Pay-per-punch viewers down

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The Independent Online
Early indications suggest that the take-up for last night's pay- per-view boxing bill on Sky Sports fell well below previous fight nights transmitted by the satellite broadcaster, writes Richard Phillips.

While there is no doubt that the bill represented some high quality contests for aficionados, the fare was below what might have induced less dedicated fans to part with cash.

One major blow came when a rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield of the US had to be cancelled. That left Sky promoting the Prince Naseem fight as the main attraction; Billy Hardy was not seen as representing a serious threat to the reigning featherweight champion.

Yet at the same time, Sky increased the discount price for early bookings to watch the event to pounds 11.95, up from pounds 9.95 for its previous boxing events, including the big crowd-pullers of Bruno against Tyson, and Tyson versus Holyfield live from Las Vegas last November.

A spokesman for BSkyB said audience figures would not be known until a week or two had passed, as subscribers who receive Sky Sports over cable had to book separately.

Tyson-Bruno in March 1996 drew an audience of 660,000. "The Night of the Champions" in February, which featured Prince Naseem in a world title bout against Tommy Johnson, is thought to have had over 600,000 subscribers. Actual viewers would have been higher, through clubs, pubs and parties.