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San Mateo, CA—Earlier this week Top Rank and HBO announced that the Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez fight would be distributed in the United States by HBO. Showtime/CBS televised Pacquiao’s last fight against Shane Mosley and the PPV generated 1.3 million pay-per-view buys. With HBO regaining television rights to Manny Pacquiao, HBO will now have two of the biggest fights of the year televised within two month of each other. HBO is about to begin its part in promoting the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Victor Ortiz fight.

When Pacquiao fought on Showtime last May and Mayweather had not announced his return the boxing ring, it was possible that HBO would not have a major PPV fight in 2010. Unlike team sports and most individual sports, combat sports (like the UFC) live off PPV revenue. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have not fought on subscription-based television since 2005. Thus, it was crucial for the boxing industry at this point to continue establishing big fights on PPV. The majority of money earned by Mayweather and Pacquiao in the boxing ring can be directly associated to the amount of PPV’s sold. The more PPV’s sold, the more money everyone earns.

Both Mayweather and Pacquiao became major PPV forces after their victories over Oscar De La Hoya, who was a long time PPV star. Since the De La Hoya fight, Mayweather’s PPV buys have sold about 915,000 (Hatton); 1,050,000 (Marquez); and 1,400,000 (Mosley) with an average of 1,121,666.67 buys a fight. Since the De La Hoya, Pacquiao’s PPV buys have sold about 850,000 (Hatton); 1,250,000 (Cotto); 700,000 (Clottey); 1,150,000 (Margarito); and 1,300,000 (Mosley) with an average of 1,050,000 buys a fight. Obviously based on the numbers, Mayweather and Pacquiao are PPV stars on their own; averaging at least one million buys a PPV.

However, it will be interesting to see how their respective upcoming fights in the fall will fair PPV wise. The barrier for both fighters should be one million buys. If either fighter can generate over one million buys then the PPV should be considered a success.

Mayweather’s next opponent is Victor Ortiz, who is likely the least known Mayweather opponent he has ever fought on PPV. Ortiz was a fringe 140lbs contender early in 2010 and was the underdog in his fight against Andre Berto in April of 2010. Ortiz secured his fight with Mayweather because of his thrilling and upset win over Berto. Other than that, most casual boxing fans will be learning about Ortiz for the first time. Mayweather is coming off a long lay-off and has been in the news recently more for his conduct outside the ring than in the ring.

Pacquiao’s next opponent is Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez, unlike Ortiz, does have a PPV track record and is a known commodity to most casual boxing fans. Marquez is a top five pound for pound fighter and has fought Pacquiao twice. However, Marquez is an 8-1 underdog and the last time Marquez moved up to 147lbs against Mayweather, Marquez looked awful at the higher weight.

For HBO’s part, they will not spare any expense making sure that both PPV fights will get maximum exposure through the media. Following in Showtime’s footsteps, HBO will utilize Time Warner assets like TBS, TNT, and CNN to advertise and replay 24/7 episodes. Promoters for both fights promise even more exposure and will heavily promote the fight. However, does this mean we should expect record breaking PPV buys? Will replays of 24/7 on CNN result in Mayweather-Ortiz generating close to 2 million PPV’s?

CBS’s involvement with the Pacquiao did directly result in the highest PPV buys ever for a Pacquiao fight despite the general acknowledgement that Shane Mosley stood little chance in beating Pacquiao. Pacquiao and Mayweather face similar problems as Vegas, the Media, and most boxing fans consider their upcoming fights as tune-up fights rather than must see bouts. Mayweather did not help the case by essentially calling out Pacquiao as his next opponent. If Pacquiao is Mayweather’s next opponent, then why bother seeing him against Ortiz?

Based on the history and the expected promotion of both bouts, it is quite feasible to believe that both fights will generate over one million buys. Pacquiao will have an easier time breaking the one million PPV buys than Mayweather. Pacquiao has shown the ability to generate high PPV numbers will opponents like Clottey and Margarito, who were as unknown as Victor Ortiz currently is. Mayweather has always needed a strong B-side to generate his PPV numbers. Ortiz will be the weakest B-side to a PPV since Carlos Baldomir. However, you cannot count out Ortiz’s ability to gain an audience through his personality and character. Mayweather was the B-side to the De La Hoya fight but became the bigger star through 24/7 and his verbal assaults on De La Hoya. Ortiz, more so than Marquez, has the ability steal the spotlight from Mayweather when the 24/7 series begins to air. If that happens, then the Mayweather PPV can do monster numbers.

Although it is too early to predict PPV numbers especially since neither fight as really begun its promotion, whether boxing is really back will depend on how well the fights do on PPV.

Contact this Columnist by email or on twitter at @sportnjordan

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Jason Aniel.

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