There were times during negotiations for the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez fight that ESPN executives considered its streaming and pay-per-view platforms as options.
They ultimately afforded Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. enough money in the form of a license fee to televise it live on ESPN on October 17. Airing their lightweight title unification fight on a basic cable channel that has approximately 83 million subscribers obviously will make it available to many more viewers than if it were on pay-per-view for at least $70 or on ESPN+, the network’s $6-per-month streaming service.
There has been just one boxing pay-per-view event in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March. That card, a Showtime production that featured Jermell Charlo’s eighth-round knockout of Jeison Rosario and Jermall Charlo’s unanimous-decision victory over Sergiy Derevyanchenko, took place September 26, just three weeks before Lomachenko-Lopez.
There are two more pay-per-view boxing shows set for October 31 (Gervonta Davis-Leo Santa Cruz) and November 21 (Errol Spence Jr.-Danny Garcia). With three pay-per-view events surrounding it, even a fight as good as Lomachenko-Lopez would’ve suffered financially from competition for limited consumer dollars during a pandemic.
ESPN costs cable subscribers roughly $8 per month.
“I just wanna thank ESPN because in these terrible times,” Arum said during a virtual press conference Monday, “when so many millions of fellow Americans are out of work, it, I think, would’ve been unseemly to ask people to spend 70 or 80 bucks to see this great fight on pay-per-view. And ESPN went up to the plate, and stepped up to the plate, and gave us the wherewithal to do this fight. And so people, whatever their economic situation, will be able to watch this fight without any cost.
“We’re gonna have a huge, huge audience. It’s gonna be a real plus for the sport of boxing. Millions of people will be watching this event and will be seeing what boxing is all about, with these two great, great athletes and fighters contesting on October 17th. So, I’m very, very happy – I really am. I’m looking forward to this event, and I know boxing fans all over the world are looking forward to watching this event.”
Ukraine’s Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) and Brooklyn’s Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) will fight for Lomachenko’s WBA and WBO lightweight titles and Lopez’s IBF belt in their 135-pound championship unification match at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
On the undercard, Oklahoma City’s Alex Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs) and Arnold Barboza Jr. (24-0, 10 KOs), of South El Monte, California, will meet in a 10-round junior welterweight fight. ESPN’s tripleheader also will include Edgar Berlanga (14-0, 14 KOs), a super middleweight knockout artist from Brooklyn, and Las Vegas’ Lanell Bellows (20-5-3, 13 KOs, 1 NC) in an eight-rounder.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.