Promoter Bob Arum says that the pay-per-view buys for Manny Pacquiao's November 23 win in Macao over Brandon Rios are "somewhere between 500,000 and 550,000," which the veteran promoter will spin all he wants, but the fact is that not since a rematch win over Juan Manuel Marquez, before Manny Pacquiao had become a bankable A-side major pay-per-view headliner has the Filipino superstar done so poorly on pay-per-view.
You may recall back in 2009, after Pacquiao had beaten Oscar De La Hoya and was lined up to face Ricky Hatton, Arum tried to prevent the figures being released for Pacquiao-Hatton, after boasting that it would do a lot better business than it did. You may also recall that fight garnering about 800,000-850,000 buys or so, and that was the first time Manny had headlined a truly major event as an A-side.
It's hard to pinpoint what, exactly, may be to blame here, but there are several factors that may have contributed to the low number.
- Pacquiao having been on a "two-fight losing streak" is probably not to blame, since most thought he beat Tim Bradley last year, but the knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez could have certainly had some effect, even though it was a great fight.
- With the time off, Manny came into this fight not only off of a bad loss, but sort of falling out of the boxing eye as well. Not a good combination.
- Brandon Rios didn't have anyone convinced they would see a competitive fight. All due respect to Rios, but he was an underdog for a reason, and had lost his last fight, too, to Mike Alvarado, a guy we then saw get smashed by Ruslan Provodnikov in October. So you had Pacquiao facing an exciting but limited and not terribly well-known fighter who was coming off of a loss to a guy who just lost.
- This fight came after Mayweather-Canelo in September, which did record revenue numbers with a PPV priced at an all-time high between $65 and $75 for standard and high definition, but while it excited beforehand, the main event itself was a bit of a dud that definitely did not live up to the hype.
- The fight also came a month and a half after the Bradley-Marquez PPV. I doubt that one had much direct impact on this fight, but it's worth noting that this was a third straight month with a major PPV. Even a fan leaning more toward "diehard" than "casual" had to be feeling the pinch.
- Speaking of the pinch, add all that up and then consider that it's the holiday season as well. In a bad economy. IN THIS ECONOMY?!?!?!
If you pool all that together, which is probably fair enough, you come down to one key thing: the fight wasn't big enough to live up to Pacquiao's normal business standards. It just wasn't. It was a big fight, and there's nothing wrong with 500,000 buys. To be clear, that's a number UFC would love to do for most of their pay-per-view shows (also, I'm not slamming UFC here, just comparing to something that is generally considered a "hotter" sport that does bigger business).
Arum says that lower site fees in Macao make the low buys here a bit more palatable business-wise, which I'm sure is true. But is Manny Pacquiao done as a million-buy man? Certainly there are fights out there where he can do that number again, but the automatic days are probably over unless he goes on another epic tear like before, and at 35, that's not likely to happen. He may have years left as a top fighter and, in terms of the overall landscape of the sport, still clearly an elite-level drawing card, but there is no longer any doubt whatsoever that the biggest pay-per-view star in boxing is Floyd Mayweather. Whatever rivalry between the two fighters there is that we'll never see end, that one is over.