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Manny Pacquiao fights next weekend and no one cares

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Next Saturday night is the return of Manny Pacquiao. So why isn’t anyone talking about this fight?

Next weekend marks what should be a major fight in boxing in 2016 – the in-ring return of future Hall of Fame legend Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao last competed in April defeating sort-of rival Timothy Bradley in what was billed as Pacquiao’s retirement fight. Now, just 7 months later he returns. By all accounts, this should be a big deal. But it’s not. At all. We are currently 8 days away from fight time and the hype is at a complete zero. Manny Pacquiao is fighting, and no one cares.

How did we get to this point? Let’s take a look at the various factors contributing to this dud in the making:

  • Pacquiao’s star power has been fading. The last Bradley fight did just 400,000 PPV buys, the same as his 2014 fight with Chris Algieri. Just three years ago, such a low number for a Pacquiao fight would have been unthinkable – since his superstar making performance against Oscar De La Hoya in 2008, Pacquiao was above 700,000 buys for every fight until his KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez. Since then, he’s been mainly around 400,000, with that one notable exception…
  • Post-Mayweather/Pacquiao fatigue. Much has been written about this, but it seems clear now that when the fight of our generation failed to produce any fireworks, damage was done to the kind of casual fan base that previously made big PPVs. No event since has passed the 1 million mark.
  • Pacquiao’s “retirement” lasted 7 months. It’s hard to get behind a return fight that is so clearly not a return. In Pac’s defense, he was never definitive that he was retiring, but that’s how it was promoted, and it’s frustrating fans now.
  • Pacquiao’s ongoing anti-homosexual comments. In February, he lost his Nike deal after making strongly negative comments towards the gay community, and those comments have tainted many fans’ views of the legend.
  • The opponent. Jessie Vargas is not terrible, but he’s not an exciting opponent at all, and fans are getting sick of these kinds of match-ups in boxing.

If those were the only factors, this card would be on the way to a seriously low number of buys – probably at or just south of that 400,000 number. But those aren’t the only factors. The real issue is this:

Pacquiao is on his own.

After trying to push his way into the HBO schedule just two weeks before their long-hyped Ward vs. Kovalev Nov. 19 showdown, HBO decided that they were not interested in doing business with Pacquiao and Top Rank, setting him free to go his own way. The result is a non-HBO, non-Showtime PPV, promoted solely by Top Rank. And that is not a recipe for success. There have been some attempts to put on other independent boxing PPVs, and none have drawn well.

Pacquiao remains a name who will bring in more fans than previous complete PPV disasters like Mosley vs. Mayorga, but how many fans will stick with him when the promotional machine of HBO is taken away? If 400,000 was his previous low, can this fight even clear that hurdle? It’s doubtful – something closer to the 300,000 mark is more likely. In the long run, will that hurt the possibility of Pacquiao stepping in to the ring against Floyd Mayweather once more when Mayweather makes his inevitable return for fight #50? We’ll have to wait and see – and that drama may end up being more interesting than the drama to unfold next Saturday night in Las Vegas.

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