In the last post on this website Robbie discussed how uncertainty of outcome is often what drives interest in sport. As he said “contests where the outcome is predictable are often criticised for being boring”. He also notes that “some might argue that watching a dominant champion can increase interest in a sport”. At times people enjoy watching a champion or a well-known star as much as a close contest.
Looking at the betting for this weekend’s big boxing fight made me think about this a little more. The betting on the Anthony Joshua v Eric Molina fight currently stands at Joshua 1/50 to win. Molina is 14/1 to succeed and a draw is 50/1. Why would customers pay £16.95/€21.95 for what the markets suggest is a foregone conclusion?
When it comes to major boxing matches, uncertainty of outcome rarely seems to influence promoters or those buying the product. The list below shows the average odds for HBO fights in 2016. HBO serves as a distributor of major boxing events for pay-per-view. A clear favorite has existed in almost all of the bouts with the exception of the Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward and Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley fights. In all cases the favourite has won (marked in blue below).
Naturally, this raises the question of why people shell out cash to view outcomes that are hardly uncertain. Many reasons might exist. Maybe viewers enjoy seeing a dominant champion succeed? Many of the headlines after these bouts use the words 'demolish' or 'crush' to describe the fight. Maybe nationalism is a factor? The Mexicans tune in to see Alvarez and the British follow Khan. Maybe viewers rarely get to see certain fighters or it could be close to the end for one star? Maybe the major broadcasting firms and promoters just do a great marketing job? Maybe fans are risk averse and just don't want to miss what could be a major upset in boxing history? Maybe viewers just don't want to feel out of the loop in the coffee room on Monday morning. The list could go on...