- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The return of welterweight star Manny Pacquiao, who outpointed former lightweight titlist Brandon Rios in a lopsided decision on Nov. 23 in Macau, China, generated in the neighborhood of 500,000 pay-per-view buys, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
"The numbers are coming in like we expected," Arum said. "There was a little delay because of Thanksgiving, but it will be somewhere in the area of 500,000 buys. We ran all our numbers on something a little less than 500,000 but figuring we'd do around 500,000, and that's what we're going to wind up doing. It means 490,000 or 510,000, something like that."
The fight, the first HBO PPV card ever done outside the United States, generated approximately $30 million in domestic pay-per-view revenue. However, there are some in the boxing industry who claim the fight didn't crack 400,000 buys.
Arum and HBO executives knew when they made the fight that having it in China would hurt the American PPV numbers.
"It's very, very difficult when you're not doing the fight in the United States," Arum said. "But the deal we structured with (the Venetian Macao, the host casino) was to make up for that.
"The [pay-per-view] industry told us when you do an event that far away you can expect to do maybe 30 percent of what you would ordinarily do on the fight. We did a lot better. We performed better than that, so I think it was a big success. We had a huge audience on television in China."
The CotaiArena also had a capacity crowd of 13,101 for the fight, the first in Asia for Pacquiao, the Filipino icon, since 2006.
Still, the pay-per-view total paled in comparison to Pacquiao's previous fight in December 2012. That fight, his fourth with rival Juan Manuel Marquez, generated 1.15 million PPV buys. Pacquiao got knocked out cold at the end of the sixth round and took a year off before returning to face Rios.
Pacquiao's next fight will be back in the United States, Arum said. Pacquiao, the only eight-division titleholder in boxing history, is slated to return April 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
"We'll have Manny fighting back in the United States with Zou Shiming on the undercard and do a pay-per-view in China, where it will be on Sunday morning," Arum said.
Zou, a flyweight and the two-time Chinese Olympic gold medalist, is a major star in China. His popularity there was the key to Arum opening the Macau market, having had Zou headline the first two cards there. His third pro fight was on the Pacquiao-Rios undercard.
As for Pacquiao's opponent in April, Arum said there are three names under consideration: a fifth fight with Marquez, a rematch with welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley (who claimed a highly controversial split decision against Pacquiao in June 2012), and newly crowned junior welterweight titlist Ruslan Provodnikov of Russia.
"It'll be one of those guys," Arum said. "We're gonna get it done sometime this month I hope. I want to start promoting it. What we're hoping to do is get Manny over here in January to do press conferences for the fight and also to do rallies in places like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., for relief for the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines."