KUALA LUMPUR–For a country such as Malaysia, which doesn’t list boxing as a top sport, a relentless effort to promote a fight is a must.
A few days before Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring and challenges defending world welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse of Argentina, local journalists feel more could have been done to spread word about it.
New Straits Times sports journalist Farah Azharie said not many Malaysians know about the Pacquiao-Matthysse fight to be held Axiata Stadium here on Sunday.
“There wasn’t so much promotions done,” Azharie told ABS-CBN News. “It’s not creating a buzz, because you don’t see [promotions] anywhere.”
While Azharie agreed the Pacquiao fight will be the biggest since Muhammad Ali faced Joe Bugner in 1975, she said the weekend world-title bout hasn’t gained traction in the Malaysian community.
Azharie underscored how good Malaysians are in promoting sporting events, a recent example of which includes the Southeast Asian Games last year.
“We do very good sports promotion in Malaysia. We do TV ads, newspaper ads, online ads, and even on billboards when we were promoting the SEA Games last year. Our promotion was massive. We should’ve seen something like that in the Manny Pacquiao [fight] but we didn’t,” Azharie said.
Chris Mohan of Malay Mail echoed Azharie’s sentiments on the forthcoming boxing match, stressing that the promotional team of the event could have done better.
According to him, months after the press conference and the announcement of the fight early this year, nothing was done immediately to advertise the event.
“For the fight, the promotion [is] pretty bad. Not much advertisements going on the street, so it was like no one knows what’s going on until the ticket sales were announced in May. That’s when the time people knew there is a fight,” Mohan bared to ABS-CBN News.
Azharie and Mohan both said Pacquiao is popular in Malaysia, especially in a country that hasn’t had a boxer of his caliber yet.
“Promotion wise, it hasn’t really done well. But Malaysians are huge fans of Manny Pacquaio. Everyone knows Manny Pacquiao,” Mohan said.
-Malaysia as a football nation-
Besides a lack of promotion, the two Malaysian journalists also questioned the timing of the fight.
Azharie said the country’s top sports are football, badminton and sepak takraw, while Mohan added that mixed martial arts (MMA) have started to attract more viewership than boxing in Malaysia.
The ongoing FIFA World Cup could be a big factor, according to Azharie, for the lack of attention being given to the Pacquiao fight. Fight day coincides with the World Cup final on Sunday, although that happens late night and the fight is scheduled around noon.
“You will get the coverage you need [for Manny Pacquiao] but you will not have such a big space like you normally expect if the World Cup is happening,” Azharie stressed.
Mohan said the pay-per-view TV in Malaysia for the fight may not be as lucrative since most of the bigger contracts might have been granted for World Cup coverage.
He also mentioned the ONE Championship event at Axiata on Friday as possibly gobbling up interest beforehand.
-Ticket prices expensive for Malaysians-
Convincing Malaysians to spend for the tickets to the fight is another tricky proposition.
Tickets for the match range from 400 to 20,000 Malaysian Ringgit (RM) or P6,000 to P260,000.
Azharie said RM400, the price of the farthest seats, is already expensive for locals, whose average monthly income is RM2,000.
“It is a big chunk, so a lot of them will be supporting through television,” Mohan said.
Mohan is also not keen on seeing a Las Vegas-like atmosphere in Kuala Lumpur on fight day, saying Pacquiao’s opponent, Matthysse, is not popular.
“I think, it will never have the same hype like in Las Vegas. I'm not putting Pacquiao downward, but he is already 39 years old. But if he came about 6 years earlier and fought the likes of Ricky Hatton then, it will be (big)," Mohan said, adding that the boxing community in the country is familiar with Matthysse.
– A possible birth of boxing consciousness –
Despite the lack of promotions, pricey tickets and competing with the World Cup, the hope is the Pacquiao fight would make more people aware of boxing here.
“It’s nice that they chose Malaysia for the fight, because we have 2 fighters in the undercard,” Azharie said. “It gives our fighters the chance to be featured in a big event like this. To have the fight in KL, I hope people come out to see and be aware.”
“I’m just hoping this will be the birth of boxing in Malaysia,” Mohan said. “Just like in the Philippines, we really love our combat sports although we don't have really much good fighters yet.”
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