Are we still interested in a Pacquiao fight?
November 4, 2016
For those not aware, Manny Pacquiao will be taking on Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday. Without much buzz, Pacquiao returns to the ring which makes one wonder how many in the US will buy the PPV?
There are several factors that contribute to the general disregard for this event.
First, this is the first event in some time in which HBO has not been a part. HBO PPV has been the primary distributor of Pacquiao events with just one detour to Showtime (2011’s fight against Shane Mosley). HBO’s shoulder programming, primarily its 24/7 shows have helped promote his fights. Despite the fact that the story lines for the shoulder programming became repetitive and stale, they were still vehicles to promote the fight. On the bright side, Bob Arum will not have to pay the 7.5% fee (per Yahoo! Sports) it paid to HBO.
Despite the fact that the undercard has some interesting fights including China’s Zou Shiming and former fighter of the year Nonito Donaire, most (at least those in the US) seem to be passing on the PPV.
HBO is transitioning from Pacquiao as it searches for its next boxing star. Later this month, HBO PPV will air Sergey Kovalev versus Andre Ward in as big a fight as there can be this fall. HBO indicated that its budget limited it to invest in only one of the November fights and it chose Kovalev-Ward. While this excuse seems sound, it’s clear that the Pacquiao fight was less appealing. If Pacquiao would have agreed to fight Terrance Crawford, it would have been realistic to think that HBO would have found the necessary budget to do 2 PPVs in a month.
Secondly, Pacquiao’s comments about same-sex relationships has turned a portion of his fan base against him. Pacquiao bases his viewpoints on his religion and tried to backtrack from his offensive remarks. Yet, the damage was done as he lost his longtime sponsor, Nike, and HBO distanced itself from Pacquiao. The casual boxing fan may have been turned off by these comments and will boycott Pacquiao as a result.
Finally, Pacquiao’s PPV star is fading. Pacquiao is no longer the fierce, exciting fighter he used to be. Perhaps the fourth fight (which was likely his last exciting fight in recent memory) with Juan Manuel Marquez where he was knocked unconscious took it out of him but he no longer has the traits of the old Manny Pacquiao. Instead, he is the old Manny Pacquiao. After JMM, he has knocked down an inferior Chris Algieri (UPDATED: he did knockdown Bradley twice in April) but has not threatened to stop an opponent since. Notwithstanding his fight with Mayweather, Pacquiao’s last 4 fights have failed to muster more than 500K PPV buys.
It might be unfair to criticize an aging boxer for not being as good as he once was but it feels as though Pacquiao is hanging on to his career for monetary need. Of course, that is the story of boxing. His purse for this fight will be far less than his prior guarantees and Top Rank is banking on the fight being more of an international success in China than it will in the United States. Pacquiao will continue to fight and he will still have a core fan base that will support him. But, it’s clear that the days of his wild popularity of past him.