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By Rich Mazon

How a former "takatak boy" from the streets of GenSan caused a ruckus in HBO Sports
Fri, 12 Aug 2011

After weeks of deliberating, Top Rank Promotions finally revealed the last remaining puzzle in the Manny Pacquiao - Juan Manuel Marquez trilogy. The question on which television network between HBO and SHOWTIME will be the lucky one to broadcast this huge sporting event is finally answered. We all know the story. HBO who has long been the standard pay per view (PPV) distributor of previous Pacquiao fights was left in the cold early this year after Top Rank head master Bob Arum took its star pupil in Pacquiao to rival SHOWTIME.

The decision stemmed from Arum's aversion to HBO's preference of rival Golden Boy Promotions of Oscar Dela Hoya and boxing manager Al Haymon. Arum's decision caught HBO by surprise and lost this year's top moneymaker of a fight in Pacquiao versus Shane Mosley last May. The fight drew 1.3 million in pay per view (PPV) buys. This to the dismay of the top echelon of HBO which lead to the resignation of Ross Greenburg, HBO's long time head of its Sports Division last month.

People do wonder if he was instead fired not only of the Pacquiao - Mosley debacle. Greenburg apparently did not inform the hierarchy of HBO that they could lose Pacquiao until it was too late, hence preventing further intervention from the execs of the network. It was the sword of Damocles hanging on Greenburg's head for the past six months now. The sword that eventually fell last month with the news of Greenburg's resignation. Greenburg dismissed the Pacquiao - Mosley lost to just a "one-fight deal." He stated that "I'm over it." And added that it wouldn't "upset HBO's positioning as the premiere boxing network."

But is it really just a one-fight deal? With the announcement of Pacquiao versus Marquez III, also comes the question, Will Pacquiao continue with SHOWTIME or return to the HBO fold? And the decision came two weeks after Greenburg tendered his so called "resignation". There is no better proof of Greenburg's exit from the network than that. There hasn't this much mystery before with the choice of a network to deliver a fight. All big fights go to HBO, the leader in boxing broadcasting. That is a fact.

Arum's move of the Pacquiao - Mosley event is both a protest and a bold one. His long deliverance of his decision to announce the Pacquiao - Marquez carrier is a brilliant one. A brilliant move that can never be accomplished without his not so secret ace, Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao brings in the money and HBO knows it. He has brought in more than a million pay per view buys for his fights against Mosley, Margarito, Cotto and Dela Hoya. He is at par with Hall of Famer and former box office draw Mike Tyson with the fighter with at least a million PPV buys for four consecutive years. And another potential one million buys in November 12 is a hard thing to ignore for HBO. They say that everyone follows where the money is and Pacquiao is where the money is at. HBO knows this. Bob Arum knows this and knows that HBO knows it. The former cigarette vendor from General Santos City or popularly known as "takatak boys" which comes from the sound they emit by opening and closing a certain part of their cigarette box to call people's attention is Bob Arum's ace on his sleeve. An ace that beats all other aces. Even the very influential ace in Ross Greenburg.

The funny and interesting thing about all of this is that Manny Pacquiao has not personally done a thing to effect the outcomes of the recent events in HBO, SHOWTIME and Top Rank Promotions other than be Manny Pacquiao. He has not forced his will or influence on anybody involved in these discussions. He has not even addressed the issue on any interviews of him that I could recall. He was even surprised in an interview with the Philippine media early this year when he learned upon that his fight with Mosley won't be on HBO but SHOWTIME. Manny is so out of the loop with discussions that involves him yet it does not bother him. When Michael Koncz briefed him the advantages of going to SHOWTIME on that interview, all he uttered was "That's good." The man who is the center of it all is a just a man looking in yet his silent influence is the reason of it all. This has always been Manny Pacquiao. His job is to fight he says, he leaves everything else to his promoter and advisers. Anything else besides the fight itself is mundane to this former takatak boy cum doughnut peddler of the streets of GenSan, even if that involves a billion dollar entity such as HBO.

Who would know that the former "takatak and doughnut boy of the City of Dust in this impoverished southern part of the Philippines will have this much influence on the most successful premium television company with headquarters in the heart of New York City. Who would have imagined that a boxer whose first pay check was a mere 100 pesos or two dollars will cause a ruckus in the ranks of a billion dollar organization such as HBO? This without even him neither knowing it nor intending it to happen. This with him being thousands of miles away from the negotiating table that decides his next multi-million endeavor. Ah, the wheels of fortune. You can never tell the way it turns.

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