Manny should probably send Morales a thank you card for goosing the PPV sales, as he reminded us all that the underdog does sometimes surpass expectations. Morales might like that…but he'd probably prefer another lucrative scrap with the Congressman. Er…don't give Arum any ideas, right? (Chris Farina)
Bob Arum probably won’t be putting a personalized thank-you note to Richard Schaefer in the mail anytime soon. But the president of Top Rank should seriously consider it. It’s the right thing to do after someone provides you with the kind of free advertising Schaefer’s Golden Boy Promotions recently did for Arum.
Top Rank, as we all know, is currently putting the bulk of its resources and energy into promoting the May 7 bout between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley. The forces behind Pacquiao vs. Mosley are trying to cross over to the casual boxing fan by running commercials (anywhere from 15 seconds long to 30 minutes long) on CBS and simply continuing to rev the excitement-generating engine that is Pacquiao, who grows more iconic with every victory, every talk-show appearance, every spray-bottle-enhanced photo shoot.
But the hardcore fight fan is an entirely different target. Some boxing enthusiasts will fork over $65 for the HD version of the pay-per-view just because that’s what they do, habitually, every month or two. But others want nothing to do with this fight because they know what’s going to happen and they can watch it for 65 fewer clams when it re-airs a week later on Showtime. The crowd that sees this as a gross mismatch and wouldn’t bet on Mosley at 10-1 odds—which describes almost everyone who saw Mosley’s most recent fight, against Sergio Mora—is a tough sell.
And that’s where Golden Boy comes in. Two Saturdays ago, GBP promoted a PPV card headlined by a fight between Marcos Maidana and Erik Morales that elicited the same prefight reaction as Pacquiao-Mosley: “It’s a public execution, and I don’t want to see a legend get brutalized and embarrassed like that.” Except a funny thing happened on the way to the morgue: Morales turned back the clock about five years, gave a magnificent performance, and damned near won the fight.
To mix all of the traditional overused Mexican metaphors, Morales was supposed to get gored like a deported piñata at a bull fight. For three rounds, it looked like “El Terrible” might indeed spill blood and/or candy from his slightly soft-looking belly. Then he started fighting with a little more intensity, started taking more advantage of the holes in Maidana’s game, started winning rounds, started threatening to actually win the fight. It was a performance that flew in the face of everything we thought we knew.
It was a reminder that sometimes we—the media, the fans, the industry insiders—don’t actually know anything.
(And before the handful of observers who predicted a competitive fight get all high and mighty about how they weren’t surprised in the least, I’ll ask them to dismount from the horse for a moment and remember all the other times a fighter has proven them dead wrong. Go along with the premise here, even if it doesn’t apply to you in this one particular instance.)
Though there are people out there who give Mosley a chance against Pacquiao, the great majority are predicting that Pac-Man will win via inhumane bludgeoning, that it won’t be competitive, that we should fear for Sugar Shane’s safety.
But do we have to rethink that at all, or at least express our opinion with less confidence, based on Maidana-Morales?
Obviously, there are stylistic and situational differences between Pacquiao-Mosley and Maidana-Morales. They begin with the fact that Maidana on his best day ain’t Pacquiao on his worst. Then there’s the reality that speed and reflexes were never quite as instrumental to Morales’ success as they were to Mosley’s. And you can also put some stock in the notion that Morales, at 34, hadn’t used up his “one last great performance” yet before facing Maidana; Mosley, who is 39, might have spent his against Antonio Margarito two years ago.
The point is that Morales giving Maidana fits doesn’t actually affect the likelihood that Mosley will give Pacquiao fits. But it affects the PERCEIVED likelihood. It plants a seed of doubt.
And that seed can help Arum sell the hardcore fans on what every logical neuron shooting from their brains says is a mismatch.
You can almost hear Arum now, prattling on at a press conference after someone asks him about the wide betting odds or about how 98 percent of the writers are picking Pacquiao to win: “When have the writers ever been right? Or the oddsmakers? Or the fans? They all said Erik Morales was shot, and look what happened! This is why they fight the fights, and Shane Mosley is ready for the fight of his life, and anyone who thinks this is going to be easy for Manny doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”
The hardcore fight fans got some bad news last week when Humberto Soto vs. Urbano Antillon II, by far the most promising fight we thought was on the card, fell apart. Without Soto-Antillon, there’s no longer an “I can’t afford to miss this” fight on the PPV for the serious boxing fans. That means it’s now a little more urgent that Arum and Showtime convince those fans that the main event is something they can’t afford to miss. Yes, the networks, promoters, and distributors make the bulk of their money on Pacquiao pay-per-views from people who don’t follow boxing week in and week out. But they still would love to have the folks who DO follow the sport week in and week out pumping up the buy-rate.
Some of those hardcore fans won’t be shaken by what happened in Maidana-Morales. But some of them will. Some of them will spend the next few weeks quoting Larry Merchant’s famous “theater of the unexpected” line until they can’t help but click the “Buy” button.
And for that, Top Rank owes Golden Boy a thank you. Morales made those who labeled his last fight a suicide mission question themselves. In all probability, Pacquiao-Mosley will go the other direction and give the fight’s detractors reason to say, “I told you so.” But as long as Arum has their money first, he doesn’t care if they’re gloating afterward.
Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.