For Boxing Fans, Event Overshadows Pay-Per-View Price
Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns, who last fought in 1981, are getting together again Monday night at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for what promoter Bob Arum is humbly calling, “the War.”
The 1981 bout, in which Leonard scored a stunning 14th-round knockout, was fought in the early days of pay-per-view television.
Nationally, it was available in about 1.5 million homes, and the asking price was $15.
The heavily promoted Leonard-Hearns II will be available in about 8 million homes, and the asking price is in the $35-$50 range.
A 10% buy rate--800,000 homes, the minimum expected--would generate nearly $50 million from pay-per-view television alone.
Throw in another $30 million or so from closed-circuit sales, foreign television sales, the live gate at Caesars Palace and various sponsorships, and you’re talking about a possible record $80-million gross.
Not bad for one evening.
In Southern California, there are two franchise areas for distribution of the fight telecast.
One area covers seven counties, from Santa Barbara and Ventura through Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial. The other area is San Diego County.
Torrance-based Choice Entertainment, which is owned by Rick Kulis, is the distributor for the seven-county area. The San Diego Cable Sports Network will distribute the fight in its area.
Sixty-eight cable systems representing 1.2 million homes will service the seven-county franchise, where the asking price is now $39.95. It will go as high as $49.95 on some systems Monday.
The price in San Diego County is now $34.95, and goes to $39.95 Monday.
Is the fight overpriced?
Kulis, who put up a $2-million guarantee and will spend another $500,000 on advertising and promotions, said: “We’ve learned that the price is not a major factor in selling pay-per-view fights. The attraction is what counts, and this fight has general interest beyond just fight fans.
“We realize that groups of people get together and share the cost. That’s fine with us. We encourage it.”
Will prices continue to escalate for future pay-per-view fights?
“I don’t think so,” Kulis said. “I think we’ve hit a leveling off point.”
Don’t count on it, though.
For those who can’t get the fight on cable television, Choice Entertainment has put together a network of 53 closed-circuit locations. The admission fee is $35 in most places.
Closed-circuit locations include such places as the Registry Hotel in Universal City, P.J. Brett’s in Hermosa Beach, the Palace in Hollywood, the Ramada Hotel in Beverly Hills, the Four-Star Theater and Vertigo in Los Angeles, Legends and the Ramada Renaissance in Long Beach, the State Theater in Pasadena, the Holiday Inn in Ventura, the National Orange Show in San Bernardino, Don Enrique’s in Santa Monica and Harry C’s in Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga.
For other locations, check newspaper ads.
Because cable is more predominant in San Diego County, there are no closed-circuit locations in that area.
Kulis said that Choice Entertainment will have a security force of about 120 off-duty police officers looking for bars showing the fight without authorization.
“We are calling around to see what bars are planning to show the fight,” Kulis said. “If whoever answers the phone says, yes, the fight will be shown, we issue an injunction to the owner.
“Then we will go to the establishment Monday night, and if the fight is on, we will turn off the fight, and the owner will be notified that he is in violation of the injunction and will be subject to a fine of between $10,000 and $50,000, plus proven damages.”
Several cable companies are joining Choice in its anti-piracy campaign.
Top Rank, the promoter of the fight, is doing its part by using a high-tech, pirate-proof system to scramble and unscramble the signal.
Says Arum, Top Rank president: “If you want to see the fight, you’re going to have to pay for it. It’s as simple as that.”
Monday night’s undercard, a good one, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. It features four Olympic gold medalists--featherweight Kennedy McKinney, welterweight Robert Wangila, light heavyweight Andrew Maynard and heavyweight Ray Mercer--and Olympic flyweight silver medalist Michael Carbajal in separate six-rounders.
The main event is scheduled to begin about 7:30.
Calling the fight will be Tim Ryan and Gil Glancy of CBS, with Marvin Hagler scheduled to join them at ringside. The hosts of the telecasts will be Channel 7’s Jim Hill and ESPN’s Al Bernstein.
Roberto Duran will be a guest commentator on the Spanish-language telecast.
A ton of prefight programming is scheduled.
Sunday at 5 p.m., ESPN will televise a 30-minute special on the fight from Caesars Palace, and the 1981 Leonard-Hearns fight will be shown on “SuperBouts” at 5:30 p.m. ESPN is also planning to cover the postfight press conference.
CNN offers a half-hour special, “Sugar Ray and the Hitman,” Saturday night at 6.
Channel 4 is going to carry a one-hour syndicated show, “Leonard-Hearns II: The War,” Saturday night at 7. And Fox Television’s “Reporters” program Saturday at 8:30 p.m. will have a Leonard segment.
Attention, CBS director Sandy Grossman: Congratulations on a much better telecast of Game 2 of the NBA Finals than of Game 1. Gone were those terrible behind-the-basket camera angles. But, please, get rid of that overhead camera. . . . A reminder to viewers: Those black bands the Lakers and Pistons are wearing on their jerseys are in honor of Larry Fleisher, founder of the NBA players’ union, who died recently. . . . Game 1 Tuesday night got a Nielsen rating of 24.9 in Los Angeles, but it didn’t win the night. ABC’s “Roseanne” drew a 27.1.
ESPN, in its 10th year of televising the College World Series, is doing another outstanding job. CBS takes over Saturday, televising the title game at 10 a.m., with Brent Musburger and Joe Morgan reporting. . . . Speaking of Musburger, it became official earlier this week. He and Tim McCarver will be the lead baseball announcers for CBS, beginning next season. Ric LaCivita earlier was named lead producer.
A syndicated special on horse racing’s Triple Crown, with Jim McKay, will be carried by Channel 56 tonight at 6:30. The Belmont will be on ABC Saturday, coverage to begin at 1:30 p.m., the race to go about 2:30. . . . Marvin Bader, longtime head of Olympic operations for ABC, has been named to a similar post by NBC. . . . NBC has given longtime announcer Charlie Jones a multiyear extension on his contract. . . . Len Berman’s annual Sports Fantasies special will be shown on NBC’s “SportsWorld” Sunday.
Also on Sunday’s “SportsWorld,” which begins at 2 p.m., will be coverage of a junior welterweight fight between Vinny Pazienza and Vinny Burgese at Atlantic City, N.J. . . . Before “SportsWorld,” NBC will show Roy Jones Jr.'s first TV fight as a pro. Jones was the victim of one of the worst judging decisions in Olympic boxing history. The judges in Seoul gave the light-middleweight gold medal to a badly outclassed Korean, Park Si Hun. Jones fights Stephan Johnson, also at Atlantic City. Both of the NBC fights will be shown delayed, even though some ads tout the bouts as live. . . . The ring announcer for the Atlantic City card is Jimmy Lennon Jr., 30-year-old son of the famed ring announcer. Jimmy Jr. is a psychology and photography teacher at L.A. Baptist High School in West L.A.
Vin Scully no doubt shattered sportscasting records last Saturday with his 32-inning day, but he did get a break, if you can call it that. Scully, after working 10 innings for NBC in St. Louis, took three innings off during the Dodgers’ 22-inning game in Houston to tape some Dodger promos. During those innings, Ross Porter did a radio-TV simulcast. Porter worked 17 innings, with Scully doing a simulcast for five innings. Both Scully and Porter deserve kudos.