Michael King of King Sports is putting on probably one of the top 3 most competitive fights left on the fight schedule to end the year when Hassan N’dam takes on Curtis Stevens for the number one spot in the IBF rankings for the middleweight title. Michael King is a television guy who brought Wheel of Fortune and The Oprah Winfrey Show to our television set and wants to do the same with boxing. Knowing the ills of boxing, one would ask Mr. King, “Why get involved with boxing?” Mr. King spoke to ThaBoxingVoice.com and shed light as to why he’s involved with boxing and what he will bring to the fight game.
“I love boxing. I grew up with Muhammad Ali, you’re a fight fan and boxing was the premier sport when I was growing up and I loved the world champions from Ali to Liston to Foreman to Lennox Lewis to Holyfield. The sport was healthier then, especially considering the last superstar to come out of the amateur program was Oscar De La Hoya.”
His involvement with boxing:
“I started by trying to resurrect the US Olympic program. This is the farm system. Boxing doesn’t have the NCAA. We didn’t win any medals in 2012 and only one bronze in 2008. This sport and this farm system has been choked to death. Boxing hasn’t had a healthy farm system in 29 years.
What’s different about King Sports?
“We do things different. We’re always going to put our guys in tough, we want the best fighters fighting the best in their prime. If I don’t have enough money to put on the best shows, I will invest in it. For this fight I was willing to lose a quarter of a million dollars. But it turns out I may break even. Breaking even with TV, the budget is about $600k. Most of the other budgets on ESPN are between $60-80k. I’m getting a lot more than regular ESPN fights but I’m not getting anywhere near the Stiverne-Arreola fight got. My license fee doesn’t even come close to paying my cost but I wanted to show ESPN and the world that King Sports does it differently. I believe that the most exciting television shows out there are sports programs. The highest rated and highest license fees are sports programs but boxing isn’t getting it. The pay-per-view business isn’t the route. It doesn’t maximize the revenue unless it’s a super fight and they’re charging so much money. It costs you 75 bucks to watch these fights. You’re still only reaching 2 million homes out of 110 million homes that are available. You can’t build a Sugar Ray Leonard using that formula. Guys like that were built on CBS, Fox, and ABC. Boxing has turned its back on broadcast TV. Most promoters don’t spend money advertising and promoting. It takes money and investment.”
His Investment to Boxing:
“We’re going to continue to put on these cards. I raised 25 million dollars for this venture (Amateur and Pro). We only went through 60 percent. We have 10 million dollars left. If I have 600,000 license fees, I might spend 1.2 million being because I want to build starts in a weight class. I want to build depth in a weight class. We’re working in 8 different weight classes. I want to develop these fighters that we’re signing to give them a platform to for the world to see and put them in tough. Look at this fight, N’dam is in tough with an amazing fighter against Stevens. It’s an important middleweight fight. This one’s not easy and it can go either way. The winner goes on for the title. The loser takes a step back. I’m not going to lie if N’dam loses it puts our company back. But I’m doing it for television. I’m not going to put a guy in easy. I’m not going to put them in over their head but they’re going to have to challenge themselves to win and their going to be better for it. We’re not in it for a month; we’re in it for the long haul.”
Boxing needs branding:
“The fan base is there. The boxing fans pay more for their sport than any other sport. You have to build a guy not on pay-per-view but on regular network television. We want to get sponsors involved. We want to get Nike involved but they stay away because of the image. If we’re successful, they would love to be in this because it can become an exciting new growth business.”
On ESPN Having More fights if he’s successful:
“The budgets are laid out for this year, laid out this time last year. ESPN bought this without a budget. Brian Kweder (ESPN Boxing Programmer) had to go to his bosses for them to spend money on this fight. So after these two fights on October, there is no more boxing on ESPN. And it’s no coincidence that these 2 fights are on ESPN when the winners face off (Abraham-Taylor) is being televised the week after of ESPN).
On the likelihood of ESPN going deeper with boxing:
“They pay a smidgeon for boxing for the whole year. They pay 60-80 grand for boxing. They pay 1.3 billion for Monday Night Football so basically millions per Monday night game. They are the biggest. They have the resources and they’re owned by Disney. I was Disney’s largest supplier with my company. They never had a problem buying success and I think I can get them into boxing. Without sponsors how can the sport thrive? Floyd made the most money in sports with zero sponsorship. That’s a problem. We need to make it more advertiser friendly. We have to give them great shows and then they will come. We can’t give them one sided mismatches. Take for example The Contender. The Contender was the most successful series and some of the bigger stars came from The Contender, Sam Soliman was on The Contender and he is the IBF Middleweight Champion of the world. None of the fights are tied together like The Contender. Sports has a regular season, playoff tournaments. Every sport has them except boxing. I’d like to have something like that in boxing. I want to do it in a variety of weight classes.”
Is there fixing boxing?
“The sport has done a lot to hurt itself. The world champions usually fight the lowest ranked winnable fights because they don’t want to risk losing. You have promoters handpicking fights on the come up. A four round win equals the same as a twelve round world championship win. It’s sad because a loss in a great fight could be better than some of the lackluster wins. The notion of getting your fighter the easiest fights en route to a world title has turned a lot of people off, has turned sports writers off, turned television people off, and turned the sponsors off. It’s turned off sites. Sites like MSG and casinos pay big money to get fights there. Now almost none do, when they do, it’s only the big guys. The club promoter who was essential in developing a fighter doing fights at local sites is falling by the wayside because there isn’t enough money to go around because of its troubles. They either lose and they can only lose so much money or they invest which not many can afford to do so. Nobody in boxing has the desire to invest including Top Rank and Golden Boy”
On Expanding Past HBO and Showtime
“There are only 2 buyers, people say. That’s absolutely not true, right now the recent renewal of network TV, NBC, CBS, Fox, and ESPN, they just renewed all four major sports and the total license fee is 64 billion dollars and not one dollar came from HBO or Showtime. I’m not saying they aren’t great companies but they don’t have the reach of ESPN. ESPN reaches over 100 million homes. If I was involved with Floyd Mayweather, I’d do PPV but I’d have him on network TV and give back like Oscar did when he made Mayweather a star.”