Earlier this month, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao returned to the ring and defeated Jesse Vargas, sending him tumbling to the canvas in the second round en route to a dominate unanimous decision. Despite the lukewarm reaction when the bout was announced, over 16,000 fans packed into the Thomas & Mack Arena to witness the bout live, including former pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd Mayweather, who defeated Manny in 2015 in a bout that became the sport’s most lucrative fight of all time.
Floyd’s attendance prompted speculation about a potential rematch with the Filipino superstar, but would the general public pay to see the two square off again?
The story of the “super fight” is well documented, after years of political jousting between the two sides, a contract was signed and despite taking place nearly five years too late, the mainstream public was in a frenzy to witness the clash between boxing’s top two stars of the modern era. At a $99.99 price tag, the event generated nearly 4.5 million pay-per-view buys, which translated to $400 million in revenue. Pacquiao and Mayweather were paid $120 million and $180 million respectively.
As financially successful as it was for the promoters, it became equally as disappointing for the paying customers, as the anticipated contest flopped. Floyd, known for his masterful defense, danced and dodged his way to an easily victory on the score cards, while Manny didn’t show the speed necessary to push the pace. Controversy swirled after the final bell when it was revealed that Pacquiao fought with a shoulder injury that he didn’t disclose, which is a requirement for the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Fans thought they were swindled into buying the event, and there’s no doubt if word of his injury was public that it would’ve affected the buyrate. Adding to the circus was the news that was revealed after the contest that Floyd used an unapproved IV to rehydrate before the fight.
The Pacquiao/Vargas pay-per-view, an event promoted by Top Rank exclusively after HBO dropped Manny from his contract and passed the rights to distribute the fight, garnered 300,000 buys, the lowest Pacquiao offering in eight years. As I penned in an article a few months ago, the “super fight” with Floyd and the disappointment that followed unquestionably damaged the drawing power of both stars, which was proven by the dismal numbers their subsequent bouts generated.
Boxing’s top stars are in quite a unique predicament, fans aren’t willing to pay for glorified exhibition fights against lesser known opponents because of the disappointment of the super fight and at the same time, a rematch also doesn’t guarantee a major draw because of the same disappointment.
But, will there actually be a rematch?
Longtime promoter Bob Arum, one of the godfathers of the promotional business, recently said he thinks there’s a 75% chance that Manny and Mayweather square off again. I’d say that realistically it’s more of a 50/50 chance that another contract is signed. Similar to the original contest, I would guess that the deciding factor will be the guaranteed offered for the deal. The bottom line is, if the figure will be what “Money” Mayweather wants to fight again. Floyd is all business and a rematch with Manny has nothing to do with a legacy or an attempt to “write the wrong” of the mega fight from last year, it’s simply the chance to add more cash to his bank account.
If the leader of “The Money Team” is expecting an amount based on the draw of the initial fight then this potential rematch won’t go any further than the negotiation table, as it would be extremely risky for fight promoters to guarantee an amount without taking into account how the lackluster “super fight” might affect pay-per-view buys for the rematch. Just as an estimate, I would say that a potential rematch would probably do about 2.5 million buys, a staggering number despite it being a little more than half of the number for the original fight. That said, if Floyd is willing to take less of a guarantee in exchange for PPV points, it’s a much safer option for promoters because there are several million dollars at risk when negotiating the contract.
If the rematch flops financially, the fighters will still get paid the guarantee so a promotional group isn’t going to risk the debt if the deal isn’t logical. As comical as it might sound, $100 million each might not close the deal even if it makes monetary sense.
If the bout happens, it would probably contain more action, but the result would be the same, Mayweather uses defense to win on the score cards. Floyd made a career out of avoiding damage, and even at 39, he undoubtedly has less miles on his body than Manny, who was involved in some brawls during his career. Prior to the victory against Vargas, Pacquiao showed his age in some of his recent contests, and realistically, there’s no reason to expect that he would show the speed necessary to defeat Mayweather.
Questions remain about if the rematch will materialize, but it could be asked, should it take place?
When the mega fight flopped, it did nothing to help boxing and almost reinforced the notion that it was an antiquated sport that no longer showcased the tremendous competition of the past. Granted, those that follow the sport can cite the action of Golovkin, Provodnikov, Kovalev, and others, but the main stream public saw two of boxing’s biggest stars in a lackluster bout so it certainly didn’t help the perception of the sport. Is it worth the risk of the credibility of boxing for another disappointing fight?
On the flip side, Andre Ward and the previously mentioned Kovalev fought to a compelling and debated decision last week. Isn’t it better for the future of the sport if the discussion is about the winner of a competitive bout of two fighters in their prime than a possibly lackluster rematch of aging stars?
If I had to guess, I would say that a Manny/Mayweather rematch won’t get signed, simply because Floyd won’t return to the ring unless it’s for similar money to the initial fight and logistically, it would be difficult to judge if a rematch would generate that type of revenue. That being said, it might be more beneficial for boxing to avoid the potential pitfalls of the rematch and to focus on the current stars that can improve the future of the sport.
Until next week