It's always a cringe moment whenever one hears a young boxer aspire to fight on pay-per-view. What they're really saying when they mention that is that they hope to become successful like Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson, three of the greatest PPV stars in the sport's history.
PPV should not be the promised land, because unless you've got Mayweather-like talents and promotional ability, you're almost certainly not going to sell a lot. The odds are vast against any fighter reaching the Mayweather-De La Hoya-Tyson levels of PPV success.
Just look at Terence Crawford, the world's best boxer, who has never headlined a pay-per-view that has reached 200,000 sales, let alone 1 million.
Promoters will tell you, fairly, that pay-per-view is the most democratic form of broadcast sports: If you like the card, or the fighters on it, you pay to watch. But there is no subscription fee or any other fee required to see it. If you don't like the card, you don't have to buy it.
But putting fights on PPV comes with a risk, because the audience is inevitably smaller for a PPV card if it doesn't include one of the superstars of the industry.
Which brings us to Saturday's PPV offering from Showtime at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., which is headlined by Gervonta Davis versus Hector Garcia and is selling for — OUCH! — a suggested retail price of $74.99.
The PPV card consists of four fights. The opener is Demetrius Andrade against Demond Nicholson, then "Speedy" Rashidi Ellis faces Roiman Villa. The co-main event has rising star Jaron "Boots" Ennis against Karen Chukhadzhian and the main event pits Davis and Garcia.
First, let's look at what you're getting for your money.
Andrade is a -2500 favorite over Nicholson, who is +900 at BetMGM. Ellis is -700 against Villa, who is +450.
Ennis, who will fight for the interim IBF welterweight title, is a -5000 favorite over Chukhadzhian, who is +1400. And Davis is a -1100 favorite over Garcia, who is +650.
Clearly, the bookmakers aren't expecting barnburners.
We can't ignore the domestic violence allegations that have swirled around Davis. He was arrested on Dec. 26 in Parkland, Florida, on a charge of battery causing bodily harm. Police noted at the time of the arrest that the victim had a bloody lip.
The victim then recanted her testimony, which included an emotional 911 call, and charges against Davis were dropped. It's possible that the alleged victim made up the charges to begin with and tried to extort Davis, just as it's also possible that she was abused but was then somehow persuaded to drop the allegations. We'll have to see.
He's innocent until proven guilty, but he has had numerous allegations of this type against him. Yet, Showtime wants to charge $75 for the privilege of watching him.
Davis is an outstanding fighter who is one of the world's best, as well as a guy who has proven to be a ticket seller. He's a guy you'd want people to see fight, because his fights are almost always action-packed and entertaining. And Ennis is on the verge of being a superstar and is a huge KO artist.
But let's be honest: We're not getting competitive fights here, and even though they haven't said it, you know Showtime knows it. Davis is supposed to meet Ryan Garcia, probably in the spring, in what will be a terrific match if it comes off. If Showtime or the decision-makers at the Premier Boxing Champions felt Hector Garcia was a legitimate threat to Davis, they wouldn't have made this fight and potentially ruined a bout with Ryan Garcia.
Fights, though, wind up on PPV when there is no one willing to pay a license fee to put them on over-the-air television or cable.
This leaves the consumer with a choice: Pay $75 and potentially not see one competitive fight, or skip it and possibly miss a spectacular performance by Davis and/or Ennis.
The one thing that is for certain, though, is that you're not building an audience by keeping fighters exclusively on PPV. And if history tells us anything, it's that we've seen the last of Davis on free TV.
Hopefully, Hector Garcia, Chukhadzhian, Villa and Nicholson show up and compete hard, giving the working stiffs who shell out their $75 value for their money. That's far from a guarantee, though, and if you don't believe it, look at the odds.
Davis still faces charges in Baltimore of leaving the scene of an accident in November 2020 in which one of the victims was a pregnant woman. He's scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 16 to answer those 14 charges against him.
That puts his potential fight with Ryan Garcia a lot more in doubt. So maybe putting him on PPV one last time is a way of cashing out in the event the worst happens.
Who knows the truth, but the one thing that's sure is that the fans are the ones who, having to pay big money for what seems on paper to be mismatches, will come up short.