Mayweather-Pacquiao Is a Ripoff Because Boxing Knows No Other Way to Make a Buck - Opinion

By Michael Correspondent | 05.01.15 | 12:48 PMConsider the casual Boston sports fan thinking of taking in the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao boxing match this Saturday night. If said fan is under the age of 65, he or she probably hasn't watched a prize fight in years, or maybe ever. But there sure is a lot of hype about this one. ESPN's been talking about it for a month. Why not check it out?The cable company informs the fan said fight will cost $89.95 on pay per view, $99.95 for high-definition. Gosh, that seems steep for one television program that might last less than - - two minutes.Said fan checks out for alternatives, and lo and behold there's an article listing bars and nightclubs showing the fight on their TVs. That'd be fun, watching a big fight with a convivial crowd. There's one catch, though. All those clubs have cover charges for the fight, all of which are $20 or more.Advertisement - Continue Reading BelowThat's a toll bridge too far for the fan. "That's robbery," is his thought.Indeed it is, but it's the bars who are getting fleeced here, not their customers. The promoters, as well as pay networks HBO and Showtime, who are jointly producing the fight broadcast, charge commercial establishments a fee for showing it based on its fire code capacity limit. There's a sliding scale (bigger places get charged more), but the basic fee is the code limit times $25. The club owner charging a $20 cover is actually showing the fight as a loss leader.Come Saturday night, it's possible our fan will throw caution and a double sawbuck to the wind and hit a club to see Floyd and Manny hit each other. Perhaps, as is the custom among more serious fight fans, he or she will be invited to a house party, where bringing food and refreshments serves as a cover charge, or the hat will be passed to defray expenses.The likeliest outcome, however, is that most casual fans will say the hell with the fight, and find something else less expensive to do with their time. That's why there haven't been any casual fight fans around for the entire 21st century. Boxing desperately needs new customers and knows it, but the sport can't stop itself from picking those customers' pockets before they get them in the door.In cold economic terms, boxing's business model hasn't changed much from the late 19th century, when it was illegal in most of the U.S., and big fights were conducted on barges in rivers or in cow towns where law and order was a flexible concept. It remains hit town fast, shake out every possible nickel from every possible sucker in sight, leave town even faster.The model works well for a very few folks at the top of the boxing food chain. Mayweather is the top-earning professional athlete in the world.The model doesn't work at all for boxing as a whole. A business which doesn't get new customers is left with no option but to squeeze more revenue from its old ones. Hence the $100 pay per view fee for this fight.The pre-fight hype has stressed that Mayweather-Pacquiao will be the highest grossing prize fight of all time, with possible pay per view revenues of over $250 million. Never will so few be charged so much to see what figures to be so little. That's the dirtiest secret of Mayweather-Pacquiao. All things may be possible, but the odds are this won't be much of a fight to watch.The two men were historic champions, a match for any of the sport's past greats at their weight. The important part of that sentence is the verb tense: were. Mayweather's 38; Pacquiao is 36. They have maintained their dominant status as the most famous and hence bankable boxers on earth only through carefully avoiding being in the same ring for years until now, when they ran out of other paydays. If this is called the "Fight of the Century," it's only because it took all century to make it happen.In 2009, this would've been a fight this fan would've paid $100 to see, the classic matchup of boxer Mayweather versus slugger Pacquiao. In 2015, the most likely outcome is a drab 12-round decision in which Mayweather keeps Manny at bay through a display of the manly art of self-defense as gripping as street performance art.That in turn means that casual fans will be even less willing to pony up for the next Fight of the Century, in 2019 or whenever, meaning the remaining hardcore audience will have to be gouged even further. The hardcore fans will have less money to spend on fights featuring less well-known boxers, so it will become harder and harder for boxers to become established gate attractions. The technical term for this is "death spiral." One of boxing's oldest maxims is "kill the - - body and the head dies." The boxing business is body punching itself into oblivion.Boxing will never disappear, because our species isn't going to evolve past getting a primal thrill from a fist fight. I ask only one question of readers - - who sneer at boxing on moral grounds: are you a Patriots fan? At least boxing admits it's brutal.The boxing community knows all too - - well what its real - - place is in the American sports hierarchy - a freakish curiosity the average fan visits once or twice a decade at best. That knowledge may account for the notable vibe of desperation surrounding what ought to be a joyous occasion for the sport, one of those rare time a fight has made it into the general sports conversation. I wonder if the promoters worry this might be their last crack at a true bonanza. Their pricing policy sure suggests they doMaybe it'll be a great fight. The boxing fan inside me hopes so. The normal person inside me isn't about to pay $25 to go to some bar, great fight or no.This leaves the inner boxing fan very sad. Mayweather-Pacquiao reminds me of nothing so much as those Hollywood heist movies where the old pro is lured/forced into masterminding the big caper that'll let him get out of the racket for good and go straight.Those movies never have happy endings.