Manny Pacquiao’s return could revive interest in boxing

Manny Pacquiao’s history of marquee bouts still makes him a comfortable brand for high-profile matches.
Manny Pacquiao’s history of marquee bouts still makes him a comfortable brand for high-profile matches. AP

So much for Manny Pacquiao’s retirement.

Fight fans expected a farewell performance three months ago, when Pacquiao won a convincing decision in his third bout against Timothy Bradley. Moreover, Pacquiao confirmed after the fight that he was retiring to focus solely on his political career in his native Philippines.

But boxing retirements rarely stick — and often they include the inevitable comeback. Now Pacquaio appears to be heading toward a ring return later this year.

Although Pacquiao has not confirmed the comeback, his promoter, Bob Arum, told media last week that the eight-division world champion would like to fight again in November. Arum said Pacquiao’s current term in the Philippines senate restricts him from any boxing related activities until early fall.

With Arum speaking on Pacquiao’s behalf, there is also the angle that the president of Top Rank — one of the sport’s most influential promotional players — still hasn’t found a fighter popular enough to shift the pay-per-view attention permanently from Pacquiao and the also-retired Floyd Mayweather Jr.

PPV numbers have plunged dramatically since the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in May 2015.

As much as promoters talk of new fighters who will cross into the exclusive medium, Pacquiao’s lengthy history of marquee bouts still makes him a comfortable brand to tap into for the high-profile matches. But even Pacquiao no longer carries the same clout — as evidenced by the poor buys of his fight against Bradley.

The Pacquiao-Mayweather bout is blamed as a key reason why viewers are hesitant to purchase the next “mega” fight.

After five years of hyping the much-anticipated bout between the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters of their generation, Mayweather and Pacquiao disappointed many fans.

Although the bout broke pay-per-view records with 4.6 million buys and more than $600 million in revenues, the fight lacked the thrilling exchanges that fans expected after the excessive pre-fight attention.

Consequently, the industry has suffered from the Mayweather-Pacquiao fallout.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez — considered the sport’s most popular fighter after Mayweather and Pacquiao — attracted a reported 600,000 buys for his fight against Amir Khan in May.

Many boxing experts and fans recognize Gennady Golovkin as the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter, but his maiden PPV performance against David Lemieux last October generated a dismal 150,000 purchases. Golovkin returned to an HBO televised-event in April, when he knocked out Dominic Wade.

Before Pacquiao makes his reported return in November, Arum will test the PPV waters again with two new attractions. Terence Crawford and Viktor Postol have become the top fighters in the 140-pound class, and Arum will showcase the reigning champions in their title unification bout Saturday night in Las Vegas.

If Pacquiao does fight again, talk already is circulating that his opponent could be the Crawford-Postol winner. Even if Crawford and Postol don’t generate substantial purchases on Saturday, an exciting bout, resulting in positive public response, solidifies the winner as an acceptable adversary for Pacquiao.

After a one-year, two-defense reign as lightweight champion in 2014 and repeated exposure on HBO, Crawford has made a solid transition to the 140-pound division. Crawford (28-0, 20 KOs) now strives for the stardom reached by Mayweather and Pacquiao.

“This is a very big fight for me at a very critical time of my career,” said Crawford, whose notable win was a knockout over Miami resident and previously unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa two years ago.

“This fight is more meaningful than the Gamboa fight, at the moment, because this fight can take me to that next level that I’m on right now.”

A native of Russia, Postol (28-0, 12 KOs) ascended to the division’s elite after his knockout win over Lucas Matthysse for a vacant super-lightweight belt last October.

Prior to facing Postol, Matthysse was considered one of boxing’s feared knockout punchers as evidenced by his stoppage victories over Lamont Peterson and John Molina. Postol considers his performance against Matthysse, given Matthysse’s previous accomplishments, as a motivator for the bout against Crawford.

“I think that will make this a very aggressive and exciting fight,” Postol said. “It may go from a chess match to a brawl and back.”

Wilder retains belt

Deontay Wilder retained his WBC heavyweight title after Chris Arreola failed to answer the bell for the ninth round of their bout Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama.

Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) has four successful defenses of the belt he won in Jan. 2015.

Rigondeaux wins

Miami resident Guillermo Rigondeaux scored a technical knockout win over James Dickens when Dickens failed to answer the bell for the third round of their super-bantamweight title bout Saturday in Wales.

Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) retained his WBA belt with the victory.

Coming up

▪ Thursday (8 p.m., ESPN): Sergiy Derevyanchenko vs. Sam Soliman, 12, middleweights.

▪ Friday (10 p.m., Showtime): Adam Lopez vs. Roman Reynoso, 10, super-bantamweights.

▪ Saturday (9 p.m., pay-per-view): Terence Crawford vs. Viktor Postol for the unified WBC and WBO super-lightweight titles.