By Ivan G. Goldman
Boxing promoters couldn’t ply their trade without exaggerating at least once in a while, but ticket prices show that when it comes to Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV on Dec. 8, Bob Arum of Top Rank really and truly believes he has a hot product.
The bottom end ticket in the MGM Grand Arena will sell for a whopping $200 — and there are only two to a customer. That’s probably a record for the Las Vegas Strip and shows us the promoter anticipates fevered demand. By way of comparison, seats for Canelo-Alvarez-Josesito Lopez last week in the same arena went for as low as $25. Tickets down the road for Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.-Sergio Margarito also went for $25. Both venues were packed, bringing in about 35,000 spectators. Pay-per-view demand tends to correlate with seating demand. If you can’t sell tickets, you probably won’t do so well in the electronic bazaar either.
When prices for Dec. 8 were originally announced, the bottom end was set at $400, which I found unbelievable. I checked with publicist Fred Sternburg, who thanked me for calling attention to what was a mistake. Bottom end, he said, is actually $200. That’s still unbelievably expensive, but believe it. Tickets go on sale Sept. 28.
Quite a number of people say they’re not terribly interested in a fourth bout between the two warriors, but the marketplace tells another story, that there’s a hunger for this event. That same hunger is just not there for a rematch between Pacquiao and Tim Bradley, who bested Pacquiao on two of the judges’ cards June 9, scoring a split-decision victory that left lots of viewers scratching their heads.
When Arum presented possible opponents to Pacquiao for the December date, he made it clear there were lots more millions to be made from a fourth Marquez contest. Trainer Freddie Roach reportedly advised Pacquiao to go for Bradley anyway and get back his WBO welterweight title, which tells us Freddie, who gets a piece of Manny’s purse, would be too human to ever make it on Wall Street.
But Roach says he’s now all for this match. “Bradley sold six tickets the last time. Next time, he’ll sell four,” Freddie reportedly said later. He also promised two new elements: one, no more Mister Nice Guy. No more touching gloves after rounds or anything similar. Congressman Pacquiao, 54-4-2, (38KOs), won’t be out there looking for votes. He’ll be looking for a kayo to settle this thing once and for all. Two, there well be no more waiting to counter the counterpuncher. This time, Freddie promised, Manny will be wading in there, forcing the fight.
Of course Marquez, 54-6-1, (39KOs), will be pretty much looking to do the same thing. Whether he will or will not drink his own urine again remains to be seen. Both fighters seem to honestly believe they’ve been sabotaged by judges in previous contests. The first one, fought in the featherweight division, ended in a draw. Pacquiao won by split decision in 2008 and by majority decision last year. There are lots of different opinions on who bested who in those fights, but these two fighters match up quite evenly. That’s just the way it is. Now they’ll have 12 more rounds to somehow change the formula.
Arum has quite forthrightly conceded that it’s mostly the Hispanic community that wants the saga extended. Latinos still thirst for a Marquez victory. Had Bradley-Pacquiao been a rip-roaring tussle, a rematch for that one would have been far more likely. But the fact is, all three Pacquiao-Marquez contests were in fact exciting, and Bradley, though undefeated on paper, is out in the cold. The poor guy will likely pull in no more than a few million for his next fight. What a horror.
Joking aside, the boxing business is the wrong place to look for fairness. So is Las Vegas. High-end tickets go for $1,200, and you can bet many of them will be given away to high-rollers to entice them to casinos. If you can afford lavish suites, premium Champagne, and lobster thermidor in Vegas, chances are you don’t have to pay for it. The same pattern works in the banking industry, where customers sought by the banks to take out loans are mostly people who don’t need the money.
Lately we haven’t heard much from Floyd Mayweather beyond his business spat with 50 Cent, who’s now a pal of Pacquiao’s. Floyd’s on-again-off again promotional entity has followed a pattern similar to his erratic will-he-or-won’t-he posture toward a super fight against Pacquiao. But the longer we wait, the less the fight will matter. Mayweather has fought only four times since December 2007, and it looks less and less like he’ll compete this calendar year with anyone. But we have heard from Canelo Alvarez, who last week showed he’s still getting better every time.
Could a Canelo contest against either Pacquiao or Mayweather become more lucrative than Pacquiao and Mayweather against each other? Stay tuned.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE