The fight everybody wants to see -- Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- hasn't happened as the sides have battled for years over various aspects of a deal, most notably drug testing and the money split.
Pacquiao has said he is now willing to submit to random blood testing leading up to the bout, but he also understandably wants a 50-50 financial split, which Mayweather has balked at, believing that he deserves the lion's share of the money. In one proposed deal made to Pacquiao, Mayweather offered him $40 million but with no participation in the profits, which was a non-starter for Pacquiao.
But Mayweather could soon have more ammunition for his argument. Mayweather's May 5 pay-per-view fight against Miguel Cotto generated 1.5 million buys (the second-most ever for a non-heavyweight PPV fight) and $94 million in domestic television revenue.
Pacquiao will defend his welterweight belt against junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. on Saturday (9 p.m. ET, HBO PPV, $54.95) and will be hard pressed to do that kind of business. The reason is simple: Cotto is a major star and has been in several notable pay-per-view fights. Behind Mayweather and Pacquiao, he is the third biggest pay-per-view star in the United States.
Bradley? Not so much. As talented as he is, he remains largely unknown to the general public and has never headlined a pay-per-view. His lone pay-per-view experience was fighting on Pacquiao's most recent undercard, which will make it hard for Pacquiao-Bradley to approach the numbers done by Mayweather-Cotto. Count on Mayweather's crowing about that if it comes to pass.
So does Pacquiao need to come close to Mayweather's 1.5 million buys to continue the argument for parity?
"We aim to get the biggest possible numbers that we can get," said Top Rank's Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao and Bradley. "We operate a completely different model from Floyd's model, and whatever numbers he allegedly reached or didn't reach is really not relevant to us. It varies from fight to fight. The [Juan Manuel] Marquez numbers from the Manny fight in November are certainly much greater than Mayweather's numbers [in his previous fight] with [Victor] Ortiz.
"You also have to realize that Mayweather was fighting one of our great [former] fighters, Miguel Cotto, who is the No. 3 pay-per-view attraction, who has gotten great numbers on his own. So you have to factor all of that in."
The last time Pacquiao fought an opponent with as little name recognition as Bradley was when he faced Joshua Clottey in March 2010, in a promotion driven largely by the fact it was the first fight to be held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The fight did 700,000 buys, a strong number -- for anyone not named Pacquiao or Mayweather.
Arum reiterated that he isn't concerned about keeping up with Mayweather.
"We are just going to do the best number that we can," Arum said. "We are going to do a really good number. That's silly to say that we are going to get more or less than Mayweather-Cotto. You've got to realize, you've got to give Cotto a lot of credit for the good number that they did. Cotto is the No. 3 box office attraction. We did 600,000 when Cotto fought [Antonio] Margarito [in the fighters' December rematch].
"So Cotto has been used to putting up big pay-per-view numbers and, combined with Mayweather, they put up a really big number. We have put up terrific numbers with Manny against [Shane] Mosley and Marquez, and that's what we're shooting for -- a good number -- for the Pacquiao-Bradley fight."