Monday, August 24, 2009
Boxing on the big screen: about $15
NEW YORK -- Boxing is coming back to the big screen.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s eagerly anticipated showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez on Sept. 19 will be showcased live in about 170 theaters nationwide, promoters announced Monday. The fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas will also air on HBO pay-per-view.
Richard Shaefer of Golden Boy Promotions said he'd been considering theater feeds for several years, ever since a trip to the movies with his kids. Unaware that live boxing has a long history on the big screen, Shaefer's children asked him whether it was possible today.
"I always try to see ways we can expand the message in the sport of boxing and increase the distribution," Shaefer said during a conference call.
"Actually," he added, "my kids said, 'Wouldn't it be great?'"
Mayweather (39-0, 25 KOs), considered one of the sport's pound-for-pound kings, will be fighting for the first time since ending a brief retirement. The flamboyant six-time world champion will be taking on a five-time champion in Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KOs), headlining a stacked card that includes two other title fights.
All of the televised undercard fights will also be shown in theaters.
The decision is part of a comprehensive marketing thrust that includes 30-second previews, much like film trailers, shown on about 1,500 screens before the start of movies for the next several weeks. Tickets for the actual fight are expected to be about $15.
"We're truly excited to be once again working on a great promotional team with Golden Boy, and this is truly going to be a record-breaking event," said Leonard Ellerbe of Mayweather Promotions. "Richard has this great mindset where he thinks so big."
The first fight to be publicly shown in theaters was Eric Boon against Arthur Danaher on Feb. 23, 1939, in London. The format gained popularity in the 1950s, after Joe Louis defeated Lee Savold in a fight beamed to thousands from Madison Square Garden, and a young Muhammad Ali earned a tremendous following around the country during the 1960s.
His epic fight against Joe Frazier in March 1971 at the Garden was seen worldwide.
The rise of pay-per-view coincided with the demise of boxing on the big screen, as fans began to watch high-profile fights from the comfort of home. Among the last fights widely shown in theaters was Ray Leonard's infamous "no mas" victory over Roberto Duran in November 1980.
"I really think the younger audience, the fans that go to a theater on Saturday night, they don't want to stay at home," Shaefer said. "I think this is going to open up the sport of boxing to a new and younger audience."
Dan Diamond, vice president of NCM Fathom, the company that is helping bring the fight to the theaters, said he wasn't sure what to expect in terms of attendance. He did say that if the event is a success, there could be additional megafights shown in theaters.
"We are clearly expecting this to be tremendously successful," Diamond said. "Certainly other promoters are welcome to contact us, but at this time our main focus is to make sure this fight is as successful as it can be."
HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg believes that the promotion -- particularly the 30-second previews during what is traditionally a heavy moviegoing season -- will outweigh any potential loss in pay-per-view sales.
He also thinks the majority of fans will still choose to watch the fight at home.
"There's a limited audience that wants that communal feeling for an old-fashioned, closed-circuit broadcast," Greenburg told The Associated Press.
"I think the marketing effort in those theaters for the next eight weeks, six weeks, will definitely add significant awareness, and that's really important."