SEN. Manny Pacquiao’s fight tomorrow against Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas bodes ill for his claim as a pay-per-view star.
If the fight bombs at the gate and on PPV — and indications are that it will — then Sunday marks the end of his demands for seven figures per fight. He may still continue to fight if he’s not yet satisfied with the billions of pesos he has already earned atop the ring and if he has completely forgotten his campaign promise to retire from boxing once he gets elected as senator. However, he’ll no longer get the attention of boxing aficionados that he used to get and it will be extremely difficult for him to retire in a blaze of glory.
There was a time when a Pacquiao fight would send sports writers in the US and the city of Las Vegas all het up. Excitement was in the air. Even his weigh-ins were big media events. That was yesterday– and yesterday’s gone. Instead of hurrahs, an almost total silence is enveloping the fight.
Today, there’s almost a total silence on his fight against the unheralded Jessie Vargas, the welterweight champion of the World Boxing Organization. The Las Vegas Review Journal did not even mention anything about the presscon of Pacquiao and Vargas last Wednesday. The Las Vegas Sun came out with a mere photo of the two fighters at the presscon. The few writers who discussed the fight saw nothing but public lack of interest in it, as if it’s a non-event.
For the first time in almost 20 years, Pacquiao will not be fighting in a five-star hotel casino. Most of his previous fights were held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Hotel-casinos pay a premium to boxing promoters for a big fight to be held in their establishments. None had shown interest in the Pacquiao-Vargas fight so it will be held instead at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Thomas and Mack Center.
For a minimum of $54, one can see the fight in person. Last Friday morning, a number of tickets for ringside, lower level and upper level seats were still available. Gone were the days when choice seats for a Pacquiao fight were gobbled up as soon as tickets were on sale.
A usual cure for an anemic gate is revenue from PPV. HBO, the biggest cash cow for PPV, had refused to air the fight. This forced Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, to take care of the PPV. He is charging $64 for regular TV, $69.50 for HDTV. Sports writers in Las Vegas doubt if many people will pay that much for a non-competitive fight.
Betting odds heavily favor Pacquiao. A bet of $750 for him will win $100. On the other hand, a bet of $475 for an upset by Vargas will win $700. So, who’ll pay $64 or $69.50 to watch a mismatch on TV? Incidentally, HBO last aired a Pacquiao fight when he met Timothy Bradley. Bob Arum didn’t immediately reveal the number of PPV buys but some writers claimed it was below 300,000. Oh yes, Bradley totally outclassed Pacquiao’s new opponent, Vargas, when they fought last year.
A Philippine media outlet said only about 20 persons were on board the Pacquiao Bus when it left Los Angeles for Las Vegas. There used to be a mad scramble for a seat in the bus in previous fights. Well, it seems even Filipinos in LA have lost interest in a Pacquiao fight.
I had rooted for Pacquiao to win in his fights before he became a senator. Now, it no longer matters whether he wins or not after he reneged on his campaign promise to retire. He made matters worse by choosing a virtually unknown fighter as opponent after “unretiring.”
Add to this his statement against the LGBT community that fueled the start of his unpopularity in the US and the termination of a number of high-paying endorsements, and you have a ring debacle in the offing.
Perhaps, Pacquiao can still retire with glory should he fight somebody like Terence Crawford or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Or, if he wants to dream, a return bout with tormentor Floyd Mayweather.
The best option for him however, is to forgo boxing, be satisfied with the billions he has earned from the sport, and work full time as a legislator. Who knows, he might still set aside his uninspiring performance as congressman for nine years and show his gratitude to voters who gave him the mandate to serve as senator.