Did Manny Pacquiao make the smart decision?
April 11, 2017
As expected by most boxing fans back in January it was officially announced by Bob Arum that Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) would be facing Australia’s Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 10 KOs). The fight will take place at Suncorp Stadium with an expected attendance of 55,000 people in Brisbane, Australia. It is scheduled to take place on July 1st. The fight will be promoted as the biggest in the history of the country of Australia. It will likely garner the largest PPV audience in the history of the country as well.
Horn is here as an opponent for Pacquiao for two reasons. The first is that Horn is currently rated as the No. 2 contender for Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight championship. The No. 1 ranked contender is Timothy Bradley (33-2-1, 13 KOs) and No. 3 is Jessie Vargas (27-2, 10 KOs). In 2016, Pacquiao defeated both Bradley and Vargas soundly winning the WBO championship against Vargas.
At 38 years old, Pacquiao had the best year of any welterweight in 2016. The fight with Horn allows Pacquiao to fulfill a mandatory defense against an undefeated and unknown fighter who will garner him a larger payday in a country where the fight will be considered a huge event.
The second reason Horn was chosen for Pacquiao is that the Filipino's business and reputation have been in steady decline since being stopped by Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) in 2012. Since being knocked out by Marquez, Pacquiao’s PPV (pay-per-view) sales numbers have gone down significantly with two exceptions. Many remember the fight with Floyd Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) in May 2015 that sold a record 4.6 million in PPV, but was considered to be a failure with fans and critics.
Besides the fight with Mayweather, Pacquiao’s days of consistently having million dollar PPV sales are over. The Filipino, however, still doubles the sales of the best fighters of today. Last year, Pacquiao’s third fight with Timothy Bradley sold 400,000 in PPV while fighters like Terence Crawford, Andre Ward, and Gennady Golovkin have been unable to break the 200,000 mark. The only fight that outsold a Pacquiao fight last year in boxing was the Canelo-Khan fight that took place in May 2016 selling over 600,000 in PPV. The point being that Pacquiao only in comparison to himself as had disappointing numbers the last few years.
The other lone exception besides the Mayweather fight was the second Timothy Bradley fight that took place in April 2014. That fight sold 800,000 in PPV and shows that it’s possible that against the right opponent Pacquiao can still sell well in the United States. Last year attempts were made by Top Rank to secure a fight with Adrien Broner (33-2, 24 KOs) and a rumored fight with Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs). It was rumored that both men were offered an amount of four million to face Pacquiao and turned the offer down. To put this in perspective, Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) and Garcia each made two million for facing each other this past March while Jessie Vargas made 2.8 million to face Pacquiao last November.
A fight with Thurman arguably would have been the fight fans would have found most satisfactory as it potentially could have equaled the second Bradley fight in sales and allowed Pacquiao to become a unified champion, something he hasn’t accomplished in his career.
So when Horn was announced as Pacquiao’s next opponent, it was met with a groan by many fans. Most of this is because Horn is unknown and deemed as a non-threat to Pacquiao, but it’s partially because most American fans are ethnocentric. If a fight doesn’t take place in America or feature American fighters, many fans view it as second-rate. In this case, they may not be wrong. Horn will be the first opponent Pacquiao has faced since Jorge Solis in 2007 who wasn’t a current or former world champion.
Facing Horn was a smart move by Pacquiao for his business. It’s a way for him to have one last payout that is low risk with a high reward in the purse. The eight-division champion doesn’t have anything else to prove in the sport of boxing and whenever he chooses to retire will be voted into the hall-of-fame as soon as he is eligible. Fighters in the past have all taken what is considered to be easy fights in the twilight of their careers. This isn’t anything new that Top Rank is doing with Pacquiao. Fans may be more forgiving if the fight with Horn isn’t on PPV in the United States, but that is still up in the air at this moment.
Financially it makes sense for Pacquiao to fight Horn, as unlike his fellow welterweights, he is an international star that has more options than fighting in Las Vegas. For those fans in the United States who have been paying to see Pacquiao fight since he first got on PPV in 2005, it’s a disappointment on many levels.
Regardless of how the fight with Horn ends up selling in the United States, it feels like Pacquiao has worn out his welcome in the boxing world. The Philippines Senator may be past his prime, but he has shown recently that he would still be the favorite against any welterweight. Until Pacquiao fights someone deemed as a threat his fights will be met with apathy instead of excitement.
(Feature Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty)