LAS VEGAS (AFP) - The potential pay-per-view (PPV) television revenue for Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao's blockbuster welterweight showdown with Floyd Mayweather is so stratospheric that with just four days to go, an actual figure is impossible to predict.
Stephen Espinoza, vice-president and general manager of Showtime Sports, said interest in the bout is unprecedented to a degree that the usual markers for predicting the number of purchases and revenue just don't apply.
"Usually we get day by day updates of where the cable operators are in terms of their buys," Espinoza told AFP. "I can compare Wednesday to prior Wednesdays in prior pay-per-views.
"In general, that's fairly accurate. On this particular week, we're seeing numbers that have no precedent - so encouraging and so massive that you really can't extrapolate anything from them."
Certainly Pacquiao-Mayweather, a fight more than five years in the making between the top pound-for-pound fighters of their generation, will shatter the records for pay-per-view purchases and - at a price in most markets of about US$100 (S$130) for a high-definition version - crush the record for PPV revenue.
It's just a question of how much more the fight will garner than the record 2.48 million pay-per-view purchases for Mayweather's 2007 fight with Oscar De La Hoya and the record pay-per-view revenue of US$150 million set by Mayweather v Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in 2013.
"Do we think it's a record-breaker? Absolutely," Espinoza said. "Whether that's 2.7 million buys or 3.2 I think both are possible but there's no way to choose one or the other right now."
More than three million buys could spell revenue to the camps of the two fighters near US$200 million.
Television revenue is just one of the financial records the fight is set to break.
Anticipated live gate receipts of some US$70 million dwarf the previous record for a Nevada fight, the US$20 million for Mayweather-Alvarez.
Regardless of the outcome, each fighter could make more than US$100 million, with Mayweather saying this week he expects to pocket US$200 million.
The fight is one that boxing fans have craved for years - teased by the disintegration of talks in late 2009 and years of back-and-forth between the hostile camps ever since.
While the delay has purists grumbling that the bout comes too late, with each boxer past his prime, the will they-won't they narrative has added to the fight's crossover appeal.
"There is unquestionably a broader fan base that's attracted by this fight," Espinoza said. "Anecdotally we know this is attracting a lot of people who never ordered pay-per-view."
The pay-per-view revenue is also coming from a wider range of countries - with 13 international pay-per-view territories.
"You'd have to go back to the Mike Tyson days to get near that figure," Espinoza said, although he noted that back when Iron Mike loomed over the heavyweight landscape fewer countries even had the technology to distribute fights via pay-per-view.
The television production is a joint effort between rivals Showtime - which has a contract with Mayweather - and Pacquiao telecaster HBO.
Working out the rare deal between the two was just one of the hurdles to be overcome in making the fight, although such a joint effort is not unprecedented.
The model is similar to that used by the two networks in the 2002 fight between Lennox Lewis and Tyson.
NO FREE RIDES
Not surprisingly, Showtime and HBO are doing everything they can to protect their asset.
Showtime this week filed a federal lawsuit in California targeting boxinghd.net and sportship.org, claiming the two internet sites are advertising free streaming of the bout.
In court documents, Showtime notes that boxinghd.net's homepage touts, "If you can't afford to buy tickets then simply watch Mayweather vs Pacquiao here. We will provide nothing but the freshest and the most reliable high quality live links."
While the issue of online piracy is not limited to Saturday's mega-fight, Espinoza said the efforts to protect the bout are "a multiple of what we've done before."
He said the aims of the lawsuit are twofold.
"It's eliminating these very active piracy sites and it sends a message that we're very serious about it, we're going to continue to pursue this all the way through and after the night of the fight."