Lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao provided more than a beat down to boxing’s cash cow Oscar De La Hoya this past Saturday: the “Filipino whirlwind” landed a much more devastating body blow to the PPV boxing category.
Pacquiao’s one-sided tarnishing of the Golden Boy all but ended De La Hoya’s nearly decade-long run as boxing’s undisputed PPV boxing champion and has left the sport and cable operators searching for the next marquee fighter who can guarantee a big PPV payday just by stepping into the ring.
De La Hoya has been the most bankable attraction for the sport since mighty Mike Tyson took a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear in the mid-1990s and destroyed his mega box-office appeal.
De La Hoya’s PPV fights have earned more than $620 million, and his May 2006 fight with “Pretty boy” Floyd Mayweather remains the most successful and most lucrative fight ever, drawing 2.4 million buys and $134 million in pay-per-view revenue.
Saturday’s De La Hoya-Pacquiao fight should draw big PPV buy and revenue numbers once all the numbers are in, but the question is whether the sport can reach such lofty PPV performance levels in 2009.
Given Mayweather’s retirement last summer, there aren’t any fighters left in the sport that can generate more than 700,000 PPV buys on their name alone. Certainly Pacquiao’s PPV value skyrocketed with his big win Saturday and he may eventually assume the mantle of boxing’s PPV ambassador in the near future. But for now he can’t pull De La Hoya-like numbers without help from a quality, recognizable opponent.
Nothing draws more viewers and more dollars from the PPV category like a highly-anticipated boxing match, and HBO PPV and other fight distributors will be hard at work trying to find the right match to excite sports fans.
But without an ace in the hole like De La Hoya to fall back on, it’ll be harder for operators to bet on boxing to fill its PPV event coiffeurs.