By Rick Reeno
MGM Grand, Las Vegas - The long wait was well worth it, says Top Rank's CEO Bob Arum. The veteran promoter is confident that Saturday's HBO Pay-Per-View rematch, between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, will break a million pay-per-view purchases.
The fighters first met in June 2012 and very, very few people picked Bradley to come out on top. It was viewed by most as nothing more than a stay-busy defense for Pacquiao. Very few casual fans were familiar with Bradley. After the smoke cleared, Bradley won a controversial twelve round split decision. The pay-per-view generated 890,000 buys.
Despite some interest for an immediate rematch, especially from the Filipino fans who were screaming for murder, Arum's company placed the rematch on the shelf and matched the two fighters against other opponents.
Pacquio returned in the fall of 2012 and saw himself get knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in six rounds. Bradley came back in early 2013 and took a ton of punishment in a "Fight of The Year" decision win over Ruslan Provodnikov. Bradley followed up on that performance last October with a clear decision victory over Marquez. Pacquiao came back a month later to win an easy twelve round decision over Brandon Rios.
Bradley's HBO Pay-Per-View with Marquez only generated 375,000 buys. Pacquiao's HBO Pay-Per-View with Rios only generated 475 to 490,000 buys [although some experts claim it was lower]. There were key factors that attributed to those numbers. Marquez has never been able to generate huge pay-per-view numbers without an A-side opponent like Pacquiao or Mayweather. And Pacquiao's fight with Rios was held in China, which significantly decreased the U.S. media coverage and the promotional impact in the United States.
After nearly two-years, some people believe Pacquiao has a lost a step or two, and many believe Bradley is now a step or two better since their first fight. The Vegas odds [9-5 as of Wednesday] reflect a very close fight.
"It was considered [a one-sided fight] the first time. People said 'Bradley is a pretty good fighter, but this is just another exercise for Manny Pacquiao.' Right? There wasn't much excitement. Now, look at the Race & Sportsbook [at the odds]. This time a lot of people are picking Bradley, knowledgeable people, knowledgeable writers," Arum told BoxingScene.com.
Bradley's victories over Provodnikov and Marquez have made him a bigger name and raised his name value. But more importantly, Arum says the pay-per-view is trending very well in terms of where the buyrate figure will fall.
"It's much bigger because nobody knew who the hell Bradley was [in the first fight]. And then when we were building it up we ran in to what was a devastating thing...[and it] was the Celtics and the Heat going seven games in what was a great, great series. That took ESPN out of the mix. They weren't going to plug the fight, plug the fight, plug the fight - they were plugging the game and nobody blames them. Thank God we don't have that now," Arum said.
"Right now I'm afraid because it's doing so good [in the pre-fight purchase estimates]. In other words, there is a feeling that it will go over 1.2 million...certainly over a million, a million-one. Remember that we did 900,000 the first time."