Home Columns Cotto vs. Martinez PPV undercard latest awful example

Cotto vs. Martinez PPV undercard latest awful example

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Boxing pay-per-view cards need to be better:

It’s no secret among boxing fans that the quality of PPV undercards has been steadily dropping off over the years. Also waning is the level of protest, which is giving license to promoters to continue staging dreary undercards time and again. Case in point is next month’s Sergio Martinez vs. Miguel Cotto PPV event. While certainly an attractive main event, the undercard consists of the following bouts:

  • Yuri Foreman vs. Jorge Melendez
  • Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. vs. Marvin Sonsona
  • Andy Lee vs. John Jackson

These fights would be nice, if they were an ESPN telecast perhaps. These are good fighters, but when fans have to shell out between $50-$70, it’s a slap in the face to be served fights like this. First of all, they’re arbitrary fights involving boxers with almost zero clamor. Even in the days of Mike Tyson, they’d put some potential future challengers on the undercard, drumming up interest in future fights. Undercards were used as staging areas for upcoming match-ups. Now it’s like they’re killing time before the main event.

It’s off-putting to say the least when cards shown on regular old Showtime or HBO serve up better undercards than a PPV event. Take a look at recent and upcoming cards on regular pay-cable. They leave these recent PPV undercards in the dust. It’s really grown to a point where something needs to be done.

While not being a UFC apologist, boxing should take note at how that organization craftily constructs undercards. Things build up to a crescendo. You see a couple C-level fights, a few B-level fights, a couple A-minuses, and then it culminates with the A+ fight. People look forward to the event as a whole, not simply on the strength of one fight. Future PPV fights are cultivated. The action relates in some way. The undercard has appeal. It’s an integral part of the show. Truth be told, the caliber of matches they show on the “free-prelims” portion of a typical UFC PPV usually usurps the best PPV undercard bout in terms of caliber.

In boxing, the undercard is an afterthought. And when paying $60, that’s not acceptable. Why must there be such a dramatic drop-off from the main event to the top-end bouts on the undercard? With the Martinez-Cotto fight, they spend millions on the main event, but only a tiny fraction of that on the undercard. No one is saying to stop having great main-events, but isn’t it feasible to spread the dough just a little more evenly throughout the card?

With the prices they charge, if only 50 thousand more people ordered the fight, they’d have several millions of dollars more to work with. You can book a couple humdinger fights with that kind of money. Isn’t it safe to say they could induce at least that many more buys by staging a comprehensive card with a few more nuggets on it?

Nothing against Yuri Foreman, but Cotto already knocked him out and he’s really a non-factor at this point. He’s fighting a guy in Jorge Melendez who was recently handled by the immortal Nick Brinson and that’s the main attraction of a PPV card? Disgusting.

It’s easy to see why the promoters would insist on staging chintzy undercards. They have managed to lower the expectations of the public, gradually making them numb to the undercards and omni-focused on the main event. Why spend millions when a couple hundred grand can get the job done? Maybe they’re right in that respect. A PPV card sells mainly because of the identity of the guys in the main event. If it comes down to either appeasing hardcore fans or pocketing a few extra bucks, the fans will likely lose out.

It seems like at least a good experiment to try. I’m sure the big-time promoters are happy when they do a million buys on a PPV card. But maybe there’s more to be had and a way to profit by having a stacked undercard, which would surely boost the buy-rate. Ideally, you’d like to see promoters take their role as caretakers of the sport more seriously. One way they could start giving back to the sport that made them millionaires is by staging cards that are compelling the whole way through instead of giving fans just a great main event, supported by a bunch of low-impact, disconnected, and random undercard fights.

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Scott Levinson has been a rabid boxing fan since his earliest memories. A writer and educator, Scott has been studying the sport's history for over 25 years. He also has extensive knowledge of the game on an international level, as he has closely followed the sport in Europe, Asia, and South America for many years. He is based in the San Diego area, and can be contacted at scottmlevinson@yahoo.com.