By Ryan Maquiñana
Manny Pacquiao’s global appeal has extended from his homeland of the Philippines to the boxing hotbed of Las Vegas. Legendary commentator Larry Merchant once likened the pugilist’s transcendence to a combination of Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley and Bruce Lee.
With additional stops in Los Angeles, Macau and Cowboys Stadium (twice), it would be hard to argue with likening Pacquiao’s career to a rock star’s world tour. But in almost two decades in the pro ranks, he still hasn’t taken a bite out of the Big Apple.
“I’d love to fight in New York,” Pacquiao said at a Tuesday conference call promoting his upcoming rematch with Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand. “It depends on my promoter, Bob Arum. He’s the boss in talking about the promoting. Wherever the fight is, I will fight.”
However, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter and former U.S. Attorney, opined that bringing the Filipino franchise to the Empire State would be a herculean task.
“Whoever asked that question has to understand that Manny is a foreign national,” Arum said. “If he fights in New York, he has to pay a state tax, city tax, unincorporated business tax that comes to 14 percent. And because he’s a foreign national, he can’t take a credit for any of those taxes.”
Arum, a Brooklyn native who at one time was a candidate to run the tax division in the U.S. Justice Department in the 1960s, delved into the dollars and cents of the dilemma.
“The penalty in fighting in New York if Manny’s earnings are $20 milion is as much as $3 million. So the difference in fighting in Nevada, which has no state tax, and fighting in New York, is $3 million.”
Arum, ever the promoter, subtly offered a solution that likely would involve municipal and state legislatures.
“Now it’s conceivable that if somebody’s going to make up the difference, that (Manny) would fight in New York, but why should that come out of his pocket?” Arum asked. “If the people in New York want him to fight in New York, either change the ridiculously high taxes in New York, or they subsidize his tax bill in New York. That’s how I see it.”
Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao’s archrival (and former Top Rank fighter), also has been asked repeatedly about staging a pay-per-view bout at Madison Square Garden. Arum, who now lives in Las Vegas, used his ex-client as an example.
“Mayweather has the same problem because Mayweather he lives in the state of Nevada that has no state taxes. So if he pays taxes in New York, he doesn’t get a credit against his state taxes because he pays none, because he lives in Nevada.
“It’s all well and good to say, ‘Why don’t you fight in New York?’ But it comes a real problem.”
Puerto Rican stars like Miguel Cotto have not been deterred from fighting in New York and have packed MSG to the rafters in recent years; Arum explained why.
“Now if you’re Puerto Rican or if you’re Californian, you can fight in New York because California has big state taxes, and you get a dollar-for-dollar credit for the taxes you paid in New York, and Puerto Rico the same,” the promoter said. “So this is not an easy situation. As the governor himself has said, (Andrew) Cuomo, New York is chasing away a lot of business because of its immensely high tax rates.”
In the meantime, perhaps Pacquiao would be best served avoiding any further tax issues, especially after a lien reportedly was issued by the Internal Revenue Service earlier this year.
“I didn’t hide anything … I’m not worried about that,” Pacquiao said when asked about the matter.
Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KOs) fights Bradley (31-0-0, 12 KOs) on April 12 in Las Vegas for the WBO welterweight title on HBO Pay-Per-View.
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine's Ratings Panel. E-mail him at email@example.com, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.com or follow him on Twitter@RMaq28.