Manny Pacquiao Rejects Fight Offer For April ESPN Card, What Is Top Rank's Backup Plan?

The April 14 ESPN PPV card just got dealt a major blow as Pacquiao has rejected Arum’s proposed fight of Pacquiao vs. Mike Alvarado to serve as the co-feature of the Terence Crawford vs. Jeff Horn fight.

According to Aquiles Zonio, Pacquiao's media relations officer, in a message to ESPN5's Lyn Olavario, Pacquiao said he's not willing to fight Alvarado and this his sights are set on a possible rematch with Horn.

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"No he's not fighting Alvarado. He rejected Bob Arum's offer to fight [in the] undercard of the Crawford-Horn fight. It's an insult to him. The world knew who won that dirty fight in Brisbane. It was the biggest broad-daylight boxing heist," Zonio said.

The Brisbane fight referenced in the message is the highly controversial fight between Pacquiao and Horn last summer that saw Pacquiao lose the WBO welterweight title to Horn in a questionable decision win for Horn.

Pacquiao has been trying to get a rematch and one was planned for November, but the fight fell through because of a scheduling conflict with his other job as a senator in the Philippines. Horn then had to defend his title against Gary Corcoran with a knockout in the 11th round in December in Australia. That fight was aired in the early morning in December on ESPN, of which viewership was surprisingly decent given the timeslot and lack of any marquee names outside of Horn. So what does Pacquiao's absence from the April 14 card mean for the network and for Top Rank? 

With Pacquiao out, Arum will now look to IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas to fill the void on the undercard. Ancajas, who defended his title just last month with a TKO win over Israel Gonzalez, would likely face mandatory No. 1 challenger Jonas Sultan of the Philippines. It would be the first world title bout between boxers from the Philippines in 93 years.

With no Pacquiao fighting on the undercard, it would make no business sense to continue the April 14 card as a pay-per-view. As impressive as Crawford is, he is no pay-per-view main event boxer. Crawford’s role is to be the top television fighter for a network and promotional company. That experiment failed when HBO put Crawford as a pay-per-view headliner when he fought Viktor Postol in 2016 and only managed to do less than 100,000 buys, by far, the worst HBO pay-per-view buyrate in the network’s history.

The Pacquiao-Top Rank situation is nothing new and there had been disagreements between both sides for the past year. When it was announced that Horn would be Pacquiao’s opponent last year, Pacquiao then tried to make a fight deal against Amir Khan and have the fight possibly take place in the Middle East. When Top Rank got wind of that, they immediately shut down the possibility of Pacquiao vs. Khan happening. A similar situation happened in the last couple of weeks, when Pacquiao said he wants to fight WBA “regular” welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse (and the feeling’s mutual), but Arum shut down talks of Pacquiao vs. Matthysse happening in April.

The plan was always to put the winner of the WBO title fight in April against Pacquiao, likely on pay-per-view sometime in the fall, presumably October or November. Pacquiao against either Horn or Crawford would be a big time fight for ESPN, which is desperately trying to improve its ratings situation with two below average viewership numbers on Top Rank Boxing telecasts this year. Losing Pacquiao on what should have been one of the bigger pay-per-view events of 2018 would drastically hurt buyrate numbers. In fact, don’t be surprised that if Pacquiao’s absence means the pay-per-view would get downgraded to a live telecast on ESPN.

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