Miguel Cotto's 10th-round knockout of Sergio Martinez to win the world middleweight championship on June 7 in New York was a historic performance, just one seen by far fewer people than the promoters and HBO anticipated.
The fight at Madison Square Garden generated approximately 350,000 buys on HBO PPV, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Cotto's promoter, told ESPN.com, a figure co-promoter Lou DiBella and HBO said was accurate.
Although based on selling that many units the fight generated more than $20 million in pay-per-view revenue, organizers projected that it would compare more closely with the 475,000 subscriptions sold for Martinez's decision victory against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a September 2012 world title fight in Las Vegas.
"The numbers were not great," said Arum, who is rehabilitating in Los Angeles after having knee replacement surgery last week. "All the numbers boxing has been getting on pay-per-view have been terrible. It's not disappointing; it just is what it is. There are too many (pay-per-view cards).
"Pay-per-view was always designed, as was closed circuit back in the day, for true super fights, not just very good fights. There have been pay-per-views every month and people resent the fact that they're asked to pay extra for anything halfway decent. Boxing pay-per-view numbers are down. Look at the (recent) numbers for the (Floyd) Mayweather and (Manny) Pacquiao fights. The UFC pay-per-view numbers are also down."
Said DiBella, Martinez's promoter, "It's well off the projections. It underperformed. HBO expected 460,000 to 500,000 and it did well under that."
DiBella attributed part of the poor sales to the fact that the publicity for the fight was hurt by the intense hype during fight week for there potentially being a Triple Crown winner at the Belmont Stakes, which took place a few hours before the fight, combined with the fact that the Los Angeles Kings-New York Rangers Stanley Cup finals game went into double overtime during the card, which hurt sales in the nation's two biggest media markets.
"There were so many big events," DiBella said. "There was a lot of competition for eyeballs and the pay-per-view industry is suffering because people had a lot of other choices that they didn't have to pay for."
Cotto, in a stunningly dominant effort, knocked the long-reigning champion Martinez down three times in the first round -- four times overall in the fight -- before Martinez's corner stopped it with Martinez on his stool just after the 10th round began.
Cotto, who had already won world titles at junior middleweight, welterweight and junior welterweight, became the first Puerto Rican fighter to win world titles in four weight classes.
Arum said despite the poor pay-per-view showing the promotion still made a profit, thanks to the roughly $4.7 million gate.
"We made a little money but nothing to speak of," Arum said. "The gate is what saved everybody."
Arum said that Cotto would likely return in December -- again on HBO PPV -- at Madison Square Garden.
"We're thinking about the possibility of making Cotto and (Timothy) Bradley," Arum said.
"We're talking but we'd have to work (the weight) out. We haven't gotten that far yet."
Cotto won the middleweight title against Martinez weighing in at 155 pounds (one over the junior middleweight limit) while Bradley, a former junior welterweight and welterweight titleholder, has never fought heavier than the welterweight limit of 147 pounds.
Whomever Cotto fights later in the year, Arum said it "probably won't be" former junior middleweight titleholder Canelo Alvarez, the Mexican star. That match looms as perhaps boxing's biggest fight not involving Mayweather or Pacquiao.
Alvarez faces Erislandy Lara in what is expected to be a difficult fight on July 12 in the main event of yet another pay-per-view. If Alvarez wins the Showtime PPV main event he would likely fight another opponent in the fall.
"It probably makes more sense for us to do a Cotto-Canelo fight next year on the Cinco de Mayo weekend," Arum said.
Arum said now that he and Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya have settled their differences and are willing to work together again after years of friction between their companies there would be no promotional issues preventing a deal from being made.
Arum said he did not know for sure whether Showtime had options on Alvarez after the Lara fight, but added that if they make the match "I've been told it's not an issue." He said HBO holds no futures on Cotto but that they would not leave HBO.