We've done these "Guess the PPV Buys" posts before for a few fights, namely last year's three major PPVs, but this one strikes me as the most interesting we've done to date.
We are now living in a boxing world dominated by Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., whether we like it or not. And whether we're all sick of hearing about Pacquiao-Mayweather for the time being (since it isn't, you know, going to happen right now) or not, there are a lot of people that aren't. To those people, Manny and Floyd are all that matters, and these other fights, with Shane Mosley and "whoever the hell Joshua Clottey is," are merely speed-bumps. Maybe even speed-bumps that risk taking the bumper off your car, which nobody wants in this situation.
For some people, I think there's a genuine fear that Manny or Floyd could lose before we get to see them go at each other for all of boxing's pound-for-pound marbles.
They're the two biggest stars in boxing. Pacquiao's name value and some good promotion in Texas have combined to sell nearly 45,000 tickets at Cowboys Stadium as of this moment on Thursday morning. Clottey -- even though he deserves better and bigger standing and is a legitimate opponent without question -- is the proverbial nobody at the box office.
This isn't the Manny Pacquiao from a year ago. While Manny was big before his December 2008 fight with Oscar de la Hoya, and very big after, he's become huge. He's the boxer of choice for everyone in the world that wants to be inspired by a boxer, it seems, featured everywhere.
Pacquiao's popularity has in large part come the old-fashioned way. When he fights, people want to see him, because he's exciting, fearless, and ruthlessly efficient in the ring. Outside the ring, he's humble, good-humored, a philanthropist, and, at least in his own mind, a dynamite singer.
I think you can even argue that Manny Pacquiao is a boxing star, whereas Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a star who also boxes, if that makes sense. (And I'm not saying Mayweather doesn't box exceptionally well, so keep the "hater" comments in reserve for when I actually "hate" on him.)
Pacquiao-Clottey is a really good fight. With Shane Mosley and Andre Berto both tied up when Pacquiao needed to find an opponent, Top Rank surprised a lot of people by matching Manny with the absolute toughest available opponent. Names like Paulie Malignaggi and Timothy Bradley (junior welterweights) were tossed around, and this was a time when Floyd was rumored to be considering opponents like Nate Campbell and Matthew Hatton.
On January 7, I made a comment about Clottey being inserted as Pacquiao's opponent. I truly didn't think that would happen, nor had it ever really been in discussion publicly. Five hours later, Top Rank announced Pacquiao-Clottey via their Facebook page.
Since then, fan reaction has been mostly positive, and the fight is being treated as legit by everyone who knows anything, which it should.
But can it sell on PPV? I think this might be a reverse of the Mayweather-Marquez situation last year, where the live gate and attendance in Las Vegas were very disappointing, but the PPV numbers shocked everyone in and around the sport. The gate for this isn't going to set any records (well, it'll set the record for boxing in Texas, which is currently held by last year's Marquez-Diaz fight), but the attendance is obviously something that American boxing hasn't seen in a dog's age. But on PPV? I'm just not sure.
Pacquiao's fight last May with Ricky Hatton did around 800,000 buys, and his November bout with Miguel Cotto did about 1.25 million, matching what Pacquiao did against former PPV ruler Oscar de la Hoya the year previous. Does Clottey have the name power to help Manny reach those heights again? Does Manny himself have such enormous branding power himself that he can carry a show alone to a million homes in the States? Or will there be some disappointment with the buys for this show?