By: Hector Franco
We are just one day away from the return of eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) to the squared circle, as he will face Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs) for the WBA welterweight championship at the T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas, Nevada, on FOX Sports PPV.
Initially, Pacquiao was going to take on unified IBF and WBC welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.; however, that was derailed due to Spence suffering from a retinal tear that was later found to be a retinal detachment in his left eye.
Fans and boxing pundits alike were looking forward to Pacquiao-Spence as one of the major events of the year but will have to settle for more of a title defense against Ugas. This isn’t to say that Ugas won’t be a challenge and can’t come out with his hand raised in victory on August 21; however, the intrigue and anticipation have gone down tenfold from where it was beforehand.
Should Pacquiao come out victorious, he will have beaten his own record as the oldest welterweight champion in history and the only 5-time welterweight champion.
Regardless of the outcome, August 21 may be the last time the boxing world sees Pacquiao in a boxing ring. Nearing 43 and a probable presidential run in his native Philippines, the Filipino senator, may not be able to make room in his life for the sweet science anymore.
“This could be my last fight, or there could be more,” Pacquiao said during the Grand Arrivals press conference at the T-Mobile Arena. “I’m turning 43 in December, and my plan has always been to just go one fight at a time. I encourage the fans all over the world to watch this fight because you never know.”
The match with Ugas will be Pacquiao’s 26th fight on Pay-Per-View (PPV) as the headliner. Since 2005, Pacquiao has sold over 20 million buys on PPV, generating $1.2 billion in revenue. He is second only to Floyd Mayweather in total earnings on PPV as the undefeated and divisive pugilist turned promoter made upwards of 25 million in PPV buys, generating over $1.7 billion in revenue over 17 fights.
While Pacquiao may not have been the biggest PPV attraction of all time, and it is contentious if he is the greatest PPV fighter of all time, what is not up for debate is that he is without question the most exciting fighter in PPV history.
When it came to fans getting what they paid for on a consistent basis on PPV, it’s hard to imagine anyone surpassing the eight-division champion. Only Mike Tyson and, to a lesser extent, Evander Holyfield, have an argument for consideration.
But the number of memorable moments and Fight-of-the-Year candidates Pacquiao participated in on PPV make this somewhat of a blowout for the Filipino.
Starting in March 2005, when Pacquiao took on Hall-of-Famer and four-division champion Erik Morales, it was easily one of the best fights of the entire year, only behind the first Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo bout.
Pacquiao would famously drop a decision to Morales in their first encounter; however, the following year in January 2006, in another exciting match, the Filipino would get his revenge, stopping Morales in the 10th round.
Pacquiao-Morales 2 would be remembered for the action inside the ring, but most notably in the crowd, you can see Floyd Mayweather openly rooting for Pacquiao. Mayweather likely put a bundle of money on the Filipino, but the visual of Pacquiao having his future rival cheering him on stands out.
Pacquiao would ultimately fight Morales three times, selling over 1 million in PPV buys overall.
The next significant test on PPV for Pacquiao came in a rematch with his fiercest rival, Juan Manuel Marquez, in March 2008. Their second fight would be the first of their four eventual battles that would be on PPV.
Arguably, the second meeting between Pacquiao and Marquez may have been the best of their quartet of fights, with both fighters in their prime competing for the number one spot in the junior lightweight division.
Pacquiao would escape with a narrow split decision over Marquez with a knockdown in the third round, making the difference on the judge’s scorecards.
At the time, Pacquiao-Marquez 2 was the highest-grossing PPV event for a fight under the welterweight division selling 400,000 PPV buys.
Once again, a Pacquiao PPV fight was only surpassed for Fight of the Year honors by another all-time great bout, this time in the third fight between Israel Vasquez and Rafael Marquez.
2008 was a paramount year for the fighting Senator, as it would change him from being known as an exciting international fighter to a bona fide box office superstar.
Following the fight with Marquez, Pacquiao would make a pit-stop at lightweight, stopping 1996 Olympian David Diaz in nine rounds in what many still believe is one of the Filipino’s finest performances.
In December 2008, Pacquiao took a calculated risk and moved up two weight classes to take on Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight. Beforehand, De La Hoya was awaiting a rematch with Mayweather, even going as far as taking on Steve Forbes in a 150-pound catchweight bout in preparation.
Mayweather would temporarily retire, possibly to get out of a contract that forced him to rematch De la Hoya, allowing for Pacquiao to get an opportunity against the then PPV king.
To this day, Pacquiao still considers his fight with De La Hoya the most vital to his career.
“The fight that had the biggest impact on my career was against Oscar De La Hoya,” Pacquiao stated to The Sun. “Everything changed for me after that one.”
De La Hoya-Pacquiao would end up being a passing of the torch moment in the sport as the six-division champion would retire and become a full-time promoter. With the fight selling 1.25 million PPV buys, it was still up in the air whether Pacquiao would be able to become a PPV star on his own.
“The king is dead,” stated HBO’s Larry Merchant in the post-fight broadcast of De La Hoya-Pacquiao. “At least the king of box office in boxing. And the new king is here. I don’t know if Americans will respond to Manny Pacquiao the way they have to Oscar De La Hoya. And we have to move on to whatever is next.
“Manny Pacquiao is a fire that can’t be put out.”
Pacquiao would follow the De La Hoya fight with wins over Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto in 2009 that further cemented him as a PPV star. He was also recognized then as the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound.
The second-round knockout over Hatton was the most significant knockout of Pacquiao’s career. To follow it up with another magnificent performance over Miguel Cotto to win titles in a record-breaking seventh division only catapulted the Filipino’s name further on the world stage, making him a household name.
2008 and 2009 were pivotal in Pacquiao being awarded the Fighter of the Decade award in 2010 for his accomplishments through 2000-2009.
Throughout the 2010s, Pacquiao would continue to entertain on PPV. The headlines in the 2010s were primarily consumed with anticipation of a fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather. However, before and after that fight eventually took place in May 2015, Pacquiao participated in numerous memorable contests.
In 2010 in what may have been the last time Pacquiao was at his absolute peak, he took on the infamous Antonio Margarito for the vacant WBC junior middleweight title. Pacquiao would be outweighed by almost 20-pounds en route to dominating and permanently damaging the Mexican’s right eye to win a record-breaking title in eight weight classes.
The fourth fight with rival Juan Manuel Marquez at the time induced more groans than cheers from fans when first announced for December 2012. However, the two legends proved everyone wrong, providing arguably the most action-packed fight of their four-fight series ending in a dramatic sixth-round knockout in favor of Marquez.
The fourth fight with Marquez won Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year and Knockout of the Year in 2012, selling 1.15 million PPV buys.
From 2008 to 2012, Pacquiao participated in nine fights in a row that would generate over 700,000 buys on PPV. Six of which sold over 1 million buys.
The loss to Marquez signified a downturn in PPV sales for Pacquiao. He would only reach sales above 500,000 again in his second fight with Timothy Bradley in 2014 and the momentous fight with Mayweather in 2015 that sold over 4 million PPVs.
While the sales numbers may have been down for Pacquiao, the level of competition stayed at a high level with fights against Bradley, Jessie Vargas, Adrien Broner, and Keith Thurman all on PPV.
Currently sitting as a -355 favorite over Ugas on the betting odds, Pacquiao maintains his passion for boxing with the opportunity to leave the sport as one of its top practitioners.
“If he wins this fight, I think it’s also one of the best exits that we’ve ever seen at 42 years old,” stated former opponent Keith Thurman during a Fox Sports broadcast.
After almost two decades and over 20 fights on PPV, Pacquiao remains a guarantee that he will give the fans their money’s worth.
In today’s era, it’s easy to be forgetful and dismissive of how crucial it is to be in fights that fans will remember. Boxing is a sport, but also entertainment. It takes fighting and turns it into an art form for our viewing pleasure.
As French painter, Georges Braque once stated, “Art is a wound turned to light.”
The violence and passion Pacquiao brings every time he steps in the ring has left him with many wounds, but left fans with memories they will never forget.
“I never imagined what I would have accomplished in boxing from the beginning of my career leading up to now,” said Pacquiao at the final press conference for the bout with Ugas. “I went from nothing to something in order to be an inspiration for people both inside and outside of the ring.
“This is going to be a good action fight, and I’m going to my best Saturday night because I love to make the fans happy.”
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