Right now, boxing fans are feeling like a victim of Ashton Kutcher’s old television show Punk’d.
Since Nov. 14, better known as the night that Manny Pacquiao scored an electrifying 12th- round TKO win over Miguel Cotto, anybody that follows the sport has had their appetite whetted by the mouth watering prospect of seeing a showdown between the world’s two top pound-for-pound boxers – Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
But with the negotiations for that fight now having imploded like the demolition of The Sands Casino in Las Vegas, boxing fans are left with nothing more than a cloud of dust as they try to make sense of what it all means and what will be next for both Pacquiao and Mayweather.
By any measure one wishes to use, there is no doubt that Pacquiao and Mayweather are ranked #1 and #2 – in that order.
Pacquiao is the best boxer on the planet and Mayweather is further down behind him – lower on the list in second place.
Never mind that Pacquiao is ranked #1 in the ratings by every reputable boxing publication or Internet boxing Web site in existence and that he has been honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America as the fighter of the year for the past two years in a row.
What is probably more important is that Manny is also #1 at the box office. And in the sport of boxing, better known as the business of boxing, that is his most significant achievement.
It is Pacquiao that draws fans in droves to his live events. For comparison purposes, Pacquiao’s recent bout against Miguel Cotto attracted a standing room only crowd of over 16,000 to the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. Less than two months earlier, Mayweather met Juan Manuel Marquez at the same venue and they failed to draw a paid attendance of 13,000 to a relatively subdued affair.
Ticket brokers and scalpers were able to charge upwards of ten thousand dollars for one Pacquiao vs. Cotto ringside ticket. The Mayweather-Marquez fight was lucky to get half that amount for the same seat. The MGM Grand was forced to offer special packages to attract customers to the Mayweather vs. Marquez fight – everything from discounted fight tickets, free meals and free limousine rides to and from McCarran International Airport. On the other hand, Pacquiao vs. Cotto was sold out weeks in advance and the night of the fight brought the city of Las Vegas to a virtual standstill.
Mayweather calls himself "Money" – but it is Pacquiao that attracted more fans this year to Las Vegas. It is also Pacquiao that caused more fans to push the pay-per-view buy buttons on their television remote control. His fight against Cotto earned nearly $14 million more in pay-per-view revenue than Mayweather’s fight against Marquez.
So, since boxing fans will not have the matter settled as to who the best boxer on the planet is with a match-up of skills between Pacquiao and Mayweather – the only other measurable manner available to them is the rankings of the various organizations that keep track of such things - and the latest box office receipts.
Using both of those measuring sticks, it is Pacquiao that easily comes out on top.
Mayweather and his supporters will point to his 2007 fights against Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton as evidence of his supremacy on the pay-per-view front. However, the De La Hoya fight was nearly three years ago. The world was a different place then; money and credit were easy come and easy go. People thought nothing of making a weekend trip to Vegas or dropping a Grant on the pay-per-view. In the world economy of 2009, where funds were sparse, and folks searched for value in their entertainment dollar, they spent more in person and via their TV screens to see Manny Pacquiao.
Promoters spent an astonishing $20 million on marketing costs for the Mayweather vs. Marquez fight. The fight was also broadcast in 170 movie theaters around the country – yet Pacquiao still attracted more fans.
In the day and age of the Internet, any Web-site publisher will tell you that when a Manny Pacquiao news item or feature appears on their site, it is a good day for them in terms of the all important page views. Ask a boxing magazine publisher who sells more copies when Pacquiao or Mayweather appear on their cover and they will tell you that the Pinoy idol is "bank".
Mayweather and his backers will counter with the argument that both of his fights against De La Hoya and Hatton drew more than Pacquiao’s did – but again – we’re talking about numbers going on nearly three years ago.
Boxing would probably best be known as a sport of "What have you done for me lately?"
Using that simple question, it is Pacquiao that is clearly the more personable fighter/celebrity. Devoted fans flock to him, they smile, they pose, they rush to get an autograph or a picture.
Mayweather’s highly publicized open workout at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood in the days before his bout against Marquez barely drew a crowd of 200 people. On the other hand, in the same town, just around the corner and down the street, Pacquiao attracts that many people every single day to watch him simply walk in and out of Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym.
Whether one wishes to blame the non-happening of the Pac-May fight on Pacquiao’s refusal to submit to Mayweather’s demand for the unheard of Olympic style drug testing is their prerogative. However, they should remember that based on the most recent accomplishments it is Manny that is universally regarded as the best boxer on the planet, Manny that is the more popular person with the public and Manny that is the recent box-office champion.
Based on all of that – it is Pacquiao that was clearly in the drivers’ seat of the failed negotiations. It is also Pacquiao that clearly sits atop the boxing world as 2010 gets underway. For Mayweather to lay claim to anything he will have to get in the ring, fight and beat a contender of consequence and perhaps win a title. It will be the only way to turn the tide in his favor.
In the Corners
The latest news is that Pacquiao will likely face the always tough, durable and rugged Joshua Clottey on March 13 at Cowboys Stadium in Texas. The Ghanaian is perhaps the toughest and one of the most avoided welterweights in the world. I will say that unless Pacquiao is totally focused he will not beat Clottey, who is a larger man who can take a great punch. Clottey will likely be a middleweight by the time he steps into the ring on fight night and he has a tight defense...Meanwhile, rumors persist that Mayweather will meet the smaller and light punching Paulie Malignaggi - or even worse – Matthew Hatton, the limited younger brother of Ricky. My view is that since Mayweather needs to make a statement of supremacy and gain more leverage in any potential future negotiations for a Pacquiao fight, that he should face the winner of the Jan. 30 Shane Mosley vs. Andre Berto title fight…Nice to see the return of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights as well as the upcoming new series on FOX Sports. Who says boxing is dead?