Manny Pacquiao vs Timothy Bradley 3: Bigger fight, smaller purse as Pac-Man fights a final time

Whatever happens when Manny Pacquiao enters the ring for ostensibly the final time Saturday night in Las Vegas one thing is very clear: this trilogy bout with Timothy Bradley will be nowhere near as big as his last fight was.

On May 2, 2015 the Philippines’ hero Pacquiao fought the US star Floyd Mayweather Jr in a match-up that was billed as the Fight of the Century. The action inside of the ring might not have matched expectations, with Pacquiao subsequently citing a shoulder injury in mitigation for a disappointing defeat, but the revenue generated exceeded even the most optimistic of estimates.

More than 4.4 million households purchased the pay per view (PPV) offerings in the US and Canada, with fans paying between US$89.95 and $99.95 for the privilege of watching that fight card in the privacy of their own homes.


The PPV sales smashed all previous box office records and generating more than US$400 million in revenue. The MGM Grand Garden Arena venue for this fight in Las Vegas was completely sold out with in excess of $72m generated from ticket sales.

More than 46,000 people purchased tickets to closed circuit admissions at MGM Resorts International properties in Las Vegas alone and the event was also available at more than 5,000 bars, restaurants and commercial establishments throughout the United States. With sponsorship and international broadcast sales taken into consideration the total revenue generated was almost certainly in excess of half a billion dollars.

Pacquiao lost by decision but his long-term promoter Bob Arum was understandably upbeat afterwards

“This whole event exceeded my expectations by far. We’ve never seen anything like what we are seeing with the numbers. It [the 4.4 million PPV sales] is a splendid number and it has made history. I’m very, very happy with this number.”

The final purse totals received by the two boxers were never disclosed but it has been reliably reported that the pot for the fighters reached $400m. The two camps definitely agreed to a 60/40 split, which would mean Mayweather pocketing $240m while Pacquiao took home the remaining $160m.

Pacquiao vs Bradley III will not be able to generate anything like as much interest or revenue, partly because the two men have fought twice previously. The first fight finished in a highly disputed split decision win for Bradley but failed to live up to expectations at the box office, with media in the Philippines reporting that the event had generated just 700,000 in PPV sales.

Most fans felt that Pacquiao had clearly won but the controversy did not stir up sufficient interest for the 2014 rematch to perform significantly better in PPV terms. This time the numbers were released and Arum was uncharacteristically downbeat about them.

“We’re between 750,000 and 800,000. Sure, it’s a disappointment. But we all made money on the fight. We did OK,” he told ESPN.

Arum has been promoting big money fights since the days of Mohammed Ali so no one needs to worry too much about the state of his bank balance. But Pacquiao has a much more limited window of opportunity to earn millions of dollars through boxing and this weekend’s fight with Bradley is purported to be the last big pay day of his illustrious career.

The 37-year-old is set to earn a guaranteed $20m. It is a fraction of the purse he received for the record-breaking fight with Mayweather but that is because there is far less interest in this trilogy fight, which received a notably lukewarm reception from boxing fans when it was announced.

Bradley is not a PPV star in his own right. He has only ever headlined three PPV cards and two of those were against Pacquiao. The other was against Juan Manuel Marquez and it generated a respectable 375,000 PPV buys but it is fair to say that the Mexican was probably the main attraction for the majority of viewers.

Bradley’s lack of marketability is something that Arum has acknowledged. The venerable promoter admitted as much in the aftermath of the first of Bradley’s fights with Pacquiao,

“If you had a challenger [against Pacquiao] like, for example, Marquez, the fight would do over a million buys. The absence of a Mexican or Hispanic opponent hurt. Tim is a great fighter but he’s not Hispanic and he we tried everything to energise the black community without that much success,” Arum said.

The other problem for Arum is that Pacquiao’s star has waned. There was no shame in losing to Mayweather but the Filipino has now been beaten in three of his last six fights, including the devastating one-punch knockout he suffered at the hands of Marquez in 2012.

Ryan Songalia has covered Pacquiao’s career for The Ring magazine for many years and is the sports editor of a major news outlet in the Philippines. He is also a regular at ringside for big boxing matches in the US and believes the boxer’s recent defeats will have damaged his marketability there.

“In boxing you’re only as good as your last fight. I do suspect that Pacquiao’s losses hurt his popularity among the casual viewers,” he says.

Pacquiao’s name was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently after he offended some minority groups at home. Nike swiftly moved to terminate its endorsement contract with him and even HBO, which will be televising this weekend’s fight, issued a strongly worded statement condemning the comments.

Rumours that another major sports brand would step up to sponsor the Filipino proved unfounded and the boxer could find himself wearing unbranded apparel when he fights Bradley. While the Nike deal was reportedly worth less than a $1m a year to Pacquiao some of his views have seemingly earned him pariah status in some quarters.

The basketball star LeBron James recently signed a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike that could be worth as much as $1 billion. By contrast, Pacquiao appears to have struggled to find blue-chip sponsors for what is supposedly his final fight, so his chances of earning lucrative endorsements from sports manufacturers post-retirement look slim.

He does have an extremely successful political career in the Philippines to fall back on and his current net worth is estimated to be somewhere between $190m and $250m. It is not unheard of for even the most successful boxers to eventually end up broke but Mr Songalia is confident Pacquiao will continue to make money in the aftermath of his fighting career.

“Post retirement he may have to reinvent himself to boost his marketability again. But Pacquiao is a resourceful person. He’s a far more intelligent guy than people give him credit for and there will likely be a lot of mileage in being the Philippines’ most accomplished athlete for years to come,” Mr Songalia says.

The windfall from the Mayweather fight probably pushed Pacquiao’s career earnings close to the $500m mark. It is a remarkable development for the boxer who, as a child, made ends meet by selling cigarettes on the streets of General Santos City in the southern Philippines. Today he is one of the most highly paid stars in boxing history, as well as being a member of the country’s House of Representatives after being elected in 2011.

Only a handful of athletes have ever managed to bank in excess of $400m during the course of their careers. Pacquiao’s name is on a list of sporting luminaries that includes Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and David Beckham as well as Floyd Mayweather Jr.

After the blockbuster bout with Mayweather a trilogy fight with Bradley seems a somewhat anticlimactic way for the Filipino to end his career.

But if he puts in a suitably impressive performance this weekend then sooner or later Pacquiao is likely to receive an offer lucrative enough to make him seriously reconsider his retirement status.

business@thenational.ae

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