UNTIL last year, every Manny Pacquiao fight is an event in his homeland, with his adoring countrymen either flocking to cinemas or free public screenings or staying at home, making sure not to miss the fight. Manila's streets are consequently clear and the crime rate down.
Times appear to be changin'.
Days before Pacquiao's third fight with Timothy Bradley, the buzz, obviously, isn't the same. Bars and restaurants offering viewing parties for the bout have gone down and demand for tickets to live cinema screenings, which used to be cleaned up in hours, is lukewarm at best.
The difference is not lost on veteran boxing analyst and SPIN.ph columnist Ed Tolentino.
“When Pacman becomes just another man, the atmosphere this time is subdued," Tolentino said. "It’s like Elvis Presley making his final appearance sans the usual thunderous ovation.”
A check done by SPIN.ph on the availability of tickets for the fight in two of the country's biggest cinema chains, SM Cinema and Robinsons Movieworld, showed not much movement on their respective online selling sites.
Prices, depending on the branch, have apparently gone down. Most theaters charge P500 while some tickets go for P400 like in SM North Edsa and in some Robinson cinemas. SM Cinema charges an additional P20 as a 'convenience fee.'
As of Wednesday, a check on the SM Cinema website revealed an average of 24 paid reservations online in 30 theaters nationwide. Even if you add house seats and reserved seating to the mix, the average only goes up to a measly 62 paying customers.
The largest numbers are in SM Manila (195), Megamall (194) and Southmall (172).
Robinsons Movieworld numbers aren't any better for the Pambansang Kamao where an average of only 10 persons have made reservations in 22 theaters so far.
Four cinemas, notably in General Santos City where the Sarangani congressman is based, even have no reservations yet, but this is probably due to free PPVs in selected venues open to his constituents. The largest number of reservations are in Robinsons Ortigas with 62.
Meanwhile, restaurants that once bandied the much heralded Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight are equally quiet. Several establishments that advertised viewing parties online and in-store of past Pacquiao fights have also gone quiet in promoting or even showing Pacman's latest bout.
Tolentino noted two major factors in the declining interest in what is being billed as Pacquiao’s farewell match: the controversy that followed the boxing icon's comments on same sex marriage and the choice of Bradley as his opponent.
"Pacman’s popularity took a hit with his anti-gay slur and the choice of Bradley (as his next opponent),” said Tolentino.
“(Bradley’s selection) left a sour taste in the mouth. Bradley is good no doubt, but there are other more worthy foes. People think Bradley was specifically chosen as a safe foe since his punches can’t topple sand castles,” explained the longtime boxing observer.
As for the fight being Pacquiao’s swan song?
“Nobody is buying the retirement angle,” said Tolentino. “Gracious exits are very rare in boxing. In most cases, they fight too long, succumbing to the ‘one fight too many’ syndrome. Pacman is in a perfect position to break the trend. That is if he can keep the retirement vow."