Macau long ago overtook Las Vegas as gambling's top location. Now it seems it's jockeying for position in the "sweet science," otherwise known as boxing.
This year, Macau is hosting a series of high-profile fights featuring Philippine superstar Manny Pacquiao and Zou Shiming, a former Chinese gold medalist and rising star. Titled "The Clash in Cotai", the November fight between Pacquiao and Brandon Rios will take place at the Venetian resort in Macau, following in line with American boxing usually taking place at casinos.
"I think there's a good match demographically between people who like to watch boxing and people who like to go to the table and shoot craps. And a high-profile brings a certain level of electricity," said Bill King, a senior writer for the Sports Business Journal.
Boxing is by no means the most popular sport in China, but the recent success of Shiming has given it popularity in the country.
"Boxing percolates in any country when a fighter has success," said King. "You see it in England with Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines, who took boxing from relative obscurity to top of the line."
King says that despite this rise, success could be fleeting if Chinese boxing fans become bored or no other home-grown boxers emerge on the international scene. Plus, the time of the live fight could be an issue for the Chinese market.
"The television money in the United States, and that's not changing any time soon," King said. "A fight in Macau has to be on in primetime in the United States, and when Pacquiao fights, it's going to be ten in the morning [in China]. That's fine for Pay-Per-View over here in the States, but does the resort in Macau want to consistently put big events on in the morning?"
The largest boxing purses are still in the United States, and this international trend could also just be part of promoter Bob Arum's plans. Arum is the CEO of Top Rank, a boxing promotion company who represents Pacquiao.
King believes Arum wants to leverage his fights abroad in order to get more money hosting fights at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. "With Macau, Bob can say 'we want somewhere else', but long-term I don't see fights there (Macau) becoming a thing."
Plus, a big feature of boxing overseas might not be quite as feasible in the States. A plan to stream the Pacquiao-Rios fight for $5 on hand-held devices in China wouldn't find the same success domestically.
"There's not an establish Pay-Per-View business in Asia, so streaming becomes the alternative," said King. "Why would you compete with yourself on hand-held devices when you're trying to sell the Pay Per View for $75? It doesn't make sense."