By Jake Donovan
If there’s any truth to the rumor that fans are sick of seeing Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez in the ring together, it’s certainly not supported by box office receipts.
The beauty of the four-fight rivalry is that each edition of the previous three bouts has far surpassed its predecessor in terms of revenue, even if the in-ring action has offered a subtle regression. It remains to be seen whether or not tonight’s showdown at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas continues that trend, but early returns have already delivered a financial knockout.
“This will be only the second time in history where a fight and the rematch both broke the $10 million gate barrier,” informed Keith Kizer, Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. “The other two gentlemen are a couple of gentlemen named (Evander) Holyfield and (Mike) Tyson.”
Last year’s entry – won by Pacquiao via disputed majority decision – came in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,498. Total gate receipts registered more than $11.6 million, the ninth highest total of any fight to ever take place in Nevada’s rich boxing history, to go along with the 1.3 million pay-per-view buys generated by the event.
The first fight – arguably the best of the series – took place way back in May ’04 on regular HBO in front of a respectable crowd of 7,128 at the MGM Grand, the hosting site for three of the four bouts in the series. Pacquiao scored three knockdowns in the opening round, only for Marquez to somehow recover and box his way to a 12-round split decision draw.
Their long awaited rematch four years later was the lone bout of their rivalry to not take place at the MGM Grand. It was instead staged at the Mandalay Bay, fought in front of a sold out crowd of 11,061 while pulling in 400,000 pay-per-view buys. A fourth-round knockdown paved the way for a Pacquiao split decision win, even though most ringside experts had Marquez slightly ahead by fight’s end.
As impressive as the numbers were at the time for both fighters, it paled in comparison to their third meeting last November in terms of revenue and exposure. Their weigh-in was aired live on HBO, a first for the pay-cable network whose production of the event carried an American Idol finale type feel.
Coverage for their December 8 showdown has soared to new heights, and the response has been overwhelming. Despite initial cries of a fourth fight being viewed as excessive and unwarranted, ticket sales have moved at an exceptional pace, as evidenced by the live gate cracking eight figures.
Closed circuit tickets went on sale earlier this week, leading all involved to believe that this weekend’s entry will be the most watched of the four fights.
“This is a dream fight that nobody can miss,” insists Fernando Beltran, head of Zanfer Promotions, Top Rank’s partners in Mexico. “The arena will be sold out and the pay-per-view will break its own record.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com Follow Jake on Twitter:@JakeNDaBox