When Bob Arum predicted, based on numbers he’d seen following the pay-per-view junior welterweight championship fight between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, that the fight would end up selling 1.6 million to 2 million units, I thought of this as a titanic development — for a lot of reasons I’ll revisit momentarily.
When Arum downgraded it to “north of 900,000,” it gave me pause.
Today, Dan Rafael at ESPN is reporting that the fight will probably end up doing around 850,000 buys. I know I said I thought we could trust Arum’s estimate before on the original figures (friend of the site GG was right to be skeptical), but we really can trust Rafael. He’s 99.9% reliable.
So what does that number mean?
I said before that I thought 750,000 buys would have to be counted as a very nice success. By my math, 850,000 is less than 1.6 million or 2 million, but still a fair amount higher than the threshold of success I had in mind. I’d say 850,000 buys is a huge smash hit. It’s actually the second-biggest non-heavyweight fight on record for any fight that didn’t include Oscar De La Hoya. What’s #1? Yeah, we’ll get to that in a second.
I said before that the 1.6 million to 2 million figure showed that American can get behind two fighters from other countries — Hatton, England, Pacquiao, Philippines — a significant development given the globalization of the sport. That still holds true. 850,000 is a freaky big number for two non-Americans.
I said before that 1.6 million to 2 million buys would indicate it was Pacquiao, not Hatton, who was the real big money draw, as I’d originally expected. That now goes into the “dubious” category. Several reports have put the U.K. pay-per-view buys in the 1 million range, including an estimate from Arum himself. So maybe a 50-50 split, a subject of great debate here before the fight was signed, was fair to Pacquiao.
I also said that if the 1.6 million to 2 million figure was accurate, it would demonstrate that Pacquiao deserved to have a very favorable revenue split with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., in the event they meet. That gets to the point about the top-selling non-heavyweight fight that didn’t feature De La Hoya. It was Mayweather-Hatton, which did something like 915,000 buys. Now, I’ll say this — I may not think a 60-40 split in Pacquiao’s favor makes as much sense as it did before, but I’d still say even with the revised figures, Pacquiao probably deserves the bigger share despite doing a little worse against Hatton than Mayweather did, buys-wise. It’s because Pacquiao brings a bigger worldwide audience, I think, whereas Mayweather’s appeal is almost entirely based in the United States, and because Pacquiao did comparable figures in a recession to Mayweather’s numbers. I still think 60-40 in Mayweather’s favor, as Mayweather says he wants, sounds crazy, unless he does ridiculously good pay-per-view business against Juan Manuel Marquez in July, which strikes me as unlikely.
Rafael is very confused about why Arum wouldn’t want to release the figures on the pay-per-view buys for Pacquiao-Hatton, but this last point gives me a theory. If Arum’s last word on the subject was “north of 900,000,” that means he was probably very conscious of the numbers Mayweather did. He’s going to want to make it seem like Pacquiao and Mayweather are no worse than equals so he can get the best revenue split for his guy in the event that the fight is made. Maybe, as good — even great — as 850,000 buys are, it’ll be hard to argue that Pacquiao deserves a bigger split with Mayweather when Mayweather did better numbers against the same guy…?