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Manny Pacquiao vs Jeff Horn on ESPN: Why it might be a clever move

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Boxing legend and WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao will face Aussie Jeff Horn in the main event of a fight card that will be broadcast live on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET on July 1, stateside.

(Image courtesy of ESPN)

The fight, of course, will take place in Brisbane, Australia on Sunday afternoon July 2 for those living 'Down Under' and in the Philippines.

"Manny Pacquiao has been one of the biggest global sports stars of his era, setting attendance and pay-per-view records for over the past decade," Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN.

"Now, as he defends his world title in front of yet another anticipated record crowd, he will be doing it to his biggest U.S. television audience on the world's biggest and most prestigious sports network, ESPN. To have ESPN, which has treated its viewers to NFL, [the] College Football Playoff and NBA playoff games, add Manny's title fight to its roster is the biggest compliment one can give to Manny's star power and a great gift to sports fans."

Calling the fight:
Joe Tessitore, Teddy Atlas and elite-level former Pacquiao rival Timothy Bradley.

"We are excited that ESPN will air this fight throughout the U.S. in both English and Spanish, Top Rank head Bob Arum told ESPN."

"It's going to be an unbelievable event."

Brilliant. This is exactly what boxing - and Manny Pacquiao - needs.

Pacquiao vs Horn News
Date: July 1, 2017 (U.S.)
Broadcast: ESPN
Venue: Suncorp Stadium 
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Division: Welterweight
Title: WBO
Champion: Manny Pacquiao

How it could help Manny

Free Cable TV = Added Exposure
Showcasing the fight legend on ESPN in the U.S. will give Pacquiao much-needed exposure and an opportunity to vindicate himself following his loss to Floyd Mayweather in May 2015 - a bout casual fans found disappointing, especially after Manny's shoulder injury relevation.

Pacquiao's stock has dropped in America since that fight. His April 2016 HBO PPV, a rubber match with rival Tim Bradley, was a box office flop as was his most recent title defense against Jessie Vargas, a bout HBO refused to purchase.

Manny's fighting on ESPN will force mainstream news outlets, including ESPN of course, to give PacMan much-needed ink despite the fact he's facing an obscure opponent.

And if Manny shines against Horn, the added exposure might lift his stock and boost casual fans' interest in PacMan's future bouts.

Why it benefits fans
Given that boxing fans are more blue collar than average, they cannot afford to pay for a lot of $50-$70 pay-per-view cards so fans who had planned to purchase Pacquiao vs Horn might be more likely to treat themselves to a PPV later this year.

Also, with the advent of illegal streams, social media and YouTube, today, fans have so many options as it relates to retrieving fight footage and overall coverage. 

Bottom line:
There are two types of appealing fight cards, the ones they'll pay for and ones they'll (unfortunately) watch via an illegal stream or on YouTube a few days later. And although a lot of American fight fans are interested in Pacquiao vs Horn, it's not a card many would pay for.

Given the fight is on TV, fans who wouldn't have purchased it will be treated to the live event without having to search for one of those absurdly low-quality streaming links or look for the fight on YouTube well after they know the result.

Why it might be rewarding for boxing
Sure, Keith Thurman, Deontay Wilder and Adrien have recently fought live on free TV, but when was the last time a mainstream sports legend like Manny Pacquiao was featured on live on basic cable?

Showing a fighter of Pacquiao's prominence on free TV is a step in the right direction for the overall health of the sport because it might generate a jolt with an otherwise unaware audience.

Since the early 1990s, big-time boxing in the U.S. has ditched the free airwaves for the financial spoils of pay-per-views and broadcasts on paid cable stations such as HBO and Showtime. While that move has made a lot of people wealthy, it has also relegated boxing to a niche sport in America.

Top Rank

Manny's promoter, Top Rank, might lose money on this one but it might be a worthwhile investment in the long run for the aforementioned reasons.

More details
ESPN's coverage of "The Battle of Brisbane" will begin June 30 with live SportsCenter coverage of the Pacquiao-Horn weigh-in during the 7 p.m. ET telecast. Also, during the week of June 26, there will be several classic Pacquiao fights -- Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez III and Bradley II -- available on demand and streaming via the ESPN App.

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