Denver lukewarm on the big fight

Where will you be on Saturday night? Better yet, what will you be watching on television?

In a seemingly slow time of year, Saturday represents a glutinous smorgasbord for local sports fans. The options, including “The Fight of the Century,” are seemingly endless.

The Rockies are in San Diego for the second game of a three-game series; Root Sports will carry the game, first pitch is at 6:40 p.m. The Colorado Rapids will take on the Galaxy in L.A., and the game (8:30 p.m.) can be seen on Altitude. For the diehards, the final rounds of the NFL Draft will be wrapping up, followed by countless hours of analysis. And the ongoing NBA and NHL playoffs can be found on approximately 17 – give or take a dozen – different channels (don’t get me started on “which” channels; that’s another article for another day).

And those are just the free options. If you want to catch a live sporting event, the playoff-bound Colorado Mammoth will face the Edmonton rush at Pepsi Center on “fan appreciation night.”

Then, there’s the “big one” – Floyd Mayweather, Jr. versus Manny Pacquiao, currently being dubbed “The Fight of the Century.”

That’ may or may not be true – any boxing match can be a thrill or a total bust – but it’s being priced as it if will be the greatest sporting event you’ll ever watch.

Or maybe you won’t.

To say that Mayweather-Pacquiao “isn’t free” is an understatement. If you’d like to watch the fight at home, it’s going to cost you $99 for the high-definition option, $89 for standard-def, making it the highest priced pay-per-view sporting event in history. The previous high was $74.95 and $64.95, respectively.

If you’d prefer to catch it at a bar, be prepared to pay a fairly hefty cover charge. Most establishments carrying the fight are expected to pass along the cost to patrons, charging $20-30 per person.

And who can blame them really? Fight promoters are typically asking bar owners to fork over $30 per person based on maximum occupancy. Chris Fuselier, owner of Denver’s Blake Street Tavern (2301 Blake Street), says that his price tag for carrying the fight would have been $13,900. Blake Street Tavern has a capacity of 440 people.

Fuselier is going to pass.

“You need to get the cover charge to justify it,” says Chris Fuselier, owner of Blake Street Tavern. “I’d have to charge 465 people $30 (each) to break even. I couldn’t take that risk.”

Perhaps there are too many options that night. Or perhaps bar owners aren’t confident that boxing will actually generate the interest that it used to. Recent numbers indicate a trend that says the sporting public may be over paying for boxing. According to the New York Times, Pacquiao fights from 2008 to 2011 averaged 1.1 million buys across seven bouts. However, Pacquiao fights only reached one million in his last five bouts. On the Mayweather side, three of his last four fights failed to reach the one-million mark.

A tentative (and incomplete) list of Denver bars shows that Jackson’s (20th and Blake), LoDo’s Bar and Grill, Cowboy Lounge and Sports Column will carry the fight. Blake Street Tavern, Viewhouse and the Tavern Downtown – three of lower-downtown’s biggest and best sports bars – will not (note: Viewhouse’s ballpark location will not carry the fight, while Viewhouse Centennial will).

Fuselier says that boxing isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s a sport that he believes is essentially divided precisely at the gender line.

“I also don’t think I’d get any women to pay $20-30 per person for the fight,” says Fuselier. “I surveyed my female staff of 65 and none of them said they would pay a cover charge to see the fight.”

Making the decision more complex is the fact that the Kentucky Derby – and all the parties that come with it – will take place earlier in the day. While the race itself doesn’t conflict with the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, the day’s events are prohibitive on many levels.

A recent study from The Business Journals (bizjournals.com) shows that Denver is the “most overextended major sports city in America, meaning the gap between the area’s total local income and the revenue need of the city’s pro sports teams is the widest.” Translation: Denver already spends more than it should (or can) on sports.

One local, anonymous female sports fan summed up the choice simply: “I bought my ticket to the Derby Party; that was expensive enough.”

Presumably, even if money wasn’t a consideration for Derby party attendees, a day filled with “day drinking” typically ends with an early bedtime (and/or hangover) – not rallying for a fight that will begin deep into the night. Both Blake Street Tavern and Viewhouse will be hosting free Kentucky Derby parties.

Of course, you could always hop on a fight and go to the fight, which sold out in less than four minutes. Fear not, one can purchase tickets on the secondary market. Brad Tuttle of Time reports that seats begin at $4,000 a pop; on Monday, one seller had stuck a price tag of $350,000 on ringside seats.

The fight may very well be the “Fight of the Century.” Or, as some predict, it could mark the death of boxing.

“Boxing is for poor people who don’t have any other alternative to make their way in life,” said Bob Arum – now Pacquiao’s promoter, formerly Muhammad Ali’s – in the New York Times. “We can’t get white middle-class kids into boxing. Let’s be honest: No parent in their right mind is going to let them come to a gym.”

Or maybe they just can’t afford it.

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