Tuesday, November 1, 2011

24/7 pitch for Pacquiao-Marquez

SACRAMENTO, California—Cloaked as a fast-paced documentary, it is a provocative and powerful marketing tool.

HBO’s award-winning 24/7 series continues Saturday night here with its second episode on the intense regimens of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez as they prepare for their third bout at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas on Nov. 12.

To the uninitiated, “24/7 Pacquiao-Marquez 3” is promotion beyond recognition. To regular HBO viewers, it is a fight teaser of excellent quality.

Produced as part reality show, part soap opera and part travelogue, “24/7 Pacquiao-Marquez 3” keeps the audience piqued with interest while shadowing both fighters in and out of the ring, at home and at training camp leading up to the fight. It stands out as a major vehicle in the cable giant’s multiplatform drive to lure pay-per-view customers to buy the rubber match between the two ring greats.

This is Pacman’s fifth appearance on “24/7” and the second for Marquez on the series.

To boost HBO’s marketing blueprint, both fighters have taken time out from their hard grind to accommodate the mainstream media. Almost always, questions from reporters share a common thread: Beyond the judges’ verdicts, who actually won the first two fights?

The first Pacquiao-Marquez matchup in 2004 ended in a draw; the second in 2008 went Pacquiao’s way via split decision. Each boxer has claimed victory over the other, with Marquez adamantly insisting he won both and getting the goat of the usually cool Pacman.

“24/7 Pacquiao-Marquez 3” thrives on this conflict. HBO hopes diehard and borderline boxing fans would remain titillated to eventually shell out $54.95 a pop to watch Manny (53-3-2, 38 KOs) and Juan Ma (53-5-1, 30 KOs) duke it out to end all the doubts.

As the drumbeat for the fight continues, two more installments of the behind-the-scenes series with the ability to manufacture a ring star, are scheduled in the next two weeks. The idea is to paint Marquez as the fighter who could topple Pacquiao, boxing’s only eight-division world titlist, from the top.

After the sport inflicted three black eyes on itself recently, it will be interesting to see if a sustained marketing offensive 24/7 is enough to make “Pacquiao-Marquez 3” a PPV mega hit, eclipsing his two previous fights and the welterweight fiasco between his rival Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz.

Ever the happy warrior, Pacquiao himself has played salesman for his blockbuster bouts, making everyone know his fight is coming.

But with a red-hot motivation to defeat Marquez convincingly, the usually easy-going fighting Filipino congressman seems to have gone astray from his Los Angeles social engagements to focus on pre-dawn morning runs, lengthy gym workouts and sparring with a steady stream of tough fighters.

During normal times, he would be lighting up a Filipino American event with his band, or simply jamming with it.

And the Pacman still has to appear where he feels at home hanging out and singing with Hollywood celebrities—the Jimmy Kimmel Show on late night television.

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