Though he did not knock out Timothy Bradley last week, Manny Pacquiao accomplished just about everything he set out to do when he faced Bradley in a rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
He reclaimed the WBO welterweight title he'd lost to Bradley via dubious split decision on June 9, 2012.
He proved he remains an elite boxer, using his angles, his footwork and his quick hands to win 10 of 12 rounds on one judge's scorecard and eight of 12 on the other two.
He rediscovered his lost aggressiveness, repeatedly going hard after Bradley and putting an end, at least temporarily, to the talk that his compassion was making him less of a fighter.
While Pacquiao regained much of his mojo, it didn't translate into pay-per-view dominance. Pacquiao set an incredibly high standard as a pay-per-view draw from Dec. 6, 2008, when he met Oscar De La Hoya, through Nov. 12, 2011, when he faced Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time.
In the seven fights in that period, Pacquiao sold a minimum of 1.15 million pay-per-views in five of them. He averaged 1.079 million buys in those seven matches.
The pay-per-view numbers for the rematch with Bradley have yet to be released, but by all indications, they won't hit one million. It's likely to settle into the 800,000-to-825,000 range when the numbers are finally counted.
That is a terrific number and will bring in a massive amount of pay-per-view revenue, but it's significantly less than he'd been doing not that long ago and it leaves him badly trailing rival Floyd Mayweather in sales.
The most obvious answer for that decline, of course, is Pacquiao's failure to score a knockout in any of his last eight fights. Knockouts aren't a prerequisite for sales – Mayweather is in the midst of a streak in which each of his last seven fights was announced at one million or more in sales, yet he has just one KO in that time – but they had become expected of Pacquiao.
Fans tuned in to see Pacquiao destroy his opposition and doing so, particularly in the 2008-09 era when he was at his peak blowing out bigger and stronger men, led to escalating pay-per-view sales and made him a superstar.
When it became obvious he wasn't the KO artist he'd been, the sales have dropped.
There are, though, far more reasons for his failure to again hit the one-million barrier for the fourth fight in a row.
A large one was his venture to Macau, China, in 2013 to face Brandon Rios. Pacquiao was coming off a devastating knockout loss to Marquez in his previous fight and took extra time off.
It was more than 11 months between fights by the time Pacquiao stepped in to face Rios, and while that may have been the right decision for his health, it hurt on a sales front.
He was in the Philippines in that time, far away from the American media. Like it or not, regular, ongoing media attention plays a major role in a fighter's success.
Pacquiao simply got little attention in the U.S. for many of those 11 months he was off.
Promoter Bob Arum knew going into the fight in Macau that the pay-per-view results would suffer, and they did. It's hard to pinpoint why because the fights start at the exact same time in the U.S., but whenever a pay-per-view event is taken outside the U.S., it loses a minimum of 25 percent of its sales and up to as much as 45 percent.
The UFC found that out repeatedly when it put on pay-per-views from outside of North and South America. The decline in sales rate is a significant reason why it hasn't held a pay-per-view in Europe, Asia or Australia since UFC 127 at Sydney on Feb. 27, 2011.
The Pacquiao-Rios fight sold 475,000 on pay-per-view, the lowest for a Pacquiao fight since he did 206,000 in a lightweight title fight against David Diaz on June 28, 2008.
The event in Macau was well-staged, but there were few North American media at the event and the sales suffered.
Some among Pacquiao's team expected him to resume his million-selling ways when he got back to Las Vegas to fight Bradley last week, but even breaking 800,000 remains a major hurdle to overcome.
The promotion wasn't helped by a relatively poor version of "24/7" on HBO. Since its founding in 2007 to promote the De La Hoya-Mayweather bout, 24/7 has been a critical element in building awareness of the fight and hawking pay-per-view sales.
But for some reason, the 24/7 crew wasn't in Pacquiao's camp nearly as often prior to the Bradley fight as it had been in others. The story it told wasn't all that compelling and did little to capture the fancy of the fan base.
The final episode was particularly disastrous, featuring brief interviews with the fighters and mostly journalists talking. The last segment, a profile of Filipina journalist Dyan Castillejo, was perplexing.
It promoted Castillejo well, but did nothing to push the Pacquiao-Bradley agenda. The idea of a 24/7 is to show viewers things they can't see, and they end up being bombarded with televised interviews with journalists before fights. What they can't see are the things that go on in camp and the byplay between the fighters and their camp members.
The result of all those factors, and more, was Pacquiao's fourth consecutive bout under 1 million in sales. To be fair, he nearly hit 1 million for his Dec. 8, 2012, bout with Marquez, which sold 980,000. The numbers don't lie and the brutal truth is that the magical number that has been a yardstick for PPV superstardom has eluded Pacquiao for more than two-and-a-half years now.
Pacquiao remains the second-biggest star in boxing, but it seems obvious now that the only fight in which he could exceed 1 million in sales at this point would be as the B-side in a match with Mayweather.
Pacman is going to generate a lot of money no matter whom he fights, but the days of $60 million or more in one night are history unless he finally gets in with Mayweather.
Pacquiao remains a valuable property, but to maximize his value, there is no question he needs to get a deal done with Mayweather.
And, as the last four years have shown, that's easier said than done.
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