By Jake Donovan
The two-city press tour to promote the upcoming April 12 pay-per-view event between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley served as bookends for its tickets going on sale Wednesday morning.
The press tour began in sunny Los Angeles (specifically in Beverly Hills) on Tuesday, before trekking cross-country to temperatures roughly 60 degrees colder in snow-and-ice riddled New York City for their press conference Thursday morning.
As promoter Bob Arum, president of Top Rank Inc., prepared to promote the pay-per-view event, his introductions included good news for the promotion.
“Tickets went on sale (Wednesday) and already 70% of the available tickets have been sold,” Arum insisted of the event, which will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, home to their first fight in June 2012 controversially won by Bradley. “In the next few weeks, we will be able to announce a full sell-out. There is a lot of excitement throughout the world regarding this fight.”
Their first fight in June 2012 resulted in one of the more controversial decisions in recent memory. Bradley, moving up to welterweight following a lengthy tour as 140 lb. titlist, managed a split decision win in a fight most believed should have gone to Pacquiao, whose welterweight title reign came to an end as a result.
The bout not only broke Pacquiao’s seven-year long win streak, but was also a rare fight that failed to ignite the public. The pay-per-view event sold well in general, generating a reported 900,000 units sold (though way up from initial reports in 2012). As for a Pacquiao-headlined major event, it was just the second time in the span of seven fights in which one of his fights failed to crack the one-million buy barrier, the other occasion being when he scored a 12-round win over Joshua Clottey in 2010.
Even with the controversial decision, things eventually came full circle; Pacquiao went on to suffer a 6th round knockout loss to longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez in Dec. 2012. Ten months later, Marquez dropped a close but clear decision to Bradley in their pay-per-view headliner last October, selling roughly 375,000 units.
The number wasn’t particularly eye-popping, nor was the box office returns for Pacquiao’s comeback fight, a 12-round win over Brandon Rios last November.
Top Rank took a major risk in attempting to sell a pay-per-view event staged overseas in Macau, China. While the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macao was sold out, stateside audience participation was dismal at best. The event generated a reported 475,000 units sold, Pacquiao’s lowest total since his June ’08 lightweight title winning effort over David Diaz.
Still, Arum is optimistic that the year Bradley enjoyed in 2013 – wins over Marquez and Ruslan Provodnikov, the latter serving as Boxingscene.com’s 2013 Fight of the Year – coupled with Pacquiao remaining one of the sport’s most identifiable figures and returning stateside, should result in a blockbuster event in April.
“When they first fought in 2012, the fight wasn't viewed by many as a competitive main event going in,” Arum reminded the assembled press at New World Stages, which played host to Thursday’s press conference. “Bradley wasn't as known as he is now, and oddsmakers had the fight listed at (Pacquiao as a) 9-1 (favorite to win the fight).
“Since then… Timothy Bradley’s accomplishments have really balanced the scales. I keep going back to the odds, maybe because I live in Las Vegas. But now the fight is viewed as virtually even. That is largely attributed to Bradley. He's a great warrior, a wonderful man. He's also a credit to boxing. He's a family man, a great boxer, tough as hell in the ring, and he's not a trash talker.
“This fight is going to do amazingly well on pay-per-view. I'm happy that both guys have big, big upside. As the pay-per-view increases, they will share the fruits of success. April 12 is going to be a wonderful night and something really special for the sport of boxing.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox