By Jeremy Wall
Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares was a fight so good that ESPN had to show it twice.
Well, actually they showed the fight once on ESPN when it aired live Saturday, August 9th and then a second time on ESPN2 on Tuesday, September 1st at 9pm ET. Santa Cruz, 27, defeated Mares, 29, by majority decision to win the vacant WBA Super World Featherweight title. Scores were 117-111 twice and 114-114. It was Santa Cruz’s third world title in as many weight classes. He also holds the WBC Super Bantamweight title and he will have to give up one of those two titles within the next few weeks.
The fight is a contender for match of the year, coming off the heels of another contender for match of the year on a PBC card on August 14th when Krzysztof Glowacki upset Marco Huck to win the WBO Cruiserweight title. That fight aired on Spike. PBC has been criticized for bad matchmaking for booking mostly squash matches on their free television broadcasts, but the quality of fights in recent weeks has been kind to PBC.
The fight was hyped beforehand as all action and it delivered. Santa Cruz has the reputation for the highest per round punch rate among all boxers, which is an amazing stat. Against Mares, Santa Cruz threw 1,057 punches. Mares threw back 980 punches. That combines to 2,007 punches in total over twelve rounds. Ouch. After the fight both of their arms must have felt like squished tubes of toothpaste.
Each fighter earned $1.25 million for the slugfest. It was a career payday for both. Santa Cruz improved to 31-0-1 with 17 KOs and Mares fell to 29-2-1 with 15 KOs.
Both fighters talked about a rematch after, which would probably do good ratings, or could be used as a co-main on a pay per view. Jose Santa Cruz, Leo’s father and trainer, allegedly wants his son to move on to other contenders, though. Another possibility for Santa Cruz is WBC champ Gary Russell Jr., who is also under contract to Al Haymon.
The fight took place at the Staples Center. They drew 13,109. The crowd was beyond hot. Both fighters are Mexican and from LA. Mares was portrayed as the heel in the pre-fight hype video, talking about how Santa Cruz has great punch stats because he has never faced someone as good as himself. Santa Cruz was portrayed as the guy that was above trash talking.
Santa Cruz fought on the pay per view undercard of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight back in May. The commentary on ESPN was weird in that Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas kept talking about how Santa Cruz-Mares was payback to all the fans who thought Mayweather-Pacquiao was a bad fight.
That was odd for two reasons. First, Mayweather-Pacquiao was back in May and Mayweather has moved on to other business. I’m not sure what Santa Cruz-Abner and Mayweather-Pacquiao have to do with one another. Second, Mayweather is fighting on pay per view against Andre Berto on September 12th. It is a poor choice to have your broadcasters talk about how Mayweather’s last pay per view fight sucked when he’s fighting on pay per view again in a week. That doesn’t exactly sell fights.
The rating for Santa Cruz-Mares, however, was great. ESPN averaged 1.217 million viewers for the August 29th live telecast from 10pm to 12:12am ET. It was the third PBC on ESPN show and easily the most watched. The debut show on July 11th with Keith Thurman only drew 799,000 viewers going up against the massive July UFC pay per view featuring Conor McGregor. The second show on August 1st featured Danny Garcia vs. Paulie Malignaggi drew 1.073 million viewers going up against the massive August UFC pay per view featuring Ronda Rousey.
This time, though, there was no UFC pay per view to spoil PBC’s party on ESPN, although the fight did go up against a pay per view fight between Shane Mosley and Ricardo Mayorga that was promoted by Mosley’s company and took place at the LA Forum. Chances are PBC’s success on ESPN killed the Mosley-Mayorga buy rate.
Santa Cruz-Mares was the most watched boxing match on ESPN since a February 22nd, 1998 flyweight title bout between Mark Johnson and Arthur Johnson. Santa Cruz-Mara peaked at 1.614 million viewers.
The fight also aired on ESPN Deportes and set a boxing record for that station with 355,000 average viewers. It peaked at 453,000 viewers.
The September 1st replay on ESPN2 drew 280,000 viewers.
Let us see if PBC can keep their ball rolling into Mayweather-Berto.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the biggest drawing heel of all time.
Last week Showtime debuted the shoulder programming called All Access: Mayweather vs Berto. Showtime does All Access hype shows for all of their major fights.
Most of the episode focused on Mayweather and how much people hate him, but how he is “TBE”.
At one point in the episode Mayweather grabbed a massive fistful of cash and began shadow boxing while holding it.
Berto was painted as the underdog everyman who always pushes forward.
The marketing gimmick with this fight is clearly that it is Mayweather’s supposed retirement fight and that if Berto beat him then it would be the biggest upset of all-time. The idea for people to tune in is to see the last chance for Mayweather to get his mouth shut.
Whether all of this draws on pay per view remains to be seen.
I don’t believe Mayweather will retire after this fight. I don’t believe that anybody believes that. I don’t believe that Mayweather believes that. Las Vegas Arena opens next year. Mayweather-Pacquiao II is obviously the best boxing match to open the arena, or at least be the first boxing match at the arena if UFC 200 opens it. Also, with the story that Pacquiao’s arm is healed and he is coming for revenge, Mayweather-Pacquiao II ought to draw well on pay per view, no matter what people’s opinion of the quality of their first fight.
I don’t believe that The Money Team will leave all that money on the table.
I’m here in Las Vegas for UFC 191.
I’m not feeling a ton of hype in town for Mayweather-Berto. Maybe the hype train will get rolling after UFC 191 is over on Saturday. They both took place at the MGM Grand.
I’ve talked to a ton of other UFC fans in town, many from around the world, and so far I’m the only person I know staying in town the extra week to see the Mayweather spectacle. I’ve even talked to boxing fans from Europe who are in for UFC 191 and they aren’t staying around for Mayweather. But maybe it is just the people I’ve been talking to.
The final week is what is important for pay per view buys, anyway. We’ll see how the Mayweather people handle that final week and if they can keep the money rolling in.
And isn’t it odd that UFC is choosing to headline a show at the MGM Grand with a Demetrious Johnson fight a week before Mayweather headlines at the same venue?
Here’s a snapshot of the upcoming major boxing schedule on American TV.
Sept 6th on CBS with Anthony Dirrell vs. Marco Antonio Rubio and Jamie McDonnell vs. Tomoki Kameda. This is a rehab fight for Dirrell. Dirrell is coming off a loss to Badou Jack in a title fight on Spike and Rubio hasn’t fought since being knocked out in the second round by Gennady Golovkin last October. McDonnell-Kameda is a rematch for McDonnell’s WBA Bantamweight title. McDonnell beat Kameda by unanimous decision on CBS in May. It was a good fight.
Sept 8th PBC debuts on Fox Sports 1, replacing Golden Boy Boxing. Austin Trout fights Joey Hernandez. It is a showcase for Trout, who is getting a push on TV after last fighting in the untelevised undercard of a CBS show in May. Trout is 29-2 (16 KOs) and 29 years old. His losses were both by unanimous decision to Erislandy Lara and Canelo Alvarez. Hernandez, 31, is coming off a loss to Julian Williams in April, his second loss in his last three bouts. This is the first of what is purported to be a multi-year weekly series.
Sept 11th PBC on Spike with Adonis Stevenson vs. Tommy Karpency and Errol Spence Jr vs Chris van Heerden. It is PBC’s debut in Toronto with the show taking place at the smaller Ricoh Coliseum (where the Toronto Maple Leafs farm team plays). It is promoted by Yvon Michel and co-financed by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. And, since it is PBC, it is run by Al Haymon and his Wall Street money. MLSE is the company that owns the Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC the Air Canada Centre, and Ricoh Coliseum. MLSE is co-owned by Bell and Rogers, who are the media conglomerates that between the two of them own most of Toronto. Bell owns TSN (which broadcasts UFC and many PBC shows in Canada) and is in the process of buying the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. Rogers owns Sportsnet, which has WWE in Canada and also the lucrative NHL contract. Rogers also owns the Blue Jays and Rogers Centre. I’m not sure which of these companies owned Rob Ford. Anyway, Adonis Stevenson is the biggest boxing star to come to Toronto since boxing gloves were invented. These are showcase fights for both Adonis and Spence, the latter of whom is considered one of the best prospects in boxing. Adonis is a star in Montreal, but Montreal is not Toronto and boxing’s popularity is cold in Toronto, so PBC is starting from scratch here. They should have come with a better main event if they wanted to make a splash because I doubt they will draw on Adonis’ name alone, unless Toronto turns out to be an untapped market for boxing. The most notable thing here is how Al Haymon was able to merge his Wall Street money with Canada’s Bay Street money and get it all involved in boxing. Corporate leaders seem to all love Al Haymon. Maybe he’s a good kisser.
Also, Sept 11th, Top Rank has a TruTV show at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas with Oscar Valdez vs. Chris Avalos and Jesse Hart vs. Aaron Hart Jr. I might attend this one live.
The afternoon of Sept 12th is PBC on NBC with Peter Quillin vs. Michael Zerafa and Cornelius Bundrage vs. Jermall Charlo for Bundrage’s IBF Middleweight title. Quillin is coming off a draw with Andy Lee on NBC back in May. Zerafa is only 23-years-old and is 17-1 (9 KOs), but is from Australia and has never fought in the US. Bundrage is 42-years-old, but has only lost one fight in his last eight bouts (by majority decision to Ishe Smith). Charlo is 21-0 (16 KOs) and 25-years-old. This one is an obvious passing of the torch, if one considers the IBF Middleweight belt a torch. This show for the most part also obviously serves as a hype show for the Mayweather pay per view later that day.
The night of Sept 12th is Mayweather vs. Berto at the MGM Grand and on pay per view. Other televised bouts are Roman Martinez vs. Orlando Salido for Martinez’s WBO Super Featherweight title and Badou Jack vs. George Groves for Jack’s WBC Super Middleweight title.
And that’s it for boxing’s hype cycle leading up to the Mayweather show.
Jeremy Wall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @jeremydalewall.