HBO's Dec. 6 Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao fight on pay per view, in which the lightweight champion Pacuqiao battered the “Golden Boy” into submission in the eighth round, drew 1.25 million PPV buys — the first PPV boxing event in 2008 to top the 1 million buy-mark.
It may have also ended De La Hoya's nearly decade-long run as PPV boxing's undisputed champion, according to boxing observers.
The fight, which generated $7 million in PPV revenue, is only the fourth non-heavyweight event to reach 1 million buys — all four featuring De La Hoya. Topping the list is the 2006 De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather fight, which drew 2.4 million buys, followed by the 1999 De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad and 2008 De La Hoya-Pacquiao (1.25 million buys) and the 2005 De La Hoya-Bernard Hopkins fight (1 million buys).
“De La Hoya-Pacquaio definitely exceeded our expectations,” said Mark Taffet, senior vice president of sports operations for HBO. “We hoped that fight would hit the 1 million buy mark, which is the barometer for mega fights in this sport, but we were uncertain given the state of the economy. We were really pleased that boxing fans everywhere showed tremendous support for the fight.”
Pacquiao's domination of the Golden Boy may have ended De La Hoya's reign as PPV boxing's revenue champion. Over the past decade, De La Hoya has generated more than $700 million in PPV revenue, more than any other fighter in PPV boxing history. But the 35-year old boxer has lost two of his last three PPV fights — and with them some of his PPV appeal.
“He's still a draw based the number of people who purchased this fight and the Mayweather fight,” said Robert Jacobson, president and CEO of In Demand Networks. “Whether there will be a steep dropoff if he does decide to fight again is to be determined.”
While Taffet would not speculate on De La Hoya's future, he said Pacquiao's PPV boxing horizon looks bright.
“Pacquiao has a style that's incredibly appealing to boxing fans and we believe that he is now a breakthrough star with a number of breakthrough fights on the horizon,” said Taffet.
Among potential opponents for the Phillipines-born fighter are former junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton and the currently retired Mayweather.
The Dec. 2007 Hatton-Mayweather fight drew 850,000 buys, which bodes well for a 2009 Pacquiao fight against either fighter. In fact, Jacobson says if Pacquiao fights and beats Hatton, then a marquee matchup between Pacquiao and Mayweather could approach the record setting performance of Mayweather-De La Hoya.
The Pacquiao-De La Hoya fight ends a productive boxing year for HBO PPV. The outfit generated 3.75 million buys, the third biggest year for HBO, behind its record-breaking 2007 (4.9 million buys) and its 1999 campaign. (4.0 million). Including 2006's 3.7 million buy performance, Taffet says the last three years have been among PPV boxing's best performances.
“It shows that there has been tremendous strength in the PPV category and for the sport of boxing,” he said. “There's nothing that draws like a PPV boxing event when you have the right fight.”