By Matthew Hurley: Now that Manny Pacquiao versus Chris Algieri is a done deal, the PacMan officially revealed himself to be Bob Arum’s puppet on a string. No, this is not as bad as Colonel Tom Parker ripping apart his only client Elvis Presley over nearly twenty-one years but it begs the question, who would Manny be fighting on November 22 had he not signed a contract extension through 2016? Certainly not Algieri.
Ever since Manny signed with Top Rank he has left the matchmaking to Arum and his cronies. It proved hugely successful initially as Pacquiao found himself in the ring with Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Eric Morales, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, cementing his legend in the process.
There was a promotional hiccup when Manny signed a contract with Golden Boy Promotions back in 2006 only to run back to Top Rank after returning his signing bonus. A lawsuit resulted from this and may have marked the beginning of what would turn into the so called Cold War between the two promotional firms. But other than that, Manny has been the performer and Arum the Svengali – much like Presley and Parker. Once negotiations for a fight against Floyd Mayweather fell apart, never to be put back together, Manny began a slow downward spiral – near constant rematches and sometimes tedious affairs with Joshua Clottey, Sugar Shane Mosley and Brandon Rios.
There were some high points where Pacquiao’s brilliance shone through but he was never quite the same fighter after the devastating triumphs over De La Hoya, Hatton and Cotto. His naiveté and basic happy-go-lucky attitude did him no favors either; nor did his political bent which dominates whatever free time he actually has in a life so hectic his knockout loss to Marquez in their fourth fight back in 2012 almost seems inevitable in retrospect. He was burning the candle at both ends and finally ran out of wax.
However, he proved in his rematch win over Timothy Bradley that he’s still formidable against top competition, which makes this pay per view joke against the talented and tough but non-descript Chris Algieri all the more hard to take. Only PacMan diehards will buy this product, which surely indicates Top Rank has all but run out of big name opponents for him. So Manny’s pay per view numbers will continue to plummet. It’s hard to imagine Pacquiao – Algieri doing more than 300,000 buys. No wonder Arum is putting this fight on in Macau, China. It’s the only way they can turn a profit.
Algieri, a former kick boxer, is in no way to blame for this. He’s a boxer who covets the big pay day like any prize fighter and, at the very least, proved his resilience in his upset victory of Pacquiao stable mate Ruslan Provodnikov. Although a majority of fans and boxing scribes felt the decision should have gone the other way.
When the fight was proposed to Chris he must have jumped for joy. He earned $100,000 for the Provodnikov bout. He will earn $1 million plus a percentage of the pay per view revenue for the biggest fight of his life. Not bad for a fighter most boxing fans still don’t know all that much about. His co-promoters, Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing and Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions, are to be commended for their negotiating skills.
But that doesn’t mean boxing fans have to like the end result. And, for the most part, they don’t.
Which makes one wonder if after beating Bradley so impressively, yet finding himself unable to fight Juan Manuel Marquez for a fifth time, which he desperately wanted, or Mayweather just that once, Manny decided, or Arum and Top Rank have conceded, that there’s really nothing left for him so the Filipino icon will ride out his contract extension against soft touches and pad his bank account before retiring. One can hardly blame Manny for this flame out if that’s what happens after such a stellar career but there are many what ifs and the fault there must be directed at him because he chose to stay with Top Rank instead of becoming a free agent. His loyalty is commendable but it’s hampered these final stages of his career. And to charge fans big bucks for unworthy pay per views not only seems disingenuous but out of character for a fighter who once seemed so fearless.
It will be interesting to see how the promotional tour in the United States goes, which is slated to start in late August, because this fight will need more than another boring HBO 24/7 to bring in more potential paying customers. Floyd Mayweather realized his rematch with Marcos Maidana needed immediate help after it was signed and has jumped on the promotional bandwagon for a fight two months away. Mayweather is savvy enough to know the first bout was a pay per view disappointment and that the rematch could do even worse. Mayweather is quite good at these events because he’s such a polarizing figure and such a braggart.
Pacquiao doesn’t have a personality that can jolt these affairs with sound bites and attitude. As Timothy Bradley and Brandon Rios both commented before and after their recent bouts with him, “He’s just too nice a guy.” You can actually mix and match any Pacquiao press conference to any one of his fights because he says exactly the same thing and then just smiles, praises his opponent and relinquishes the microphone.
So what boxing fans are left with are two pay per views unworthy of the price. Maybe both Manny and Floyd will go against their current career trajectories in 2015 and surprise us all. We can certainly hope, but until that happens we’re left with whatever scraps they decide to toss us – and it ain’t prime rib.
Matthew Hurley is a full time member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His first book on boxing, Ringside Reflections, can be purchased at Amazon.com.
July 22, 2014