Pound-for-pound kingpin Manny Pacquiao scored his second big knockout victory in a week on Friday, when HBO Sports announced that his Nov. 14 victory over Miguel Cotto sold 1.25 million pay-per-views and generated $70 million in pay-per-view revenue.
Pacquiao, who knocked Cotto out in the 12th round to capture the World Boxing Organization welterweight title, has averaged 1.1 million in PPV sales in his past three outings – knockout victories over Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Cotto.
The win could set up a 2010 match with unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr., the other man with a claim to the throne as the top fighter in the sport. That bout would likely shatter all pay-per-view records.
Mayweather holds the record for most pay-per-view units sold in an individual bout, with 2.45 million when he won a split decision over De La Hoya in 2007. Mayweather has averaged 1.48 million on pay-per-view in his past three outings, following up the De La Hoya fight with 940,000 in sales against Ricky Hatton and 1.05 million on Sept. 19 in his comeback bout with Juan Manuel Marquez.
HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said the performance of Pacquiao-Cotto is yet another indication of the sport's upward mobility. This is the first time since 1999 that there have been two pay-per-view cards in one year that have reached 1 million or more buys. He said sports fans, not just boxing fans, are talking about a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.
"Boxing is back in the mainstream and this is what we've been working for for so long," Greenburg said. "I am feeling (the excitement for a Mayweather-Pacquiao match) and people are walking around the streets talking about it. These are two guys who are recognized around the world as the best pound-for-pound fighters. They're in the same class and they're in their primes.
"It harkens back to the Sugar Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns fight in 1981. Those are very few and far between. People are so excited. That's why it feels bigger than most. It's exciting for the sport, it's exciting for the fighters, it's exciting for the trainers and everyone involved."
Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum was thrilled with the result and expects the 1.25 million figure to grow as more results trickle in. Arum said the figure released Friday is "very preliminary" and could get larger. It is not unusual for cable companies to report additional sales many months after the fight.
Arum knew he had a winner from the moment he signed Pacquiao-Cotto, but didn't expect such a large figure until the week of the fight. Not only was the bout receiving wall-to-wall coverage from traditional boxing media, it also drew unprecedented attention from mainstream outlets such as The New York Times and Time Magazine.
"The New York Times covered the fight so well – and when's the last time they did anything on boxing like that?" Arum asked. "Time put Manny on the cover [of its Asian edition]. Basically, we were expanding our base [of media coverage] and when I saw that, I knew this fight was going into another realm. And what happened then didn't surprise me. This is a very preliminary number and it could grow considerably."
Mayweather manager Leonard Ellerbe congratulated Pacquiao on the sales performance, but said it would not have an impact on negotiations for a bout with his fighter. "That's good for boxing and good for the sport," Ellerbe said.
Ellerbe said Team Mayweather is meeting internally to determine its stance. Ellerbe said Mayweather is more than willing to fight Pacquiao if an equitable deal can be struck.
Arum, too, insisted he wants to see the fight made because of the public demand for it. But because of the animosity between Mayweather and Arum, reaching a deal could be problematic. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer will deliver Mayweather's position to Arum, Ellerbe said.
"We feel as though this is the biggest fight by far in the history of the sport," Ellerbe said. "We will approach it accordingly. Mayweather Promotions/Team Mayweather is sitting down and going over all of our options to come up with our position. Once we come up with our position, we will let Richard know and he'll deliver it to Bob."
The biggest pay-per-view draws to this point have all been American fighters: Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, De La Hoya and Mayweather. Arum said he is amazed that a Filipino fighter who speaks English as a second language has been able to cross over and become a legitimate star.
Now, a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would match not only the men widely regarded as the two best in the sport but also pair its two best draws. It may turn out to be the most anticipated bout since Muhammad Ali met Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 8, 1971.
"What this kid has done is astounding," Arum said. "You don't see these kinds of numbers with foreign fighters. With the De La Hoya fight, yeah, you could say it was De La Hoya [who drove the sales]. Manny was the 'B' side, no question. But for Hatton, Manny was the 'A' side and, without a doubt, he was the 'A' side against Cotto.
"He's become a legitimate, genuine attraction. People are fascinated with the kid. They absolutely love him. I was in New York and everywhere I went, literally, people who wouldn't know a left hook from a right cross were talking about him. He's got the great story that appeals to the non-boxing fans, and the boxing guys love him because of how he fights and how fearless he is."