By Ivan G. Goldman
I’m having a hard time finding fans who plan to purchase the Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri bout November 22. Maybe a lot of them will change their minds at the last minute or plan to get it on the sly so they won’t be thought of as suckers.
But it’s unlikely the size of the pay-per-view audience will be anything to brag about. If there’s any buzz, it appears to have been muffled by the facts.
Promoter Bob Arum keeps trying different marketing strategies. At first, he seemed to think Algieri’s college degree was a good selling point. He’s also tried the Boston-New York rivalry angle because Algieri’s from Long Island, and Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach is originally from Massachusetts.
“I live for beating a New Yorker,” dutiful Roach said.
Arum and his publicity machine also tried likening Algieri to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky character. They arranged for the real-life Stallone to visit a pre-fight event in L.A., where Stallone pronounced Algieri’s victory over ruthless Ruslan Provodnikov “Rocky-esque.”
A feather-fisted stringbean like Algieri is not exactly synonymous with the heavy-hitting Rocky character emblazoned across the world’s imagination by the movie series, but the Arum machine keeps throwing slop against the wall in the hope that something will stick before fight night.
There’s no shame in Pacquiao signing up for a tune-up, which is what this bout will be. Pickings were slim around contract time. Perhaps the new HBO-Arum business relationship with Golden Boy Promotions will open up new opportunities for WBO champ Pacquiao.
But it’s disingenuous to put this bout on pay-per-view and pretend there’s suspense involved. Pacquiao is faster, stronger, more skilled, and yes, bigger. Some fans miss that because Algieri is so much taller, but Tommy Hearns is taller than Mike Tyson. That doesn’t make him the bigger guy. Algieri, 20-0 (8 KOs), is a junior welter who’ll be competing at the catch weight of 144. Pacquiao has been competing as a welterweight for the last five years.
Yes, miracles happen, but counting on them will, more often than not, conflict with the actual outcome.
Remember how Arum once said “Yesterday I was lying, but today I’m telling the truth?” Well, trying to sell this event has placed him into a protracted lying mode. These days deception trips off his tongue at the speed of sound, pounding the listener’s ears with thundering fabrication. Take this statement, for example:
“Chris Algieri’s story has captured the imagination of the sports world. It’s all you read about in the United States and throughout Asia, not unlike Sly Stallone’s Rocky, which did the same thing in 1976 and won the Academy Award for Best Picture.” Is there no shame? Not from Arum. Remember, this is the same promoter who complained that the officials who wouldn’t license Antonio Margarito for trying to enter a ring with plaster in his wraps were just picking on him because he was Mexican.
In one media event, Arum chided a reporter for not planning to attend the fight. But Arum has to know that very few sports media outlets are willing to invest in sending their people off to China for an event like this. Placing the card in Macau guarantees sparse coverage. He and Pacquiao, (56-5-2, 38 KOs), were lured to Macau again by the exhilarating smell of Chinese casino money, but they seem to forget that the rest of the world won’t share the bounty.
A lackluster HBO has produced only one 24/7 reality-programming show. It will also air a special entitled Under the Lights.
Algieri and Pacquiao are both nice guys caught up in a circus of deceit. You can’t blame Algieri for reaching out to grab this brass ring, but Philippines Congressman Pacquiao, who’s always tried to give fans a terrific fight for their money, should have known better than to ask U.S. fans to pay extra for this contest. A people’s champion should show concern for people.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.