By Chris Williams: In a surprise move by ESPN, they’ll be televising the July 1 fight between WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) and challenger Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs) on FREE, non-PPV television on their network.
Pacquiao will be fighting Horn on July 2 at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia. Australia is ahead of the U.S in terms of the time zone. The fight will take place in front of a record-breaking crowd of over 60,000 fans in Australia.
Approximately 50,000 tickets have been sold already for the Pacquiao-Horn fight. The interest in Australia is high for the Pacquiao vs. Horn fight. In contrast, there’s almost no interest at all in the Pacquiao-Horn fight in the U.S. You barely hear peep about the fight when you search around.
One reason for that is Horn isn’t well-known in the U.S. Horn has only been fighting in the pro ranks for 5 years, and he’s not been fighting high caliber opposition. Horn has been fighting old guys like Randall Bailey and Ali Funeka. Horn was knocked down by both of those guys. Horn got up to beat both fighters, but the knockdowns showed that the Australian has a chin problem.
Arum would have done well to buildup Horn by matching him against some of his other fighters before making the Pacquiao-Horn fight. There might have been a little more interest from the American boxing public in the fight. It’s still unlikely that fans would have paid attention to the Pacquiao and Horn fight, but it would have been better had Arum matched the Australian fighter against some other notable fighters before feeding him to Manny.
The ESPN commentators for the Pacquiao-Horn fight will be Joe Tessitore, Teddy Atlas, and Tim Bradley. The addition of former Pacquiao opponent Bradley to the ESPN broadcast team makes one wonder whether Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum will choose to match them together for a 4th time. It might not be a good idea for Arum to continue that series. The last Pacquiao-Bradley fight didn’t bring in a lot of buys.
It seems that the fans have already seen enough of Pacquiao fighting Bradley. Pacquiao needs to fight other guys now instead of sticking the rematch cycle that we’ve seen from him in the past. Pacquiao fought Juan Manuel Marquez 4 times, Erick Morales 3 times, Marco Antonio Barrera 2 times and Bradley 3 times.
This is surprising news that the 38-year-old Pacquiao’s fight will be on non-pay-per-view, because the Filipino star has had his fights televised on PPV for almost 10 years. It’s unclear why Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum is making this move. One guess is the interest in the Pacquiao-Horn fight might not be high enough to sell this fight on PPV. This fight is a bad one in terms of Pacquiao fighting someone that the casual boxing fans have heard of in the U.S. The money from the Australian side made it worthwhile for Arum to schedule it.
The positive for Pacquiao and Top Rank is a lot of casual boxing fans in the U.S will now get a chance to see Pacquiao. That might help Pacquiao and Top Rank sell his next fight after that on PPV. The idea is you get the fans hooked on Pacquiao like they used to be by putting him on free television. It could work if Pacquiao is impressive and scores a knockout of the 29-year-old Horn. This is a guy that Pacquiao should be able to knockout. That doesn’t mean he will though.
Pacquiao’s career could be rejuvenated if he continues to fight on free television on ESPN beyond the Jeff Horn fight. Pacquiao will need to score knockouts, look good, and ideally fight the best opposition. I’m not sure that fighting guys like Horn is the best way to go for Pacquiao to increase his popularity.
The casual boxing might not mind seeing Pacquiao fight little known guys, but the hardcore fans will definitely take notice that the Filipino star is no longer facing the upper echelon of the sport. Pacquiao’s last fight against the very best at 147 came against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015. Pacquiao’s last two fights have been against Tim Bradley and Jessie Vargas. Those are arguably mid-level 1st tier fighters nowadays. The division has gotten a lot better recently.
”Now, as he defends his world title in front of yet another anticipated record crowd, he will be doing it to his biggest U.S. television audience on the world’s biggest and most prestigious sports network, ESPN,” said Top Rank president Todd duBoef to ESPN.com. ”To have ESPN, which has treated its viewers to NFL, [the] College Football Playoff and NBA playoff games, add Manny’s title fight to its roster is the biggest compliment one can give to Manny’s star power and a great gift to sports fans.”
It’s no secret that Pacquiao’s PPV numbers have been dropping badly. In Pacquiao’s last 2 fights, he’s brought in 400,000 and 300,000 buys. The PPV numbers are declining. That’s something you have to be concerned with. You can argue that the main reason for Pacquiao’s declining numbers in PPV is the match-making that’s being done by his promoter Arum. Instead of looking to match Pacquiao against guys like Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Amir Khan or Adrien Broner, Arum has put him in with Tim Bradley and Jessie Vargas in his last 2 fights.
There was a time when the boxing public was interested in seeing Pacquiao fight Bradley, but that was years ago and he satisfied their desire by fighting him 2 times. But it wasn’t a smart idea for Arum to match Pacquiao and Bradley against each other for a third fight. That was a crazy idea, and it’s not surprising that the fight didn’t do well. Likewise, the decision to match Pacquiao against Jessie Vargas instead of Amir Khan was another strange move.
Pacquiao-Vargas brought in just 300,000 buys. In the meantime, Saul Canelo Alvarez fought Amir Khan and brought in 600,000 buys on HBO PPV. I’d have to say it was a BIG mistake for Arum not to match Pacquiao against Khan. Putting Pacquiao in with Jessie Vargas was a fail. Now to top it off, Pacquiao is fighting an obscure fighter named Jeff Horn. The trajectory of the match-making that’s being done for Pacquiao is going downwards in a straight line. It’s hard to understand match-making like this. If Pacquiao and Top Rank don’t care about fighting the best at 147, then putting Pacquiao in with Horn, Bradley and Vargas is fine. But if you want to keep Pacquiao popular and a big PPV guy, then you’ve got match him better.
Pacquiao’s last 2 fights against Bradley were televised on Top Rank PPV. Before that, Pacquiao had been televised mostly on HBO PPV from 2005. It’s unclear whether Pacquiao will be coming back to HBO at some point in the future.