Friday, January 1, 2010

It's Manny, not Floyd, who's the bigger draw

MANILA, Philippines - Contrary to what Floyd Mayweather Jr. insists, it’s Manny Pacquiao who’s the draw in their now-on-now-off showdown at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on March 13 – if it pushes through at all.

In his field of dreams, Mayweather thinks he’s still the marquee attraction he once was. Pretty Boy ended a 21-month layoff to beat an undersized Juan Manuel Marquez on points last September and despite the physical disparity, couldn’t knock out the gritty Mexican.

Pacquiao is at the peak of his career and with seven world titles in seven weight divisions, nobody doubts he’s the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter except Mayweather and his equally mentally imbalanced father Floyd Sr.

Pacquiao is assured of a $25 million paycheck apiece if the Mayweather fight goes on as scheduled. The guarantee alone matches what Pacquiao signed for in his two fights against Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto last year.

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum recently said if Mayweather proves difficult, he’ll keep the fight date and move in Paul Malignaggi as Pacquiao’s opponent instead. So Mayweather’s pull-out is no sweat off Pacquiao’s back – it’s his loss, more than anybody else’s.

Mayweather, who’ll be 33 on Feb. 24, has been playing mind games lately, obviously trying to unsettle Pacquiao. But his tricks aren’t working. In fact, they’re backfiring. If Arum decides to can Mayweather, Pretty Boy wouldn’t be able to earn as much fighting somebody else – Matthew Hatton just isn’t in Pacquiao’s class and the pay-per-view hits will prove it for sure.

Mayweather is insisting on blood doping tests, which aren’t required by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). His contention is Pacquiao has been using illegal drugs to enhance his power as he moves up in weight. No fighter in history has been able to even remotely duplicate Pacquiao’s feat of winning world titles from flyweight (112 pounds) to welterweight (147) in a period of 11 years.

Arum has reportedly asked the NSAC to conduct a special hearing on the issue and Jan. 19 was mentioned as a target date. Urine tests are required by the NSAC but there are no protocols for blood examinations.

“We’ll go along with what the Nevada commission decides,” said Arum. “We want this fight to go forward.” If Mayweather disagrees with what the NSAC decides as regards blood testing, Arum said he’ll sign up Malignaggi.

Solar Sports chief operating officer Peter Chanliong said the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is what fans want to see.

“It’s great for boxing,” said Chanliong. “Manny doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, he’s a gentle guy and a global icon. Mayweather is a perfect opponent because he’s completely the opposite of Manny. He’s the bad guy. It’s Manny’s time now. His last three fights against Oscar de la Hoya, Hatton and Cotto have established him as the greatest fighter of this era. Against De la Hoya, Manny was exposed globally on HBO’s 24/7. When he took out Hatton, it was clear that Manny had arrived. And when he stopped Cotto, that was his defining moment.”

Chanliong said the top US venues bidding to host the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight was an indication of the Filipino’s drawing power.

New York’s Yankee Stadium, the giant Cowboys Stadium in Texas and the Staples Center of Los Angeles were among the sites under consideration. Even the Araneta Coliseum got into the picture with owner Jorge Araneta saying, “All Filipinos have a stake in this fight so it’s only fair that it be held here where even minimum wage earners can afford to watch Manny in action live.”

But in the end, the choice came down to the MGM Grand Garden Arena because Las Vegas is where the money is.

Whoever is Pacquiao’s opponent, Solar Sports has the exclusive TV fight rights for the Philippines. Solar Sports has a contract as Pacquiao’s coveror until 2013.

Chanliong said Arum plans to offer selected seats for $2,500 each. “It’s expected to be the biggest boxing grosser of all time,” he continued. “While only about 300 seats will go for $2,500 apiece, Bob expects a sellout. The pay-per-view sales will go over the record set by De la Hoya-Mayweather in 2007.”

The De la Hoya-Mayweather pay-per-view record is between 2.14 and 2.4 million hits. The Pacquiao-Mayweather fight could go over three million buys.

“Manny’s guarantee of $25 million is something only four or five athletes in the world get,” said Chanliong. “Manny’s been on the cover of Time Magazine and he was interviewed on the Kimmel show. Everyone’s falling over Manny. He’s in rare company with Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and he deserves the recognition. Anyone who’s featured on HBO’s 24/7 walks on rarefied air, that’s a measure of his global status.”

Chanliong said the recent Pacquiao-Cotto fight registered the highest viewership of any bout shown by Solar on the GMA network with at least 80 percent of households tuned in.

“Manny’s rise from his first fight as a 106-pounder in 1995 to his last fight to win the welterweight championship is astounding,” said Chanliong. “And he hasn’t slowed down. He has brought his speed and power with him moving from division to division. That’s what makes him phenomenal.”

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