By Jake Donovan
Manny Pacquiao’s ring return last November was less about whether or not he’d beat Brandon Rios, but if his drawing power would follow him overseas for their Pay-Per-View headliner.
The 12-round welterweight fight was a hit in Macau, playing to a sold-out Cotai Arena. The PPV numbers were hardly spectacular—a reported 475,000 buys, well below his normal drawing power in the United States—but also somewhat of a beta test case, as there didn’t exist any comparable data given the setting.
With that, last year’s show becomes the starting point on which to build for Pacquiao’s showdown with unbeaten Chris Algieri. Their welterweight title fight headlines a Nov. 22 HBO PPV show, once again at the Cotai Arena.
There is far more momentum heading into this show—Pacquiao is coming off of a 12-round win over Tim Bradley to avenge a controversial loss two years ago, while the unbeaten Algieri (20-0, 8KOs) is coming off of a career-best win, a debatable split decision nod over Ruslan Provodnikov in June.
By comparison, there is more at stake than last year’s headliner in Macau. Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38KOs) was coming in off of a two-fight losing streak and an 11-month layoff. Rios had lost his last fight, a 12-round decision in his rematch with Mike Alvarado last March, was moving up in weight and—stylistically—given no chance to score an upset.
Whether or not any of that translates into a more successful show remains to be seen. However, early pre-fight buildup and media attention have event handlers optimistic that the boxing world will respond.
“I think we did quite well going back to last November,” believes Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. “We did 475,000 buys for the Brandon Rios fight, a fight which took place outside (the United States), and which I thought was a great number.
“Now, with Chris Algieri getting the type of attention he's getting, the fight is getting exposure we've never had before. For example, I don't ever remember —maybe in the Ali days it was different—a fight getting an article in the New Yorker magazine, the way this one has.”
Still, there are other factors to take into consideration.
Pacquiao’s win over Bradley in their rematch this past April underperformed at the box office, generating a reported 750,000 PPV buys. The number was well down from their first fight in June ’12, which sold 900,000 units for a fight in which Bradley was fighting as a PPV headliner (even as the B-side) for the first time, and relatively unknown beyond the sport’s hardcore base.
The industry was far more familiar with Bradley by the time he once again met Pacquiao in the ring. Sandwiched in between was his 2013 Fight of the Year war with Ruslan Provodnikov last March and a close-but-clear points win in October over Juan Manuel Marquez—who knocked Pacquiao out cold the prior December.
Though coming off of the biggest win of his career, Algieri fights on PPV for the first time in his career.
Still, it’s not what takes place inside the ring that necessarily drives pay-per-view success, but more so familiarity among the mainstream audience.
It is here where Arum believes the upcoming event will shine, given Algieri’s backstory – a college-educated, undefeated fighter from New York who has demanded the attention of several sources not always giving boxing the necessary coverage.
“If you ask people who watch Fox Business News, where Algieri has been on numerous occasions, which fighter they knew better, Chris Algieri or Tim Bradley, they will say Chirs Algeiri,” Arum acknowledges. “Now, among fight fans, they may not know Algieri as well as Tim, a well-established fighter. Among the general public, they know Chris Algieri better than they know most fighters.
“Therefore we believe we'll do a number akin to what we did with the Manny-Bradley (fights) anywhere between 750,000-900,000 buys.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox