saying that "The one beautiful thing about this business is that the viewer has a short memory."

Not to mention certain PPV executives.

"The thing that people tend to forget," Duva said, "is that a heavyweight title bout is not just boxing. It's like a different sport, all to its own. People who are not boxing fans will want to see this fight, because it's exciting theater. History has told us that you really can't factor in what's going on around it."

Abraham needed only to go back two years to find an autumn bout that produced more than 800,000 buys. That was Holyfield against Buster Douglas, which, incidentally, occurred only five days after the Reds swept Oakland in the World Series. Had the Series gone seven games, the fight would have occurred a day after the seventh game.

But like tonight's fight, there was no overwhelming favorite in that one, either. "That's the biggest thing," Duva said. "This fight is not a mismatch. That's what the Holmes fight lacked. I believe 90 percent of the interest comes from betting and arguing over who's going to win.

"Inevitably it comes to one guy saying to another, 'I'll bet you five bucks.' Then the two of them get together and buy the fight."

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