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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pacquiao-Hatton PPV numbers something to celebrate, even if Arum refuses

For the past two weeks I've been asked constantly about the pay-per-view numbers for the May 2 Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight, boxing's biggest fight of the year so far.

The eagerly anticipated showdown was promoted wonderfully. There was great buzz all week in Las Vegas and an electric atmosphere inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena on fight night, not to mention a spectacular second-round knockout victory for Pacquiao.

However, the period at the end of the sentence -- the pay-per-view buys -- has been missing because Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who co-promoted the event with Golden Boy Promotions, refuses to disclose the figures for reasons that are beyond me.

He sure gave me an earful about it this week while dropping several words that wouldn't be appropriate for an ESPN.com blog. In the one statement he made that I can quote, he said (loudly), "We did very well. Everyone involved in this event did a good job, but it's nobody's business what the numbers are but ours and the fighters. I'm not gonna release the figures."

For whatever reason, Arum doesn't want to give them out, nor will he allow his partners at Golden Boy or HBO PPV to disclose them. What does he have to hide, anyway?

However, being a resourceful kind of guy with pretty darn good sources in the boxing business and television industry, I got the number, Arum's secrecy be damned. From what my sources tell me, the fight sits at about 825,000 domestic pay-per-view buys with the likelihood that when they're all counted, the total will reach 850,000 or more.

That means the fight generated almost $50 million from the American pay-per-view, a huge number that doesn't even take into account the pay-per-view figures from Hatton's turf in the United Kingdom, where the fight easily could have done 1 million buys. Nor does it take into account the live gate of $8,832,950 or the closed-circuit ticket sales of $575,750 in Las Vegas alone. There's also a pile of cash from the rest of the closed-circuit and international television sales, a seven-figure license fee from HBO for the delayed broadcast rights, sponsorship money and merchandise revenue.

How big was Pacquiao-Hatton? If you take away heavyweight pay-per-views involving Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield as well as the Oscar De La Hoya fights, it's the second-best ever. Only Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s victory against Hatton in December 2007 did more business, generating 915,000 domestic buys.

The bottom line is that Pacquiao-Hatton was a massive success, something Arum should be proud of instead of trying to hide, especially because this was the first big fight of the post-De La Hoya era. I stopped trying to figure Arum out a long time ago, but his decision on this topic makes no sense.

At a time when many have questioned what would become of the boxing business in the wake of the retirement of De La Hoya, the all-time pay-per-view king, Pacquiao-Hatton answered the question with an emphatic, "Yes, there is still life in this business."

When a 140-pound fight in which neither participant is American can do a number like 850,000, especially in the midst of a brutal recession, it's celebration time. And it's not the end, either. A whole series of fights involving Pacquiao and Mayweather can get the public excited and generate big numbers. With Mayweather out of retirement and set to face Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18, you can bank on another fight that will generate in the 500,000-buy range. And, eventually, when Pacquiao and Mayweather finally meet in the fight the public is already demanding, I believe it may rise into the 1.5 million-buy stratosphere.

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer and HBO PPV chief Mark Taffet acquiesced to Arum's insistence that official numbers not be released on Pacquiao-Hatton, but neither of them is happy about it. I don't blame them. They want to talk up their success, not be muzzled.

So without disclosing the figures, Taffet did say, "Pacquiao-Hatton was a true megafight and establishes Manny Pacquiao as a true pay-per-view star. Most importantly, with Pacquiao-Hatton, Mayweather-Marquez and the great possibilities of matchups in the 140- and 147-pound divisions, we are entering a very exciting period for boxing fans and the sport."

Taffet is right, even if that wacky Arum doesn't want to acknowledge it with facts and figures.

Source: sports.espn.go.com

Monday, May 11, 2009

Manny Pacquiao given rapturous reception by Filipino fans in Manila

Tens of thousands lined the streets of Manila for the welcome home parade of Manny Pacquiao, following his two-round destruction of Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas on May 2.

Pacquiao returned home late last week following a government request that he stay in the United States for five days after his fight because of concerns over swine flu.
However, the world's No 1 pound-for-pound fighter was given an official reception by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo at the state palace on a day declared as a national holiday.

Adoring fans had braved the morning tropical heat to throng the streets of Manila, cheering and honking horns as Pacquiao waved to them from a truck decorated with Filipino flags that wound through the capital.
Office workers left their desks and showered Pacquiao with confetti, chanting "Manny! Manny!" while traffic blocked off side streets to allow the passage of the convoy of more than 30 vehicles, tying up traffic.

"He's the people's champ," said Danilo David, a 39-year-old government employee who filled his tank with two dollars' worth of petrol – half his daily pay – just to be a motorcycle escort for Pacquiao's convoy.

"We're happy and privileged to escort him around Manila," David said.
Pacquiao tossed red and white T-shirts that bore his picture and the slogan "King Of The Ring" into the crowd. "The reception was tremendous," he said.
The crowds were especially thick and enthusiastic at the impoverished district of Tondo in Manila's rundown dockyards, where a week earlier thousands had crammed a public gym to watch a free broadcast of the fight.

At the presidential palace, Arroyo played the part of a journalist, interviewing her guest about the Hatton fight for the benefit of the assembled Filipino officials, palace staff and members of Team Pacquiao.

"He was so busy watching my left that he did not see my right hand coming," said Pacquiao, who dropped the Mancunian twice in the first round before sending him to the canvas unconscious at the end of the second round.
"He was not able to adjust his strategy. He fights in a certain style and did not change."
His International Boxing Organisation junior welterweight title means Pacquiao, who started boxing as light-flyweight in his teens to escape poverty, has equalled the record of six world crowns in different divisions.

Source: telegraph.co.uk

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pacquiao a work of art but still in progress

Bob Arum is beginning to look at Manny Pacquiao the way an artist sees unfinished work that has potential to be a masterpiece.

"A grand painting," Arum said after Pacquiao began to show signs of enduring greatness Saturday night with a second-round stoppage, stunning and scary, of Ricky Hatton. "It's not all about the money. At least, that's my thinking."

Other than perhaps money, a canvas is about the only thing boxing and art have in common. From Floyd Mayweather Jr. to Miguel Cotto, Arum is more likely to paint by numbers preceded by dollar signs.

But there are elements in Pacquiao's brilliant emergence that suggest a future without any apparent limits. The next couple of years will determine whether he becomes an all-timer. A celebratory Arum said he has the chance to be the best ever, which on the promoter's long list of famed clients includes Muhammad Ali. Any parallel that includes Ali is a dangerous one and in Pacquiao's case might not be accurate, much less fair.

Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach compares the Filipino to Henry Armstrong. But unforgettable fighters make their own history mostly because there just has never been anybody quite like them. Pacaquiao, with his sixth title in a sixth weight class, has a chance to do exactly that. They are all-timers for the way they fight, but also for what they say about their own times.

Consider Ali. Roach thinks Pacquiao is a better all-around fighter than Ali, who Roach says often coasted through fights because of his terrific talent. But Ali is an all-timer, also because he was the face and mouth for a noisy, politically charged era in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 2005 film Cinderella Man, director Ron Howard and actor Russell Crowe resurrected the idea of what it means to be an unforgettable fighter with the portrayal of James Braddock, a mediocre heavyweight champ yet a man who staged a comeback that reflected his times, the Depression. After Braddock, there was Joe Louis, remembered for a victory over Nazi Germany's Max Schmeling in a 1938 rematch that was followed by world war.

Then there was Mike Tyson, who won't be remembered as a great fighter, yet is -- and I suspect always will be -- unforgettable for the crazy, profligate ways in which he represented the excesses of the late 1980s and 1990s.

Now, there is Pacquiao, a quiet Filipino who unlike Tyson would never assume he knows it all. Pacquiao's humility is a match for tough times in a world struggling to find ways to combat a lousy economy. There's no way to bully or trash-talk your way out of a nasty recession, although you would never know it from listening to the me-me-me Mayweathers.

Only the cool and collected Pacquiao throws punches and takes the very few that have landed over his past two bouts. But he always speaks as though he doesn't do it for only himself. He thanks instead of mocks the loser, who after all is a business partner. Next to the Mayweathers, Pacquiao's evident selflessness looks and sounds quaint. But during times when a lot of people have been humbled, Pacquiao's humility works. Also, it's echoed by Roach.

"You know, I'm only the best trainer in the world because I have the best fighter in the world," said Roach, who predicted a KO within three rounds before Pacquiao knocked down Hatton three times within two rounds in his first bout at 140 pounds.

From bout to bout, that Pacquiao humility is the definition of a fighter always looking to learn. There's been some talk that Pacquiao has only improved since his loss in 2005 to Erik Morales in the first of their three fights. I'm not sure that's accurate.

There was an evident plateau in a so-so decision over Marco Antonio Barrera a couple of years ago. Pacquiao wasn't spectacular on that October night in 2007, but the lesson plan in defensive tactics was played out perfectly with in-and-out, side-to-side movement that he has used with such effectiveness since then.

The guess here is Pacquiao, now 30, will surprise us again with even more new tricks against a long list of dangerous possibilities, also including Sugar Shane Mosley and Edwin Valero. Mayweather, the leader in the pound-for-pound debate, looms as Pacquiao's defining fight if all of the details can be worked out. In at least one Las Vegas sports book, the speculated fight already is listed as pick'em.

First, Mayweather has to get past Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18 in a bout announced Saturday despite some confusion about the contracted weight. Marquez said they had agreed on 143 pounds, give or take a pound. Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe would only say "it was a welterweight (147-pound) fight.

The Mayweather-Marquez winner presumably moves on to Pacquiao, although I'd like to see Pacquiao face both, regardless of what happens on July 18 at Las Vegas' MGM Grand. Marquez lost a split decision in March 2008 in the rematch of a 2004 draw with Pacquiao. But the fight was close and the post-fight debate remains unresolved. A lot people still believe Marquez won. There's only one way to resolve that one, although I suspect Pacquiao would prefer to move on and beyond Marquez, who might be that one fighter with the right style to stop his ascent.

Meanwhile, the Mayweather possibility is the piece that could complete Arum's vision of a masterpiece if -- and there are at least couple of those -- Pacquiao can beat Cotto and perhaps Mosley at a catch weight a few pounds lighter than 147.

But negotiations for Mayweather-Pacquiao look problematic at best. Arum said last week that he would not deal with Mayweather representative Al Haymon. Arum did say that he would bargain with Golden Boy promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.

In announcing the Mayweather-Marquez fight, Schaefer acted as Mayweather's promoter and even staged an argument with Golden Boy owner Oscar De La Hoya, who spoke for Marquez. It looked like a gimmick. But if it means Schaefer will speak for Mayweather in negotiations with Arum, it's pretty good gimmick. Maybe even an artistic one.

Source: cbssports.com

Pacquiao returns home despite flu fears

Boxing idol Manny Pacquiao returned to the Philippines early Friday despite a request from Manila that he delay his hero's return as a precaution against the spread of swine flu from the United States.

Pacquiao, often considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, cemented his reputation Saturday night when he knocked out British boxer Ricky Hatton in the second round of a match in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A low-key welcome that included three of his four children greeted the 30-year-old boxer at Manila International Airport.

A homecoming parade initially planned for Friday has been moved by the Philippine government to Monday, which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared "Manny Day."

Pacquiao, dubbed "Pacman" by fans, spoke briefly to reporters, telling them he felt safer from the swine flu in the Philippines, where there have been no reported cases of the disease, than he did in the United States, where nearly 900 cases have been confirmed.Manny's low-key homecoming

On Wednesday, Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque asked the boxer to go into "self-quarantine" either in Los Angeles, where he was after the Las Vegas fight, or in Manila.

Pacquiao returned to Manila, but did not go into quarantine, although the large public celebration was delayed.

Pacquiao grew up poor in General Santos City in the southern Philippines.

He found boxing as a way to lift himself to fame and riches, yet he remains self-deprecating outside of the ring.

It is this combination of being a fierce fighter in the ring and a smiling deferential one outside that has helped turn him into an idol.

Source: cnn.com

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My postfight sit-in with Pacquiao

LAS VEGAS -- The day began like so many other Sundays after a big fight: I woke up in my MGM Grand room a bit weary after a long week, and not looking forward to a tiring day of cross-country travel back home to Northern Virginia.

I followed my usual routine by packing, working on Monday's weekend scorecard and fielding phone calls and requests for radio interviews around the country from those who wanted to talk about the fight.

In this case, the big fight was Manny Pacquiao, the world's best fighter, against Ricky Hatton. Pacquiao had obliterated Hatton in two rounds only hours earlier to win the world junior welterweight championship, a title in a record-tying sixth weight class and a record-setting fourth lineal championship.

As usual, I planned to hang around my room working while waiting for my 4:21 p.m. flight. (Thanks to the lovely Stephanie Heller from the MGM public relations team, who always takes care of me with a late checkout.) I was also planning to have lunch with a friend who lives in Las Vegas before heading to the airport. (Yes, I had the upgrade.)

The PacMan had devoured Hatton, scoring two first-round knockdowns and then putting him to sleep with a massive left cross -- one of the greatest knockouts I have ever witnessed ringside -- just before the end of the second round.

Little did I know at the time that some 15 hours later I would have an unexpected audience with the pound-for-pound king in his private suite at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay, where I would rewatch the fight with Pacquiao, who was seeing the video for the first time.

It was quite a day. Here's what happened:

I got a call from my buddy Brad "Abdul" Goodman, the Top Rank matchmaker with whom I have been friends since the early 1990s, long before either us began our current boxing gigs. Goodman, who lives in Las Vegas, had been asked by Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz if he could burn a DVD of the fight because Pacquiao wanted to see it.

So Goodman called me to see if I wanted to get together a little earlier than planned. He would pick me up at the MGM and I'd go with him on his errand to Mandalay Bay to drop off the DVD, then we'd have lunch there. Sounded good to me, so I finished packing, wrote as much of the weekend scorecard as I could, and checked out.

Goodman picked me up, and off to The Hotel we went. It turned out that Koncz and Pacquiao and crew were running a little late because Pacquiao, a devout Catholic, had attended church Sunday morning and was in no rush to get back. He had stayed after the service to take pictures with fans and sign autographs.

Goodman and I had lunch, and afterward we ran into Top Rank boss Bob Arum and his wife, Lovey Arum, in the lobby. They, too, were waiting for Pacquiao to return because they were meeting friends whom they had promised to introduce to the boxer.

While we were all waiting, Pacquiao's superstar trainer, Freddie Roach, showed up. It was quite a scene.

Several hotel guests had approached Arum to take pictures with him, which he happily posed for. One Japanese guest apparently had recognized me from my television appearances and asked if I would also pose in the photo with him and Arum.

But once Roach arrived, the guests turned their attention to him. At one point, about a dozen people had gathered around him and spontaneously began applauding him for a job well done.

Then Arum's guests showed up: Nevada Sen. John Ensign and his two children. Arum introduced me to the senator and we chatted for a bit. Turns out Ensign is a huge boxing fan and one-eighth Filipino, so he was excited to meet Pacquiao and have him pose for a photo with him and his kids.

Finally, we got word that Pacquiao was back, apparently having arrived through a private entrance. So we were summoned. The gathering crowd wanted to get into our elevator, but security wouldn't allow it. Up to the top floor of The Hotel we went. When we exited the elevator, there were people and security everywhere, but we were led down the hall to Pacquiao's room.

Inside the massive suite, at least 20 people could be seen hanging around and eating from a buffet that was set up in the main room, which had a spectacular view of the Vegas Strip. While the rest of the group -- Arum, his wife, Goodman, Koncz, Ensign and his kids -- were ushered into Pacquiao's private bedroom in the suite, I had to tape a previously scheduled phone interview for ESPN SportsCenter at that exact moment. Great timing, huh?

I found a quiet place on the other side of the suite, did the interview and then went to the bedroom, where a large security guard nodded at me, opened the door and allowed me in.

The room was split in two. Pacquiao's wife, Jinkee, was on one side of the partition packing for the long trip home to the Philippines. On the other side, about 15 other people were gathered near the couch and chairs and the big TV. Pacquiao, of course, had the best seat as the DVD began playing. In front of Pacquiao on the table was a plate with a large steak he was working on, a big bowl of rice and a side of assorted fruit.

Ensign and his kids met Pacquiao, talked for a few minutes and had their photo taken. Pacquiao couldn't have been more gracious. Then the Ensigns and the Arums left, leaving the rest of us to watch the fight.

One of the people in the room was Father Marlon Beof, Pacquiao's spiritual adviser, who, as it turns out, is a regular reader of mine and a huge fan of the ESPN.com boxing page. I thanked him for that. Who knew my blog and weekly notebook appealed to the Catholic priest demographic?

As we watched the ring walks and intros, Pacquiao's guests were quite excited. At one point, Pacquiao said to me as the fight was beginning, "My first time seeing this. Easy fight." Then he broke out into a broad smile.

As the fight went on, I asked Pacquiao if he was enjoying watching his dominant performance.

He answered "Yes" and broke into another broad smile before taking a big bite of steak between rounds.

When HBO announcer Jim Lampley exclaimed "It's a Pacquiao storm" at one point in the fight, Pacquiao repeated the line and broke out into another big smile.

He was talking to the TV as well. During the second round, he kept telling his image on the screen to "jab, jab." Roach has that approach ingrained in him, it seems.

While most of Pacquiao's guests were cheering his every punch, Pacquiao was staring intensely at the television and taking bites of his steak.

When the knockout bomb landed on Hatton's jaw, the room went crazy. But Pacquiao had a very serious look on his face and crossed himself, as though he was praying for Hatton to be OK, though he already knew it to be the case since the fight had been the previous night.

Still, that's the sort of guy Pacquiao is.

He looked at me again before I could say anything and said, "Yeah, it's a good shot."

You think?

"I felt it on my knuckles."

I asked him if he thought it would be the knockout of the year.

"Yeah, I think so," he answered.

Then, without being asked, Pacquiao volunteered: "People think Hatton is bigger and stronger than me. I don't think so."

And then came another smile.

Between the big knockout he had just watched and the juicy steak he had put away, Pacquiao seemed content as he leaned back on the couch with his hands behind his head.

It's good to be the king.

Once the fight was over, folks began to file out of the room. As I was leaving, Pacquiao stood up, laid a man-hug on me and thanked me for coming.

It was my pleasure.

Source: espn.go.com

Ricky Hatton: " I Never Recovered From The First Punch"

Ricky Hatton says that he never recovered from the first punch that Manny Pacquiao was able to land last Saturday in Las Vegas, the counter right hand, that sent the Manchester fighter down for the first time in the fight, not long into the first round of their bout at the MGM Grand.

Pacquiao knocked him out cold in the second round. The first loss of his career, a tenth round TKO to Floyd Mayweather Jr in December 2007 was tough. The second loss is proving to be just as tough to take.

"I am absolutely devastated. My head is in bits. I didn’t think I could cry anymore than after the Floyd Mayweather Jnr loss, but I certainly have. Pacquiao knocked me down from practically the first punch he threw and I never recovered," Hatton told The Sun.

"Maybe my attitude was wrong because I always wear my heart on my sleeve and I was straight in there. Maybe if I had gone a few rounds I could have won, but there was nothing I could do about it. I have felt worse after hard 12-round fights, because it was over that quickly and physically I have never felt better."

It was said to the paper by Hatton's mother, that Ricky wants a farewell fight in England.

Source: boxingscene.com

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Swine flu worry puts Pacquiao return on hold

Manny Pacquiao has been ordered to delay his triumphant return to the Philippines as a precaution against the spread of swine flu from the United States.

The boxing sensation cemented his status as a national hero with a dramatic two-round knockout of Britain's Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

He was due to return home ahead of a "national day of celebration" on Friday, but that will now have to wait.

The Philippines health secretary on Wednesday offered Pacquiao one of two options: Stay in Los Angeles, where he went with his family after his victory. Or return home and immediately go into self-quarantine.

"He requested a home quarantine for Manny Pacquiao to stay where he is right now for another five days upon the advice of the country representative of the World Health Organization," said Dr. Eric Tayag, director of the country's national epidemiology center.

"And after five days, if he doesn't have any signs or symptoms, he and his entourage can travel."

The virus has an incubation period of seven days. Symptoms of swine flu are not apparent during the incubation period, and a seemingly healthy-looking person can pass it on during that time.

The Filipino government is concerned that the Pacquiao motorcade could spread the virus to someone in the crowd during the rally if any one in his entourage is infected.

The Philippines has not reported any confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus. But officials there are worried about the number of cases of the virus confirmed in California.

By Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reported 49 confirmed cases in the state out of a total of 403 cases in 38 states.

Pacquiao told Filipino reporters he will make a decision by Thursday morning.

The "Pacman" has become the hottest property in world boxing, with massive interest in his home country backed up by a growing following in the United States.

CNN reported that a potential match-up with returning Floyd Mayweather Jr. would likely be the biggest grossing fight in ring history.

It is a far cry from his early years where he grew up poor in the General Santos City in the southern Philippines.

Such is his following, Pacquiao has toyed with the idea of entering politics, but for now is concentrating his efforts on retaining his status as the best pound for pound boxer in the world.

Source: cnn.com