LAS VEGAS, OCT. 26 -- America bought Thursday's abbreviated heavyweight title fight in record numbers, thanks to an advertising campaign that sold the public on James "Buster" Douglas's crediblity as a champion.
He didn't live up to the promotion, but enough people apparently bought the fight via pay-per-view to help Mirage hotel owner Steve Wynn recoup most of the $40 million he invested in the bout.
Promoters say 1 million households paid an average of $34.95 for the fight, besting the previous top of 700,000 for the 1988 bout between Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks.
The sales were fueled by an intensive $3 million advertising campaign that blanketed the country's sports shows in recent weeks with Douglas promising Evander Holyfield: "You're next."
"Steve probably did more from a promotional standpoint than anyone has ever done for a fight, and that's why it sold," said Mike Trainer, who coordinated the promotion for Wynn. "When you give that kind of support, you get those kind of results."
Trainer released overnight figures showing the fight was bought by between 7 and 8 percent of the nation's 14.7 million addressable PPV homes. The sales ran as high as 16 percent in Douglas's home town of Columbus, Ohio, and 15 percent in Brooklyn.
Media General of Fairfax County, the Washington area's biggest cable company with roughly 170,000 wired homes, sold the bout to 11,000 of them, nearly 7 percent, according to spokeswoman Deborah Posey.
That came out toward the high end of the expectations for Media General, which took into account the federal budget problems.
"We were concerned with the government furlough hanging over many of our subscribers," Posey said. "It was a dismal atmosphere asking people to buy boxing on television when they didn't know if they'd be working."
For the most part, other area cable systems will not have figures available until next week.
Trainer said the Mirage will net about $19 million from PPV and about $1.5 million from closed circuit showings. The live gate receipts brought in about $9 million and another $5 million was realized through foreign and delayed broadcast rights.
That still leaves Wynn a few million dollars short, a sum expected to be made up by the throng of high-rolling gamblers losing money in the resort's casino.
"The casino was huge," Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said. "We did big business, and we expect that to carry through the entire weekend."
Showtime bought the delayed broadcast rights in the United States, and its first showing is slated for Saturday night, Nov. 3.