This Saturday, April 9th Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley meet for the third time in a fight that is going to air on HBO pay-per-view. Promoter Bob Arum anticipates the fight will attract in the range of 700,000 pay-per-view buys.
The first two fights between them took place in June of 2012 and April of 2014, and both times the number of pay-per-view buys are said to have exceeded 800,000, with the re-match netting the highest total at 890,000. But a lot has changed since then, both in boxing and with Pacquiao as an individual that may leave Arum's number a touch on the optimistic side.
Tim Bradley is an excellent fighter, and many consider him a “live underdog” in this trilogy-closing bout. But Bradley is not a huge marquee name or big box-office draw even to this day. Bradley has a 31-1-1 record and he is one of the finest boxers on the planet, but it will be Pacquiao who will be the main draw. Pacquiao has been the “A” draw for ten years in every fight except in his last outing when he opposed Floyd Mayweather Jr. He will always be able to count on the Filipino audience for backing, but among more casual fans Pacquiao there may be some “buyer's remorse.”
How many of the 800k plus buys for the first two fights between Pacquiao and Bradley were casual, cross-over fans who were drawn by the spectacle of “Pac-Man”? After the Mayweather bout, his reputation emerged scarred and that effect was aggravated when he appeared to blame a shoulder injury for his bad performance. He is 37 years old and is coming off rotator cuff surgery. Pacquiao has been in the news over his recent public stance on gay marriage, and it has not been a positive attention-getter. A lot of casuals may find reasons to fall off the Pac-Man bandwagon.
The live event appears on its way to a sell out at the 16,800 seat MGM Grand. But will the average viewer at home be motivated to shell out more than $50 to watch Pacquiao fight again?
It is interesting to note that Pacuaio's November 2013 fight with Brandon Rios and his fight a year later with Chris Algieri both drew in the 400,000 range. While Bradley is a better fighter than either of those two and he is more likely to produce a competitive fight, all three are comparable as far as being household names. Now that it is fight week, the hype train in Las Vegas has given this fight the “big fight” feel but the entire build-up to the fight has been rather ho-hum.
So here are the questions to be reviewed after the fight. Taking Arum's number of 700,000 as the over/under, will the pay-per-view sales come in over or under? Will this third fight draw more or less than the previous two meetings?
Though less folks may watch this one, it also has the potential to be the best fight of the trilogy with Bradley's renewed focus and Pacquiao potentially making his last stand. Wouldn't that be a typical boxing story, that less people watched the best fight of the three?
At this point the fight is 72 hours or so away, and we will find out some of the answers come this Saturday.