FILIPINO fight fans have long been salivating at the thought of seeing Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, Jr., easily the country’s best prizefighters today, in the same card. There were impromptu proposals in the past but they never got off the blueprint stage. There were even kibitzers who opined that Pacquiao’s camp didn’t want it to happen out of fear that Donaire might steal the spotlight from the ‘Pac Man.’
It took an announcement from Bob Arum, who promotes both boxers, to finally get the ball rolling. Arum recently disclosed that Pacquiao and Donaire will appear in the same card scheduled on November 5 at the Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Pacquiao will be the main event fighter as he takes on American Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 knockouts) for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight (147 lbs.) championship. Donaire, the incumbent WBO junior featherweight (122 lbs.) titlist, will appear in the supporting main event, most likely against No.1 contender Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17 knockouts). The choice of Vargas and Magdaleno makes a lot of marketing sense as they both hail from Las Vegas, Nevada. Vargas is the defending WBO welterweight champion while Magdaleno will figure in his first world title shot. This early, Pacquiao and Donaire are the smart money bets to prevail.
Donaire (37-3, 24 knockouts) is being included in the card because of the lukewarm reception the Pacquiao-Vargas fight has been receiving. It will be recalled that HBO, the long-time pay-per-view distributor of Pacquiao’s fights, decided to stay away from the fight to focus its promotional machine on the November 19 light heavyweight unification showdown between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward.
Arum is mulling on Pacquiao-Vargas being distributed by Top Rank or by HBO’s rival Showtime. Regardless of Arum’s next move, it cannot be denied that HBO shunned Pacquiao-Vargas because it cannot make money out of it. Truth be told, Pacquiao’s box-office charisma is no longer the same. There was a time when Pacquiao carried a pay-per-view card by himself, but it seemed eons ago. The former eight-division world champ has not registered a knockout win in seven years and reports have it that Top Rank lost over $10 million in his last fight against Timothy Bradley Jr. When Top Rank announced that Pacquiao is facing Vargas instead of Terence Crawford, boxing fans frowned in unison.
To sell Pacquiao-Vargas, Arum has to beef up the supporting fights and this explains Donaire’s inclusion. Latest reports have it that Arum is planning on having four world title fights in the Pacquiao-Vargas tiff, including Donaire’s title defense.
Pacquiao joining forces with Donaire in the same card is a rare experience from the standpoint of Filipino fight fans. It remains to be seen how the fight will be shown in our shores as Pacquiao and Donaire are identified with two different networks. But considering the historical angle of this “crossover,” a win-win solution is likely to be ironed out. Ultimately, Filipino fight fans both here and abroad and Philippine pro boxing as a whole figure to be the biggest winners.
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