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Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Tarver-Kayode bombs at gate

By Dan Rafael

I've always believed that the live gate for a fight card should remotely reflect how much a network pays for a fight. When Arturo Gatti was selling out Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., the gates were around $1.2 million, give or take, depending on the bout. HBO, meanwhile, was paying around $2 million for his fights under his multifight contract with the network. Those numbers are in the same ballpark.

And then you have what happened with the June 2 Showtime card at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The network paid about $2 million for the quadrupleheader headlined by Antonio Tarver's draw with Lateef Kayode in a cruiserweight fight.

There were three other bouts on the broadcast, which was promoted by Tarver's company (AT Entertainment), Golden Boy and others who had fighters on the card: middleweight Peter Quillin retiring Winky Wright, junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout outpointing Delvin Rodriguez in a snoozer and Leo Santa Cruz throwing about a billion punches to outpoint Vusi Malinga for a vacant bantamweight belt. And for good measure, Showtime Extreme aired a fifth fight from the card, super middleweight contender Sakio Bika's knockout of Dyah Davis.

The promoters paid $1.76 million in purses for the five TV bouts, but the card generated a weak live gate of just $84,676.25, according to the California State Athletic Commission. That is stunningly bad when compared to the TV rights fee.

From day one, I believed the card was set up in the wrong location. It made zero sense to hold it in Southern California when the card's two name fighters, Tarver and Wright, hail from the Tampa, Fla., area. The result: The Home Depot Center drew 7,010 fans, which is a great number for that card. But then look a little closer. According to the California commission, only 1,200 tickets were actually sold, while 5,810 were given away for free. That's just bad business.

Now check out the purses, which were totally out of whack with the public's apparent interest in buying tickets: Tarver earned $1 million, Kayode $130,000, Wright $200,000, Quillin $130,000, Trout $100,000, Rodriguez $75,000, Malinga $50,000, Santa Cruz $35,000, Bika $35,000 and Davis $12,000.

Then again, this isn't the first time there has been such a wicked disparity in a card's rights fee compared to its gate. For example, in 2010, Andre Berto defended a welterweight title against Carlos Quintana in Sunrise, Fla., not far from Berto's hometown. HBO paid $2.15 million for that televised doubleheader, which sold just 972 tickets for a gate of $105,759.52 at the BankAtlantic Center, a massive arena that is home to the Florida Panthers in the NHL.