Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008 | 2 a.m.
IF YOU GO
Who: Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
Tickets: $150-$1,500, mgmgrand.com. (The original allotment officially sold out less than two hours after going on sale in September. A limited number of seats became available last week after a reconfiguration of the arena.)
Closed circuit: MGM Mirage properties, $60-$100
TV: Pay per view, $54.95
Weigh-in: 2 p.m. Friday, MGM Grand Garden Arena
Those who track such arcane segments of the business are reporting that preliminary sales of the pay-per-view broadcast of Saturday night’s Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao fight have been encouraging.
The figures are so strong, in fact, they’re outpacing the numbers put up by De La Hoya’s bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May 2007.
That’s more than a little surprising considering De La Hoya-Mayweather generated a record 2.4 million pay-per-view “buys,” in the argot of the field, and that this week’s fight is taking place amid a severe worldwide economic slump.
The reaction of Top Rank chief Bob Arum, promoting the fight with De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, was twofold.
First, Arum warned, it’s too early in the game to draw any conclusions about whether the fight will emerge as a pay-per-view bonanza, given the ailing economy.
“Right now, they’re showing more early buys at this stage than De La Hoya-Mayweather was showing at the same stage,” Arum said Wednesday at the MGM Grand, after the fighters addressed the media for the final time before Saturday’s welterweight showdown at the Grand Garden Arena.
“I don’t know how significant that is. It’s really too soon to tell. Certainly it’s better than if it were trailing by a lot.”
Second, Arum said, anyone who thought the dismal economic conditions would hurt the fight’s chances of financial success might have had it backward.
“I think that in a lot of ways this economy is actually helping the pay-per-view sales for this fight,” Arum said. “We know by looking at past history that in bad economic times, people are going to seek out inexpensive entertainment. A pay-per-view fight, when you have three or four other couples watching it with you, is inexpensive entertainment for a big, major event.
“That’s why we’re getting so many early orders now.”
The argument sounds disingenuous at first, an example of promotional spin. It’s reminiscent of the buildup to Mayweather’s 2006 fight with Zab Judah, when Arum asserted that Judah’s shocking loss to Carlos Baldomir three months earlier made the bout with Mayweather more, not less, intriguing. (After all, now a desperate Judah would really have to lay it all on the line!)
Yet Arum remained insistent that despite a hefty price tag of $54.95, the pay-per-view broadcast of this weekend’s bout is a bargain — especially for those who gather together to watch, as many Hispanic and Filipino fans do.
“We have to realize we are in unusual economic times,” Arum said. “The conventional wisdom was that we would be hurt by the economy on the pay per view. Now, we’re beginning to believe that as unfortunate as this economy is, we are being helped by it.
“It makes sense when you think about it. If people have a lot of money in their pocket, they’re going to go out on the town and spend it. If they don’t, then they’re going to stay home and look for good entertainment. What better way to do that than make a night of the fight?”
If Arum is correct, the De La Hoya-Pacquiao match would buck a recent trend of pay-per-view busts in boxing. The Joe Calzaghe-Roy Jones Jr. fight in November and the Bernard Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik bout in October were both widely considered duds as far as pay-per-view revenue.
The downfall of those fights, Arum said, was in failing to draw Hispanic fight fans — a demographic that has established itself as the most loyal and reliable audience for boxing in recent years.
“They were disappointments not because of the economy, but because of the fact that interest in boxing in general among the Anglo community is down, and those were fights that did not appeal to Hispanics, either,” Arum said.
Saturday’s bout, by contrast, carries a huge intrinsic appeal for boxing fans of all stripes.
“This is a fight that attracts everybody,” Arum said. “Hispanics and Filipinos. Boxing fans and the non-boxing fan. Women, people who normally don’t follow boxing. They’ve always been intrigued by Oscar, and now they’re also intrigued by this exciting character from the Philippines.”
Still, Arum demurred on offering a prediction on how many pay-per-view sales the fight will generate.
“You really can’t tell,” he said. “Anybody who makes predictions in this economy is the same type of person who would decide to build buildings hoping the bank would finance them.”