Boxer Manny Pacquiao’s massive punching power is only matched by his massive drawing power, which has grown to overwhelm the traditional boundaries of the often insular realm of boxing, is driving the appeal of Saturday’s megafight with Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas- the boxing capital of the world.
Arguably the most celebrated persona in his native Philippines, Pacquiao’s visage now graces the cover of the Asia edition of Time magazine. A five-page feature story appears in all editions, global and U.S., of the magazine. It delves into Pacquiao’s humble roots and his political ambitions in his homeland.
“It is a great honor for me to be the face of my people and to let everyone know we are a small but mighty country,” Pacquiao said. “I have great pride for all of the Filipinos living throughout the world and it is these people that I fight for each and every time I step into the ring.”
As a point of comparison, the most recent boxing covers of Time’s U.S. edition came in 1988 (Mike Tyson), 1978 (Muhammad Ali) and 1971 (Ali and Joe Frazier).
Officials with Top Rank, the lead promoter of Saturday’s fight, point to a recent Sunday feature on Pacquiao in The New York Times as a manifestation of the media blitz that has accompanied the buildup to the fight. It was important to the promotion because of the worldwide reach of the newspaper’s Sunday edition.
It was also significant, and telling, because the Times typically affords boxing about as much coverage as it does the lumberjack competition.
In a separate arena, Pacquiao was recognized this year as a Gusi Peace Prize laureate, an honor based in Manila, for humanitarianism.
Pacquiao’s training sessions at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., leading up to the fight not only generate mob scenes of fans and media members, but also attract the attention of the fire marshal to ensure the scene remains under some degree of control.
With its widespread appeal — “Beyond boxing, beyond sports,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said — the fight promotion has drawn some unconventional corporate partners. For example, the History Channel’s reality series “Pawn Stars,” about a family of Las Vegas pawnbrokers, is a sponsor. Among other branding efforts, the “Pawn Stars” logo will appear on the mat Saturday night.
It’s all expected to add up to pay-per-view sales — the engine that powers the big-time boxing business — for the fight that could approach or exceed record performances.
The biggest pay-per-view bonanza to date was the 2007 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand, which generated 2.4 million “buys.” This year, Pacquiao’s fight against Ricky Hatton did about 900,000 buys, and Mayweather’s fight with Juan Manuel Marquez generated about 1 million.
“The closed-circuit locations are doing tremendously” in the lead-up to Pacquiao-Cotto, Arum said. “We had the quickest sellout of tickets in years. We base how the pay-per-view is going to do on those indicators. It should do absolutely great.”
Pacquiao stands to earn $20 million for the fight, with Cotto’s total take expected to reach $10 million — the biggest paydays for both fighters.
The hook (no pun intended) is that Pacquiao, nearly a 3-1 betting favorite, will be pursuing a world title in a seventh weight division. But that’s just the sports-trivia way of wording it.
In real terms, Pacquiao has done more than any other boxer to obliterate the very notion of weight classes in boxing, along with the fractured and too-often meaningless so-called championships they spawn. He wants to test himself against the best.
The “catch weight” for Saturday’s fight is 145 pounds, but Pacquiao said if it was up to him personally, he would have gladly agreed to fight at the 147-pound welterweight limit.
Wisely — and appropriately — everyone associated with the fight has declined to address the next step for the winner, although a potential showdown with Mayweather awaits.
And for another, Saturday’s fight is a tough one to predict. It has split journalists, fighters and other boxing figures in their forecasts. Let’s say, for instance, it ends with a close decision. A rematch between Pacquiao and Cotto is a real possibility.