Fight of this Century
By Jason Burgos
Every generation has its defining fight — a boxing match that is both sporting event and cultural phenomenon. It is a moment that will attract all fans, from the die-hard fanatic to the fair-weather enthusiast.
The bout between Philippines-born Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao and Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. is likely to be the biggest fight of this era of boxing, it also might be the biggest cash-cow in the history of the sport.
Massive expectations could be the slogan for May 2nd match in Las Vegas. At a pay-per-view (PPV) price of $99.95 (many boxing PPV’s can range from $39.99 to $59.99), it could be the highest grossing televised event in the sports history.
Early tracking numbers assume the fight will blow by the previous record for PPV buys of 2.46 million for Mayweather’s match with Oscar Dela Hoya. With estimates hovering around 3.15 million, PPV sales, cable and satellite dish providers could generate over $300 million.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena, which is hosting the bout, will make a major profit off of ticket sales. When the limited tickets went on sale to the public, prices ranged from $1,500 to $7,500 per ticket. They sold out in a minute. Due to a contractual dispute, the remaining tickets went on sale on the 23rd for the 16,800-seat arena. This will lead to an extra $74 million in profits that would push total revenue towards $400 million.
This is a massive number, especially when compared to previous fights that had similar interest from the public. Mayweather recently took part in another highly successful promotion when he faced off with Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. That bout is second in all-time PPV buys at 2.2 million, however, at a price of $74.95 it made just $150 million on PPV (the current record holder in PPV profits). Even with the extra $20 million in ticket sales it generated, it will come up well short of expectations for Mayweather/Pacquiao.
The current record setter for PPV buys is the Mayweather/Dela Hoya contest, with 2.46 million buys. This promotion made $137 million from viewers at home and $18 million at the gate. Though, inflation must be taken into account when comparing these figures. For example, a match-up between legend “Sugar” Ray Robinson and Randy Turpin made only $767,630 in front of 61,437 fans back in 1951.
Not only will the fight be a major money maker for the industry, but it will be huge for Las Vegas hotels. The hotel that houses the arena for this mega-event saw its room’s sell-out in 15 minutes once the announcement was made. Average nightly room rates at the MGM Grand jumped from $190 to $705 in anticipation of the massive influx of visitors for the fight. There were 568 rooms booked, across the city, on February 20th and 21st after the bout was announced.
This fight has massive appeal because of the two fighters involved. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have, individually, been involved in six of the top 13 highest grossing boxing events ever held in Las Vegas. Mayweather has competed in the two most purchased boxing events on PPV.
Pacquiao’s last fight against Chris Algieri, in Macau, China, was watched by 48 million people in that country. Pacquiao’s popularity in Asia is so vast that early estimates expect another $10 million in revenue from the boxers’ home country of the Philippines alone.
Furthermore, $35 million may be produced from foreign rights, which will help add to the projected $400 million total gross. These two mean have a global appeal not often found in most professional athletes.
Their social media reach will make this fight more easily promotable than bouts of the past. Mayweather has close to five million followers on Instagram, another 5.65 million on Twitter, as well as 9.2 million interested fans on Facebook. Not to be outdone, Pacquiao has garnered 647,000 followers on Instagram, 1.7 million on Twitter, and 6.3 million on Facebook.
The combatant’s enormous combined influence amongst their fans, and the overall public, makes this fight unique but not uncommon in the history of the sport. While both are two of the most popular fighters of all-time, this match-up isn’t as socially relevant as the 1938 battle between America’s Joe Louis and Germany’s Max Schmeling. That fight drew 80,000 fans to Yankee Stadium, as the fighters were framed as champions representing the national ideologies of their countries. It took place during an era when the dislike for the Nazi regime in Germany was on the rise.
Nor is Mayweather/Pacquiao as relevant as the struggle between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971. That fight took place during a time of great change in the country, as the Civil Rights movement and the war in Vietnam were major topics. It lead fans to pick sides of the fighter that represented their personal views.
Though Mayweather/Pacquiao may not be as socially significant as fights from the past, this contest will surely have the attention of a global audience like few others have.
Steve Farhood, a Showtime on-air analyst and a follower of the sport for over 30 years, says Pacquiao could win if he “set a fast pace.” Mayweather, says Farhood, needs to use his “counter right hand; keeping an arm’s length distance,” along with “weathering the first couple of rounds.”
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor Din Thomas, a veteran of 35 mixed martial bouts who runs MMAscoutingreport.com, says Pacquiao’s “foot speed” and “volume punching” are key. “Floyd excels when fighters throw big shots, miss, and stop,” he says. “Manny has to punch with high frequency and not give Floyd opportune times to counter.”
However, Thomas is picking Mayweather to win. “I think his defense will be the deciding factor, he is a defensive wizard” he says. “The harder Manny tries to force Mayweather to open up, the more likely he will make mistakes and pay for them.”