With the UFC recently signing a seven-year deal with Fox TV for an estimated $100 million a season, boxing fans may see better quality cards on the horizon. It’s obvious that Fox and the UFC are taking direct aim at the squared circle with their first live event being scheduled for Nov. 12, which just happens to be the same night boxing’s pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao is taking on Juan Manuel Marquez.
Bob Arum, who heads up the Top Rank boxing promotion company, realizes boxing’s in for a bit of a wild ride now that it’s being challenged by network television. Arum’s the one who’s promoting the Pacquiao vs Marquez bout for HBO pay-per-view, but said he isn’t really too worried about the UFC and its new deal.
The UFC event starts at is scheduled to end at 10 pm on Nov. 12 as network TV requires the event to follow a stricter time frame. This means the show will be over by the time Pacquiao and Marquez enter the ring, enabling fight fans to check out both cards on the same night. It also gives MMA fans the opportunity to tape the UFC card and watch it after the boxing match.
Arum said he thinks boxing fans will tune into the Pacquiao fight regardless of what’s shown opposite it and feels the pay-per-view numbers might even rise due to the fact the UFC is going head to head with it. He also feels Fox will now put the pressure on cable and satellite operators to add the company’s smaller networks such as Fuel TV to their list of programming since UFC events will be shown on some of them.
When asked if he’ll put on a star-studded undercard to the Pacquiao fight, Arum said the plan was always to present a top-quality night of boxing from start to finish. However, the final details need to be worked out before the official card is announced. So far, the only fights announced for Nov. 12 are the Pacquiao vs Marquez showdown for the WBO welterweight title and Brandon Rios defending his WBA lightweight crown against an unnamed opponent.
But the pressure is on Arum to come up with a good undercard now to make sure boxing fans get their money’s worth. He said it would be announced after the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Victor Ortiz bout on Sept. 17th. In fact, boxing fans might be the winners when it comes to the new UFC deal as promoters know if they don’t come up with some good matchups they might just lose their audience.
This means more fights may now be shown on subscription channels such as HBO and Showtime instead of pay per view. It’s going to have to be a heck of a matchup to get fans to shell out $50 or more for a fight. Mediocre matchmaking will hopefully fade away.
Arum also said most UFC fans don’t watch boxing anyway, so going head to head won’t affect boxing. He said a good movie, Manchester United soccer game, or another boxing event might take away more fans than a UFC event will. He’s also confident the cable and satellite carriers will be sure to promote the Pacquiao fight full force since they’re up against the UFC on the same night.
It’ll be interesting to see what the ratings are for Nov. 12 and how boxing will react if they see their audiences dwindling in the future.