MACAU - For a matchup that critics loudly have decried as unworthy of a pay-per-view event, the stakes will be enormous for Manny Pacquiao and Greenlawn's Chris Algieri when they step into the ring just after noon Sunday at the Venetian Macao (11:15 p.m. ET Saturday). Beyond Pacquiao's WBO welterweight title belt, the future of the sport could change dramatically.
Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) must win to prolong the dream of finally making the ultimate match against undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr., which Top Rank promoter Bob Arum insists could happen next year. A monumental upset by Algieri (20-0, eight KOs) would catapult him to sudden stardom as the handsome new face of boxing and open the door to a world of commercial opportunities.
There have been indications that Showtime, which has Mayweather under contract, and HBO, which has Pacquiao, have talked about a framework for a joint pay-per-view arrangement that could lead to a long-awaited match between boxing's biggest stars. Skeptics abound, but Arum insists the door is ajar.
"It still is big enough so that they're talking about doing three million homes in the United States, doing big pay-per-view around the world," Arum said. "It's still a huge, huge fight . . . Three million homes could be $250 million."
There have been so many false starts that some liken the current claims of progress to the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." Given Mayweather's demonstrated reluctance to risk his undefeated record, it might not matter if Showtime, HBO and the promoters can reach an agreement.
"If Pacquiao wins and then the Mayweather fight still doesn't happen," Arum said, "I would feel I had failed as a promoter. Even though it takes two to rumble, I will, in history, be one of those blamed for the fight not happening."
Who would Arum blame? "Mayweather," he said.
If Pacquiao loses to Algieri and blows a shot at his piece of a $250-million pie, Arum said, "That's boxing. I have a rematch with Algieri. Pay-per-view would be even stronger than for this fight.
"It's not the same as a Mayweather fight, but it's still OK. I'm not going to go hungry."
Algieri is receiving about $1.7 million compared with Pacquiao's $25 million, and a victory would drive up his price dramatically for a rematch.
According to the deal Algieri promoter Joe DeGuardia had with Arum, Algieri was to retain his WBO light-welterweight title win or lose. But the WBO has said Algieri will be stripped as soon as the Pacquiao fight begins, leaving the 140-pound title vacant.
DeGuardia still is trying to convince the WBO there is ample precedent to allow Algieri to fight for the 147-pound title and then decide within 10 days which to keep if he wins. If he's unsuccessful, DeGuardia told Newsday he's prepared to take the matter to court.
Arum doesn't expect the WBO ruling to be resolved before the fight, but if Algieri loses to Pacquiao, Arum said he will advocate to the WBO that it allow Algieri to remain as light-welterweight champion and fight a mandatory defense against Terence Crawford, who is promoted by Arum.
"That's exactly my position," Arum said.
Should Algieri pull off the upset, Arum said his good looks, character and articulate nature will be coveted by marketers. "Will he get tremendous sponsorship offers?" Arum said. "You better believe it."