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A Tough Sell?


This upcoming weekend marks the return of Manny Pacquiao, who faces Brandon Rios. But unlike the majority of his outings, it will not emanate from the familiar confines of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Instead, this event will take place in the exotic locale of the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Resort in Macao. And with that comes some logistical hindrances in promoting and selling this event.
“Well, while we haven’t done a pay-per-view show from a country like that where it’s a completely different time and so forth, we have done it. I got back in the closed-circuit era in the mid-‘70s,” explained Bob Arum, the head of Top Rank Promotions, which is promoting this fight. “We did ‘The Thrilla in Manila’ (Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III from the Philippines), which was exactly the same time challenges as you have here and that worked out pretty good.”

Pacquiao and Rios will be swapping leather on Sunday morning locally but to the U.S. audience, the card will take place at its customary time. But Arum admits there are challenges that exist. “The schedule is brutal. Press conferences are at 9:30 p.m. over there. Look, [Arum’s wife] Lovee says, ‘I’m not going to have any free time.’ I mean, night is day and day is night. So you have to adjust but we’re all big boys and we’ll handle it.”
While Top Rank put together an affordable travel package for members of the media to cover the fight throughout the week in Macao, the reality is you won’t have nearly as many writers and outlets on the scene as compared to promotions that take place in the States. So with that, a media hub was set up in “Sin City.”
Mark Taffet of HBO Pay-Per-View says, “We’ve got about 13 national and regional radio shows broadcasting live from Las Vegas. We brought in seven fighters including George Foreman, Roberto Duran, Ray Leonard, Ray Mancini, Tim Bradley, Marco Antonio Barrera and Mike Alvarado to talk about either experiencing fighting some of the biggest events of our generation overseas and what it means for the fight. We’ve got satellite media tours and a whole bevy of print and internet interviews that will be emanating from Las Vegas and it really will create a tremendous amount of publicity and promotion across the country in real-time and at the time that U.S. pay-per-view viewers watch, listen and read all of their news information and entertainment. So we believe that the U.S. audience will be well-informed. We know that they’re excited about the fight and we feel that we’re in a great position right now.
“We made a decision early on that we were going to make sure that everything we did was in U.S. time,
specifically for the U.S. pay-per-view audience and the U.S. fight fans. All the fight week activities that are taking place, while they’re happening in China, they’re happening on U.S. time, the time that the U.S. audience is used to seeing their pay-per-view event activities. And then of course, the fight itself is live on pay-per-view Saturday, 9 p.m., Eastern Time, 6 Pacific, in the same time slot that the fans are used to buying their pay-per-view fights. So we feel we got a great plan in place and we’re excited.”
According to Taffet, HBO Pay-Per-View has done 187 previous events. This will be its first foray from a foreign land. The question is, while placing this fight in Asia certainly affected those who planned on attending this fight in person, does the general public who orders this fight and watches it at home really care all that much?
“No,” answered Arum. “On one hand, you don’t get the same media push if it’s that far out of the country. On the other hand, there’s a curiosity factor. People say, ‘Hey, they’re going to be fighting in the morning and so forth - I gotta watch that.’ And so I think it’ll all sort of even out.”
The fact that we sit comfortably in the digital era makes the efforts to push this fight so much simpler.
“The digital and social media, the breadth of opportunities and tactics that we’ll be employing in the coming week allows us to shorten the time differences as much as possible. You can reach people at any time, instantaneously and that’s a tremendous, tremendous facilitator in a situation like this,” says Taffet, who will be situated in Las Vegas this week at the HBO Pay-Per-View media center.
Sources say the pay-per-view goal for Pacquiao-Rios is 700-750,000 buys. When asked if the results of this fight will determine if they go back to Macao with another pay-per-view card, Arum explains, “The deal that we worked with Macao is very, very lucrative, number one. Number two, you have to factor in the tax savings for Pacquiao. Number three, it is already a success because of these elements. But I think when we had our strategy sessions and talked it out, that if Manny’s successful with Rios, for him to maintain his popularity, we would have to go to a format where he did one fight in the United States and one fight in a place like Macao.”
Whether or not you enjoy the way Andre Ward goes about things inside the ring, you have to give him this: he is as good as anyone in the sport at winning a fight round by round by laying a foundation early and then going brick-by-brick to win a fight in an efficient and methodical manner. He did just that last weekend at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario where he easily subdued the energetic and wild-swinging Edwin Rodriguez (by the scores of 118-106, 117-107 and 116-108).
Rodriguez, who was unable to win the title by failing to come in at the super middleweight limit of 168 pounds, tried his best all night long but he simply did not have the technical precision or acumen to deal with the ring generalship and tactics of Ward, who returned to the ring after a 14-month layoff.
Now the question is: Does Ward move up in weight (as he’s cleaned out the 168-pound class) and make a concerted effort to fight more often in 2014 (say, three times?) now that his health situation has cleared up with his shoulder? And will he allow Dan Goossen to actually do his job and promote him?
He’s a gifted practitioner but it takes more than that to reach the stardom he desires.
Just my personal opinion but I think Pacquiao-Rios does in the range between 600-650,000 pay-per-view buys. Perhaps I’m underestimating just how strong the Pacquiao brand still is, the effect of ESPN’s multi-platform participation in this event and the intrigue of just how the “Pac-Man” returns in the wake of his devastating knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez.
But is the third major pay-per-view event since September and I’m sensing some wallets are getting thinner heading into the holiday season. Also, it seems like pay-per-view events are now permanently past the $60 threshold and Top Rank didn’t do themselves any favors with a rather tepid undercard (although anytime Felix Verdejo fights, I’m interested).
So being in Macao, will this play in Peoria?
As Maxboxing’s very own video vanguard, Radio Rahim makes his way toward Macao to cover the goings-on leading up to and including Pacquiao-Rios, please check out his YouTube preview here:
Here’s the link to the latest episode of “The Next Round” (which you now subscribe to on iTunes) hosted by Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly:
Jonathan Arrellano had a solid victory over Charles Huerta on the undercard on Saturday night in Ontario...The “Latin Snake” - the new and improved, more aggressive Sergio Mora - scored a fifth round TKO of Milton Nunez...I thought Garrett Wilson fought as well as he could given the circumstances versus “Czar” Glazkov on NBC...I expect Carl Froch-George Groves to be a very competitive and tight contest this weekend...My Miami Hurricanes need Life Alert. They have fallen in November and they can’t get up!...I think ABC’s “Scandal” has been incredible this season...So Nick Foles was the perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s offense in Philly?...I can be reached at and I tweet at We also have a Facebook fan page at, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.

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