It was inevitable and boxing promoters are beginning to see the picture when Manny Pacquiao defends his WBO welterweight title tomorrow night from Australia. It has nothing to do with Pacquiao and his continued quest at boxing history when he steps in the ring with the undefeated 16-0- 1, Jeff Horn.
And it has nothing to do with a championship fight coming to you from the Land Down Under. Note, this is a free fight to be televised on ESPN, a network that is also having a slow death. Notice that Manny Pacquiao, a longtime face for boxing along with Floyd Mayweather Jr. is no longer a pay-per-view fighter.
Again, this does not diminish skills of Pacquiao, who is expected to win again and continue a legacy before hanging up the gloves. This is about Top Rank and his longtime promoters going a different route as boxing and pay-per-view are on a slow death. The numbers are no longer there and that Mayweather-Conor McGregor fiasco on August 26th, which is expected to rival Pacquiao-Mayweather numbers, could be the last of the Mohegans.
It’s a simple equation for boxing. Promoters and the distributors will always get their share of the pie when the final numbers are compiled but the pay-per-view buy rates continue to dwindle. In the end, the cost of setting up the signal and working with the cable company distributors does not lead to significant revenue.
Pacquiao fights have grossed millions over the years with his popularity world wide, an icon for his people in the Philippines and soon the Senator will devote his time as a permanent political fixture.
Top Rank still sees his popularity as a global company and ESPN is once again in the fight game also with the PBC management group that handles some of the top fighters in the sport.
So with that, and with pay-per-view boxing soon to get knocked out, ESPN jumped on Pacquiao. The network on Thursday also announced that Junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko and unified junior welterweight world champion Terence Crawford, also controlled by Top Rank, will defend their titles live on the network in August.
And what does that say for pay-per-view, HBO in particular, when two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world are throwing punches at opponents and fans are not taking out their wallets?
Though the subscribers keep dwindling for ESPN, and cable networks overall, boxing does get a boost with top fighters seen worldwide and fans are not at risk for dropping another $70.00 dollars or more and upping their cable bills.
So in the case of a ripoff, they can say no harm done. This was a free fight!
According to sources in the boxing industry, and those close to Top Rank, the model has always been pay-per-view. However, two weeks ago the light heavyweight rematch between the champion Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev drew less than 400,000 buys on HBO Pay-Per-View. The numbers speak and Top Rank has listened about the decline and less revenue.
And according to sources there is that constant issue of declining pay-per-view buy rates because fans are finding more ways to access free links for pay-per-view fights, some also shown live on social media sites.
Because Manny Pacquiao is known for pay-per-view money this is obviously the indicator as to where this is going, although the ESPN deal was finalized with Top Rank and Pacquiao long before the Ward-Kovalev fight.
Top Rank has the ability to handle their own pay-per-view distribution. But in the end said one source, “ESPN, and Top Rank a global company makes sense.” There are references to being cost effective for the network and Top Rank. And also bringing world class fighters to free television does have an impact.
Pacquiao will still get a major share of the purse. Pay-Per-View or not, the only eight division champion in the sport will get his $ 3-million or more payday against Horn, a quality opponent who says Pacquiao will be in for the shock of his career.
The fight will be competitive with ESPN Deportes and their various technological apps also broadcasting the fight. That, in itself, brings out the meaning and more about Top Rank making a move to ESPN as their company with a global identity that promotes a significant amount of international talent.
And the undercard is enticing with Shane Mosley Jr. on the card, son of the former four-time and three-class champion.
Pacquiao is expected to prevail and there will be the question again, where do you go from here? Speculation will always be to seek redemption and oppose Mayweather one more time. But that may never happen again, and after that first fiasco in the ring that occurred two years ago a pay-per-view number will never surpass the first one.
Mayweather and McGregor will draw numbers because fans of both sports are drawn in with the boxer opposing a UFC brawler. Also, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin for the middleweight titles on HBO Pay-Per-View, September 16th, will draw huge numbers because this is a fight boxing fans want. It will certainly have the numbers when they are finally tabulated.
Not Mayweather-Pacquiao all-time records, but good enough where everyone goes to the bank. But those could be two upcoming pay-per-view fights distributed by Showtime and HBO and the start of the last.
In the meantime, enjoy Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn Saturday night. It’s free on ESPN and a disappointment won’t cause you to cry, “I was ripped off.”
A move in the right direction for the sport of boxing and the fans who have been crying foul a long time about purchasing pay-per-view fights that did not live up to expectations.
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso