By Ivan G. Goldman
Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios, after spending much of Monday doing publicity on ESPN for their Nov. 23 bout in Macau, China, appear in their first U.S. press conference Tuesday at a Chinese restaurant in New York to publicize the fight.
Pacquiao winds up his media availability in the U.S. on Thursday at a press lunch in Beverly Hills. Then it’s back to the Philippines for him.
The Pacquiao-Rios media tour began last week in Asia and included stops in Macau, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, and the Great Wall.
It’s hard to find anybody who thinks this is a bad match-up. They’re both action fighters with impressive wins on their resume. They duck nobody. But U.S. fans have shown a historic aversion to pay-per-view cards that emanate from overseas. This show is no slam dunk success. Both fighters lost their last bouts.
And Rios, 27, who’s never fought on pay-per-view, is a junior welter who’s never competed in Pacquiao’s welterweight division.
This fight is being staged in China for two basic reasons.
First, Pacquiao, 34, is weary of handing over a big chunk of his purse to Uncle Sam, which is what happens when he fights in Las Vegas.
Secondly, his promoter Bob Arum, in concert with billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, seeks to open the virginal Asian market to big boxing shows. They’ve already done a couple shows centered around two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming of China. Arum says that the gaming handle at the Venetian casino in Macau goes up appreciably on fight night.
It’s hard to blame Pacquiao, a Philippines citizen and Congressman, for his aversion to U.S. taxes. And who can blame Arum for exploring new business frontiers?
But the pay-per-view baggage is growing wearisome. It seems like U.S. fans are being singled out for special dollar extraction. They will be charged well over ten times the amount charged to Chinese viewers, who will pay about five bucks. It’s not clear just how many Chinese sets are wired up for pay-per-view, but another potential market is the hand-held device. Will people of any nationality really pay extra to view this event on a four-inch screen? We’re about to find out.
Previous boxing shows in China tallied up excellent numbers, but viewers didn’t have to pay extra for them. And this fight goes off at 10 a.m. local time so it can appear on prime time in the U.S.
Famed trainer Freddie Roach often claims his fighter Pacquiao, 54-5-2 (38 KOs) will knock out the opponent. This time he especially means it. Rios, 31-1-1 (23 KOs), is hittable, and Pacquiao hits hard. Unless his skills have considerably diminished, he’s faster on the draw than Rios. In his last fight, against Juan Manuel Marquez, he looked as good as he every looked and was ahead on all three cards until Marquez knocked him out with a tremendous right in round six. Brandon Rios’s trainer Robert Garcia, who’s enjoyed much success of late, says he sees exploitable holes in Pacquiao’s style. Marquez certainly found one.
Pacuqiao, like many fighters, is superstitious, only more so. He usually does much of his training at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, which was his good luck charm. But since he failed to get his hand raised at the end of his last two bouts, he clearly thinks it’s time to make a switch. All training for this match will be in his home country. A few fights ago Roach built Pacquiao his own training quarters next to the gym so he wouldn’t have to close his gym for Manny’s sessions. But superstitious Pac-Man refused to train in the adjacent digs because a different room just didn’t feel right.
This match in China will be a big test on many issues. It will test the fighters, their trainers, and China as a big-time boxing location. It will also once again test Pacquiao’s pay-per-view marketability in the U.S.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in June 2013 by Potomac Books. It can be purchased here.