by Paul Magno
The cure for almost everything negative in Boxing is exposure. With more people watching and with the “legit” press keeping a keen eye on the goings on, some of the shadier aspects of the sport would simply cease to exist. As it is now, treated as a fringe sport and relegated to the sports section, behind high school baseball, the scoundrels call the shots and can pretty much do anything their dark hearts desire.
The ideal road for Boxing to get back into the mainstream is for it to return to free, network TV, but with the way the sport’s currently structured, that would be an impossibility. The premium cable channels like HBO and Showtime have exclusive deals with the bigger fighters and the promoters have adapted the “pay per view mindset” of wanting to pocket quick cash from the sport’s most loyal fans.
So, the best road to mainstream respectability for Boxing would be to fight its way back into the same level as other major sports like baseball, football and basketball. Smart, quality match-ups and aggressive promotion are the keys to getting Boxing some face time on Sportscenter and back on your local TV news’ sports report.
Here are 5 bouts that would help get the sport back into the nation’s collective unconscious:
Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao: This is a no-brainer. With Oscar De la Hoya out of the picture, Mayweather and Pacquiao represent the two biggest draws in the sport. Aside from the obvious pound-for-pound angle of the sport’s two best getting it on, the lead-in publicity would be insane. Mayweather plays his role as a new era Hip-Hop bad guy to perfection while Pacquiao has the “quiet warrior” act down pat. The contrast in personalities and the inherent skill level involved in this contest would be undeniably appealing to everyone in the sporting press.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Vitali Klitschko: Imagine the pathos of a “Brother vs. Brother” Heavyweight Title Unification bout? Even the most avid anti-Boxing producer on Sportscenter would have to give this bout its proper attention. This would be the type of event that would draw the attention of both fans and non-fans alike and, while most of the publicity around this bout would surely be negative, it would absolutely bring the sport of Boxing back into the realm of current events. This fight has zero possibility of happening since both brothers have flatly stated that they would never fight one another, but it would definitely provide a boost for the lagging Heavyweight division as well as for the sport itself.
Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones Jr. II: A lot has changed since these two first-ballot Hall of Famers first fought back in 1993. While a blazing Jones solidly defeated a tentative Hopkins 16 years ago, the shoe is most definitely on the other foot now as a 40-year old Jones has been relegated to the spot of a fringe fighter while the 44-year old B-Hop is still classified as a Top 10 Pound-for-Pound fighter. Jones is currently close to signing a fight with Jeff Lacy and Hopkins has most recently been rumored in negotiations with Cruiserweight champ Tomasz Adamek and Super Middleweight titlist, Carl Froch. However, the only truly big fight remaining for either fighter is a rematch of their 1993 encounter. Neither Jones nor Hopkins will find any opponent more marketable than one another. Given their ages and the relative weak shape of the Light Heavyweight division, this is the only fight that makes sense for either…and probably the only chance either has at PPV success. A smart promoter, though, would forego the immediate pay-out of PPV and opt to try and put this battle of the legends on free TV. The fight itself isn’t likely to make waves or win over new fans, but the publicity and realtive importance of this match-up would push it into the public eye.
Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito II: After Margarito’s one year suspension is up, the hype could begin, even with the foul taste of Margarito’s plaster-coated handwrap controversy still fresh in the mouths of fans. In Boxing, popularity and notoriety are two offspring of the same twisted and distorted creature. But this one would have it all…Of course, the heated Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry would be in effect, but more importantly, the universal concept of redemption would be in play. Cotto would be seeking redemption from his previous loss to Margarito; A loss that he feels was unjustified since Margarito may have been using illegally-loaded handwraps to beat him down. Margarito would be looking for his own redemption by proving to the world that he is indeed a world class Welterweight without having to resort to underhanded tactics. Imagine the intrigue and drama of a camera tightly focused on Margarito’s hands as they’re wrapped carefully for the world to see. The first bout sold over 500,000…this one would easily double that and it would earn a ton of mainstream press in the process.
Kelly Pavlik vs. Arthur Abraham: This one would be big, not for the bout itself, but for the fact that it could restore Kelly Pavlik to his previous position of money machine on the verge of mainstream popularity. Pavlik was knocked down several pegs when he was absolutely schooled and dominated by Bernard Hopkins last year, but there’s nothing better to restore the shine to a young, blue-collar, power-punching Middleweight champion than a thrilling win over a cocky European champion who calls himself “King.” A win over “King” Arthur Abraham puts Pavlik back into the Americana stereotype of humble underdog athletes fighting their ways to the top.
Could also Bring on Mainstream Attention:
Oscar De la Hoya vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: Oscar is supposedly retired, but so was Mayweather. This one would be an easy sell for so many reasons.
Ricky Hatton vs. Amir Khan: Should Khan get by Andreas Kotelnik for the WBA Jr. Welterweight title, we’d have the perfect UK encounter of a beloved ex-champ (Hatton) against the next big thing (Khan).
Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Israel Vazquez: Mexico vs. Puerto Rico, Old Warrior vs. Young Warrior…If Vazquez isn’t totally burnt out after the Marquez Trilogy, this will be the type of war that will be revered for generations to come.
David Haye Comes to America: If Haye gets by both Klitschko brothers to become a 3-belt Heavyweight champ, his arrival in America would be huge. The United States has been thirsty for a trash-talking, flashy big man for the longest time. Haye could definitely be what American fight fans need.