Can Boxing's upswing outlast Mayweather and Pacquiao?

10/12/2009 13:07

(AP Photo)

Over the past few months, boxing has undergone a revival of sorts, with several big cards, more big fights to come and some of the competition struggling.

The latest big fight, perhaps even the biggest in history, was announced last week (I think we're all on the same page here about which fight I'm referring to), and will likely set an all time pay per view record which won't be broken anytime soon.

On top of that, tournaments like the super six, where champions and top fighters are facing off, has sparked a lot of interest in former fans tired of the ABC titles and paper champions. There is also a more marketable heavyweight  on the scene at last, with the crowning of David Haye. Sure he isn't American (the biggest market for heavies), but British is close enough and he has the charisma and talent to sell more than the recent slew of rather stoic and flavorless Eastern European champions that have emerged in the past few years.

Who can generate this after Pacquiao retires? (AP Photo)

The biggest draws in boxing at the moment are undoubtedly Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Their respective fights are the only ones that promoters can guarantee will be in the top ten pay per view events of each year.

Before them was Oscar De La Hoya, who was arguably an even bigger star, and certainly a bigger seller. A couple of years ago there was also Ricky Hatton, who could sell a million in Britain alone, and in a couple of years Amir Khan promises to be a future star.

At the same time we have the Klitschko brothers dominance over the heavyweight scene, effectively shutting down the U.S market for the bigger fighters while selling out certain parts of Europe.They will probably both be retired soon enough, but there isn't exactly a burgeoning talent pool waiting to take over where they leave off other than the aforementioned Haye.

While there are always big stars in boxing, after Mayweather vs. Pacquiao goes down, I can't help but feel boxing, in terms of being a big sport, will have exhausted all of its star power for the moment. Sure there are always fights for the hardcore fans to watch, but the heavily avoided Paul Williams, the aging greats like Jones Jr. or Bernard Hopkins and the like aren't going to sell out a phone booth amongst the casual fans who only get excited for a big fight. All things are cyclical of coure, and in a few years boxing will pick up again, but it might struggle for a few years in the mean time.

UFC mouthpiece Dana White (AP Photo)

Another factor in Boxings resurgence of late is the fact that they have been facing more and more competition for the fans money. Boxing isn't the only game in town anymore, with MMA, and in particular the UFC becoming more and more popular.

Of the top ten pay per views of the last few years, generally the majority are now MMA cards rather than boxing. There are still some of the bigger boxing cards in there of course, but only the big sellers are now sure to break the top ten.

The fact that the fans have another option has forced boxing to put together more interesting fights, better undercards and to try new things. The super six boxing classic for example, or the mega fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather might not have happened ten years ago. The reason being promoters could keep two big sellers indefinately and make money through them with no viable competition. These days the biggest fights need to be made to ensure the events draw a lot of buys.

The real test will come after Pacquiao and Mayweather have fought, and the promoters are forced to look for new stars to draw in the fans. Whether they will revert to type and boxing will enter another dark age, or whether the promoters can put aside their petty squabbling and money grubbing will determine the next age in the sport. Lastly there are new promoters to be considered, with many of the old guard being at the tail end of their promoting careers, Bob Arum and Don King for example are both 78, Gary Shaw 65, Frank Warren 57. The younger blood of the promotion game such as Golden Boy will have to be careful not to repeat the mistakes of their colleagues if they want to continue to count the millions like most people add up the change in their pockets.