Where will Pacquiao-Vargas end up?
By Hector Franco
August 18, 2016
This week it was made official by Top Rank promotions that Manny Pacquiao’s next fight won’t be televised by HBO. This will end a long tenure of HBO showing Manny Pacquiao on their network. Since 2003, all but four Manny Pacquiao fights have been shown on HBO. Two of those fights against Fahsan 3K Battery and Oscar Larios were fought in the Philippines. The other two fights against Jorge Solis and Shane Mosley were fought under different circumstances.
The Jorge Solis fight was shown on a Top Rank independent PPV in April 2007. This was coming after Pacquiao had a great 2006. In that year he won the Fighter of the Year award after fighting three times in the year and coming out the winner of his trilogy with Mexican legend, Erik Morales. Top Rank and Bob Arum are not afraid to put on a show themselves if a network isn’t willing to come to the table. They may be in the same position in 2016 with Pacquiao-Vargas. With Pacquiao no longer being the powerhouse at the box office he once was, an independent PPV for Top Rank would be a last resort. It would stand that they would lose money.
Another option for Top Rank is to take Pacquiao across the street to Showtime. This is nothing new for Top Rank as they took Pacquiao to Showtime in 2011. He faced off against Shane Mosley in a fight that when first announced was lambasted as a mismatch. Mosley was coming off of a fight with Sergio Mora where he looked pedestrian in a fight that was scored a draw. Even with the criticism of the fight, Pacquiao-Mosley still reportedly sold 1.3 million in PPV sales. The difference between then and now is that Pacquiao is five years older and his last PPV against Bradley sold less than 300,000 in PPV sales. At this point, Showtime may not be as interested in getting into business with Pacquiao as they were in 2011. Regardless, Showtime has had no PPV events this year while HBO has had three so far with two more scheduled in September and November. With HBO bypassing the Pacquiao-Vargas fight they have also broken a contract that guaranteed them future fights featuring Pacquiao. This includes the dreaded possibility of a Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch. Arum told RingTV.com in a phone interview some of the details of the possibilities of where the fight may end up.
The other option for Top Rank that has been mentioned is the possibility of doing a PPV with ESPN. This seems more like a long shot due to the recent coverage of boxing on the all-sports network. The Friday Night Fights brand has been torn down to pieces. The network is going into a different direction as they are looking to make a deal with the UFC to broadcast MMA fights. Looking for someone else to distribute a PPV may be the wrong start for Top Rank. A PPV in itself may not be the best idea.
There were rumors at first that were then rejected that Top Rank was looking at having platforms like Netflix and Amazon to put on the Pacquiao-Vargas fight. This would have been a great evolution for the sport to have a fight shown on a platform like Netflix. The exposure the sport would get to a whole new fan base would have been huge. Showing the fight on free television would be great for the sport as well. It’s unfortunate that these options are more fantasy than reality for Top Rank and Pacquiao.
Wherever Pacquiao-Vargas ends up it will be a hard sell for most fans. With the biggest obstacle being where the fight will be distributed, the undercard of the event seems to be taking a backseat. It would be smart for Top Rank to put Terence Crawford on the card to help build a future fight with the Pacquiao-Vargas winner. But the scramble for distribution may leave us with an undercard filled with mismatches and showcase fights.
The smart money will be on Pacquiao-Vargas showing up on an independent Top Rank PPV. Arum and Top Rank may have something up their sleeve. We'll have to wait for the official fight press conference on September 8th to find out.
(Featured Photo: Wendell Rupert Alinea)