by Charles Jay
The numbers were not his strongest ever, but Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, linked in history and about to be linked some more, got together to create a big hit at the pay-per-view box office.
The progression of this series on PPV may not be all that telling, but it is interesting to take a look at where it stands among the very best returns Pacquiao has been involved in. When these two fighters got together for the first time, it was only shown on the HBO premium channel, and upon being moved to the per-per-view for the first time, in March of 2008, it drew slightly more than 400,000 subscribers.
Of course, the numbers vary, but the most reliable figures about Pacquiao-Marquez III placed the event around 1.4 million to 1.45 million buys.
The fight from last week drew a reported 1.15 million buys, which, as was discussed in this space before the fight, was not unexpected, but not a huge disappointment either. There was a natural decline in curiosity because the first three meetings had yet to result in a win for Marquez, and the advance sales were pretty slow until a late surge in the “walkup,” which Bob Arum of Top Rank explained had pushed it over a million subs. And now all the factors that had made things sluggish have been turned completely around and sent this thing into overdrive.
All of the numbers are not in quite yet, and it would not unusual if more buys were discovered, but as of now, it would appear that Pacquiao-Marquez IV did about as well as the fight with Antonio Margarito, which also stands at approximately 1.15 million. Pacquiao’s fight with Shane Mosley did better (1.34 million) and the November 2009 fight with Miguel Cotto was just a little higher, with 1.2 million. Pacquiao’s fights with Timothy Bradley and Joshua Clottey, which both drew 700,000 subscribers, lag behind.
Whether you want to count Pacquiao’s stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya on this list is up to you. That fight drew 1.25 million buys, but clearly De La Hoya was the headliner between the two. Pacquiao has obviously been the “star” in all his fights since, and we must concede that Marquez’s strength with the Latin crowd has counted for something. It probably did in a September 2009 fight against Floyd Mayweather, which didn’t figure to be all that competitive going in (and indeed wasn’t) but slipped over the 1 million plateau anyway. That means Marquez has been in three fights that have seen that level of sales. And six of Pacquiao’s last nine have topped the million mark.
So it cries out for more go-around.
Based on the encouraging figures surrounding the Pacquiao-Marquez rivalry, it is not inconceivable that a fifth fight between them would surpass the 1.4 million that the previous Pacquiao “high” produced, and could roll past the 1.5 million that Mayweather-Cotto achieved back in May of this year. No, it will not exceed the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight, which had about 2.5 million subscribers. But getting to 1.6 million would seem quite possible.
In a way, the raw pay-per-view subscriber numbers are somewhat deceiving, because more and more homes with a television are being equipped with pay-per-view capability. But using a similar barometer for the last couple of years is not at all out of line.