Following the Success of Mayweather-Alvarez, Steve Espinoza Hopes to Bridge Gap Between Boxing and Mainstream Sports Fans



    Immediately following the Sept. 14th “super fight” between Floyd Mayweather and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez it was easy to see Mayweather as the biggest winner following the unanimous decision victory. While the fighter mugged for the cameras and added another scalp to his already impressive catalog,  the real winner  was sitting alongside the ring intently watching the buzz climb and gradually simmer down. After extended periods of negotiation, months of promotion, and just about every resource available to him tapped, Steve Espinoza was able to smash old records and set new ones with Mayweather vs. “Canelo.” What seems like a surprise to most is nothing but “basic business” to the Showtime Sports head.

    With the pay-per-view setting an all-time revenue record of $150 million, it was obvious that Espinoza was doing something right. Boxing fans have proven to be more than willing to shell out the big bucks to watch their favorite fighters compete, but Espinoza managed to do the impossible: draw in the casual fan, and make them interested enough to want to spend $70 on a boxing pay-per-view. With the fight obviously being successful, the concern at Showtime and other outlets was whether or not the event was a success from the casual fans perspective. For Espinoza, it most definitely was.

    “I think so, and that’s why we loaded the undercard and really tried to make it an enjoyable event because it’s critical that when we get the casual fan we make the experience enjoyable and develop repeat customers. It’s a basic form of business, and that’s why I think [Mayweather vs. Canelo] was so important for the sport.”

    As great as the undercard may have been, the real tool to Espinoza and Showtime’s success was the relentless promotion of the bout. With their use of social media, CBS, CBS affiliates, and even their own All Access series Showtime pulled no punches when it came to making sure everyone who followed sports at least knew about the significance of this bout. With the formula proven successful, many have questioned whether this strategy will be employed by the network when it comes to other feature bouts. Although that won’t necessarily be the case, don’t expect this to be the last time.

    “The strategy with this fight was to go after the die-hard fan as well as the main-stream sports fan who does not necessarily follow boxing. That won’t necessarily be the strategy for all fights, some will be more cross-over fights than others, but CBS is always going to be involved in all of our programming.”

    Espinoza has little time to celebrate the recent successes of his network however, as the focus quickly shifts to potential options as Mayweather’s next opponent. Simply put, there aren’t many, and when it comes to opponents that may seem competitive they are even harder to come by. With Mayweather already having dismantled one of the biggest and brightest stars of the 154-pound division, one can’t help but wonder what Floyd and Showtime do now. Would the normally cautious Mayweather be willing to go up another weight class and challenge for another title?

    “I think people have a misperception of Floyd. This fight (with Alvarez) itself was “un-Floyd-like” to most people. When he signed the Showtime deal he said he was going to fight more frequently and take big fights. No one believed him. That’s not “Floyd-like”. Well, I think we’re dealing with a slightly different Floyd at this stage in his career, who is willing to take risks, take on challenges, and wants to end his career on a series of really big events.”

    One such challenge would be the 160-pound champion, Sergio Martinez. Widely regarded as the best middleweight in the world, as well as being one of the smaller fighters in the division, has led many to question whether Mayweather would consider packing on a few more pounds. Even if he tries to decide against it, who else makes more sense at the moment?

    “If Floyd is willing to consider that weight, [Martinez] is a guy that makes sense. A guy who is a big 160-pounder like other names who have been thrown around just does not make sense.”

    Only time will tell whom Floyd decides to fight in early May, but while he deals with that, Espinoza is left wondering how to capitalize on the momentum set by Mayweather vs. Alvarez. With the concerns of a potential fall-off in viewership until May, the search is on for an opponent that can at least fool the public into thinking that he stands any kind of chance against the welterweight kingpin. It’s a task easier said than done, but Espinoza remains confident that things can only go up from here.

    “It’s going to take some thinking. We’ve been so focused on this event that we haven’t really looked too far past it. Quite honestly, I don’t think there will be much fall-off going forward, I’m not saying every event is going to be as big as this one, but I don’t think there is anyone out there who can question that Floyd is a unique, once in a generation talent, and we have a limited window to continue seeing him perform. So if you enjoy the sport, if you respect the sport, you want to see him fight, and we have only got a limited number of opportunities to do that.”

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