Jonathan Mahler compares pro football’s economic model to boxing’s:
HBO — and later Showtime — didn’t have to worry about satisfying advertisers; it could underwrite fights by making them pay-per-view events. This may have worked as a business strategy (Mike Tyson, in particular, was a cash cow for HBO), but it helped to turn boxing into a niche sport followed only by those willing to pay $59.95 or more to watch big bouts. It also ensured that football would become America’s socially sanctioned, violent sport of choice — and that [boxer] Adrien Broner would never become a household name.
When I lived in New York, I went to the fights once, at Madison Square Garden, at the Felt Forum, just to see what it felt like. It was very retro. This Scottish fighter came in with a full honor guard, bagpipes, kilts, the whole kit. It seemed kind of sad, an attempt to recapture faded glory. And that was 15 years ago or so. Today, who’d care? I bet no Hollywood studio would even make Rocky or Raging Bull today …