By Lamar Sparkman
Now that the biggest fight to be made in boxing (Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao) isn’t happening in the near future, it dawned on me what kind of year it has been for the sport. It began with the unfortunate cancellation of a welterweight showdown between WBA welterweight champ Shane Mosley (46-6 39 ko’s) and WBC welterweight champ Andre Berto (26-0 20 ko’s), a fight that was slated to air on HBO World Championship Boxing in January. Berto had family members that were impacted by the earthquake in Haiti so he understandably pulled out a few weeks before the fight to assist in the relief efforts. Little did we know it would be the start of what’s been a fairly disappointing year for the sport.
When talks broke down over drug testing for a mega fight between Floyd Mayweather (41-0 25 ko’s) and Manny Pacquiao (51-3-2 38 ko’s) they both looked for other opponents. Pacquiao faced Joshua Clottey in March and Floyd agreed to fight Mosley in May. Although both fights did well in pay-per-view buys neither fight came close to a consolation for a bout the world was anticipating. Clottey seemed reluctant to let his hands go and never seemed to have a sense of urgency ultimately losing a unanimous decision. Mosley’s bout with Mayweather wasn’t much better, he fought well for the first few rounds even hurting Floyd in the second but was thoroughly dominated for the rest of the fight.
HBO had a full spring schedule that looked like boxing was in a good place with compelling match-ups but all lacked the drama or excitement. There were cancellations, guys falling out the ring alas Kermit Cintron in his bout with Paul Williams in May, a few non competitive HBO boxing after darks, and promoters steering their young prospect fighters clear of any legitimate challenges. Other than the middleweight title fight between Kelly Pavlik and Sergio Martinez, the one bright spot for boxing in 2010 has been Showtimes Super Six World Boxing Classic, that tournament has produced a few exciting and intriguing match-ups pitting the best super middleweights squaring off against each other.
Now we’re in the middle of July with no mega fights on the horizon and the only fight to look forward to is a rematch between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz scheduled for July 31 HBO ppv. The first fight was a very entertaining back and forth affair with Marquez making adjustments in the middle rounds to score a 9th round knockout but the fight belongs on network TV not ppv. Pacquiao has a November 13th fight date but regardless of whom his opponent is it won’t compare to a Mayweather fight. Top Ranks Bob Arum stated he would attempt to make a fight with Antonio Margarito (38-6 27ko’s), which would possibly be in Mexico since he still hasn’t gotten his license reinstated to fight in the U.S. If that fight does happen I envision Pacquiao chopping him up like a meat grinder. Another option is a rematch with Miguel Cotto (35-2 28ko’s), who was badly beaten by Pacman in the first match, which was stopped in the 12th. It’s hard to imagine a different outcome even with hall of fame trainer Emanuel Steward in Cotto’s corner and for Top Rank to sell the fight otherwise would be disingenuous.
Mayweather has been quiet for the last few weeks but answered a few questions following a charity basketball game he coached in Miami over the weekend. When asked about the proposed mega bout he said, “I’m not really thinking about boxing right now, I’m just relaxing. I just fought 60 days ago, so I’m just enjoying myself, enjoying life, enjoying my family and enjoying my vacation.” It’s his right to take a break and he can decline all the fights he wants but he shouldn’t be the face of boxing either because he only fights once a year when he’s active and doesn’t seem willing to fight the best opponent with the most star power. If he came out of retirement to play this game he’s only part of boxing’s problems instead of the solution. For a sport that’s made him extremely wealthy (David Mayo of the Grand Rapids Press reported Mayweather made an estimated $60 million over the last 12 months) he shows his appreciation by thumbing his nose at the fans and the sport saying “I’m not interested in rushing to do anything” at a time when the sport is in need of a shot in the arm. I’m sure Mayweather fans will disagree with my assessment because they defend him regardless of his actions or whom he refuses to fight, in their eyes he does no wrong and the same can be said of Manny’s fans. At the end of the day both fighters and their camps are to blame because its inconceivable two sides can’t come together to make a fight of this magnitude.
At this point I even question why I love the sport, the more I peel back the layers I realize what a dirty business it can be. Making these big fights have become more difficult than it was for congress to pass healthcare reform. It’s ridiculous that two parties can’t agree to when and where to fight and how the purse will be split, sounds easy but they’ve made it extremely complex with a lot of red tape to cut through. It’s the promoters, managers, advisors, and even the cable networks that allow the dysfunction; egos and past feuds between managers and promoters prevent good fights from being made and the fans are the ones that pay. The problem is there’s nobody in control to police the sport, boxing could really use a Roger Goodell or David Stern.
We as fans bear some of the blame because we take what they sell us hook line and sinker throwing our money at every pay-per-view HBO or Top Rank throws our way. If we started rejecting what they’re selling and start supporting fighters who want to take challenges and fight the best competition out there it would be force the powers that be to change and make the fights fans want to see.
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