British boxer Anthony Joshua defends his world titles against Bulgarian challenger Kubrat Pulev this weekend in a contest most will watch on pay-per-view television.
A maximum 1,000 fans will be allowed to attend the SSE Arena in London on Saturday, but the rest must fork out £24.95 to watch on Sky Sports Box Office.
All of Joshua’s fights have been pay-per-view in the UK and Ireland since he beat Dillian Whyte to win the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles in 2015.
And streaming figures show that since then, the man nicknamed AJ has become British boxing’s hardest-hitting commercial force.
Joshua has built his legacy as a pay-per-view fighter
Joshua vs Pulev will be the 11th time that Sky Sports Box Office, which is Sky’s main pay-per-view platform, has aired the Watford fighter.
Pay-per-view Joshua events have received almost 11.5m views in total, according to the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), generating more than £200m in revenue.
Joshua first topped 1m views in April 2016, when he beat Charles Martin to be crowned IBF heavyweight champion.
A year later, 1.5m viewers saw the former Olympic gold medallist knock out Wladimir Klitschko. In 2018, nearly 2m tuned in for his points victory over Joseph Parker.
The figures fly in the face of some boxing fans’ claims that the sport’s many belts are not all-important.
Joshua either won or reclaimed world titles in his four most-watched fights, with viewership peaking when Joshua won the WBO heavyweight belt against Parker.
Only 652,000 paid to watch his only professional loss in 2019, when Andy Ruiz knocked him out in a shock upset.
That defeat was Joshua’s first fight in the US, and the 3:30am start time for UK viewers may have affected demand.
How Joshua compares to other British boxers
From a commercial perspective, Joshua belongs alongside boxing hall of famers Lennox Lewis and Naseem Hamed, and former two-weight world champion David Haye.
Those fighters all broke the record for most UK pay-per-view buys during their careers, a feat AJ has accomplished on three separate occasions, in his fights against Martin, Klitschko, and Parker.
The numbers appear to show that Joshua is a bigger draw than his British heavyweight rivals Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte.
Fewer than 500,000 viewers watched Fury’s first fight against Deontay Wilder in 2018.
Whyte’s loss to Alexander Povetkin in August, meanwhile, failed to reach Matchroom’s stated target of 300,000 pay-per-view purchases.
However, several of Fury’s biggest fights have taken place in the US, making the timings less suited to UK audiences.
And BT Sport Box Office is yet to release pay-per-view data for February’s re-match with Wilder, which Fury won to become a two-time heavyweight world champion.
A Joshua victory over Pulev on Saturday night will increase calls for an all-British world title fight with Fury in 2021.
Such has been the clamour for that match-up, Joshua might reasonably hope to break the UK pay-per-view record once again.