We could continue discussing the sordid details of Saturday’s Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight and break it down punch-by-punch, hug-by-hug, but at this point there’s not much we can add that hasn’t been said already.
Your voices have been heard loud and clear.
The fight sucked, Floyd’s a coward, Manny’s a washed-up pygmy, Floyd’s a runner, Floyd’s yellow, Jamie Foxx can’t sing, yada, yada, yada, topped with the most common refrain of them all, “I paid $100 dollars for that?”
We’d be better off investing our time and energy into answering the most important question in the aftermath of Saturday’s ballyhooed Fight of the Century, which is what will boxing do when “Money” Mayweather finally decides to retire. That day figures to come sooner rather than later – September, to be exact, according to the man himself – though there are now rumors of Mayweather agreeing to a potential rematch in 2016 if and when Pacquaio recovers from his upcoming shoulder surgery.
In any event, the sport of boxing and the bigwigs at HBO and Showtime need to start planning ahead, much like the New England Patriots did last year when they drafted Jimmy Garoppolo as a potential successor to all-word quarterback Tom Brady. Once Mayweather is gone, the cupboard will be considerably bare in terms of who fans – both casual and hardcore – will pay to see as a headliner on a major Pay Per View card.
The popular name being thrown around is middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin, more commonly known as GGG. At 32-0 with 29 knockouts, including 19 in a row since 2008, the 33-year-old slugger from Kazakhstan has everything you’d want in a future TV star from his million-dollar smile to his eye-popping knockout power.
He’s the anti-Mayweather. He won’t dance, clinch, hug or potshot his way to victory. He comes to finish the job and often does just that, as evident by his impressive knockout percentage.
But boxing doesn’t need to sell itself to international fans. The sport is dying on U.S. soil because the lure of million-dollar dreams and endless opportunities has drawn our youth away from boxing gyms and onto other fields of play, whether it’s basketball courts or the gridiron. Former HBO commentator Larry Merchant once said all the great American heavyweights are playing linebacker.
The amateur system in the United States is in complete disarray. The Kazakhs, Ukrainians and even the Chinese are far more advanced, consistently feeding the sport with promising, championship-level prospects off the proverbial assembly line.
Vasyl Lomachenko, who fought on the Mayweather-Pacquiao undercard, is a glaring example of why we’re choking on everyone else’s exhaust fumes. Five fights into his professional career, the 27-year-old Ukrainian southpaw is already a three-time defending world champion. He fought 397 amateur fights, something our young fighters don’t have the patience or discipline to do. The lack of national pride and the similar lack of interest in the Olympics has driven our amateurs to value fives, tens and twenties more than golds, silvers and bronzes.
But boxing is alive and well internationally, hence why The O2 Arena in London and the Manchester Arena are among the world’s busiest venues, each selling more than one million tickets per year. In New Jersey, Polish Americans used to fill the 19,000-seat Prudential Center to capacity to watch fellow countryman Tomasz Adamek at the height of his popularity.
For years, pundits have told us boxing needs a great American heavyweight, a new Mike Tyson to dethrone the Klitchkos, bring the world title back to the United States and draw casual fans back to the sport.
We’ll soon find out whether or not it’s true because we actually have an American heavyweight champion to test that theory. In fact, we’ve had one since January. Alabama-born Deontay Wilder captured the vacant WBC heavyweight championship four months ago in a win over Bermane Stiverne, becoming the first American title-holder in the heavyweight division since Shannon Briggs in 2006.
Wilder’s undefeated at 33-0 with 32 wins by knockout, including 18 in the first round, and might just be the best American fighter casual fans have never heard of. More importantly, he might be just what this sport needs to remain relevant in the United States while subsequently washing the sour taste out of everyone’s mouths following the Mayweather-Pacquaio snoozefest.
The promotional push behind Wilder isn’t there yet, primarily because his historic win over Stiverne occurred four days after reports of Pacquiao agreeing to terms for the Superfight against Mayweather began to surface. The fanfare surrounding the much-hyped Fight of the Century naturally dominated the boxing landscape for the next five months, effectively putting Wilder’s achievements on the backburner.
We’ve been assured the awakening will occur soon. Wilder’s first title defense is scheduled for June 13th in Birmingham, possibly against journeyman challenger Eric Molina. He eventually wants to unify the heavyweight championship by challenging longtime world champion Wladimir Klitschko, who owns the WBA, WBO and IBF belts.
Whether a Klitschko-Wilder showdown – the next Superfight for American boxing fans – occurs anytime soon remains to be seen. Though it’s probably nothing more than a pipedream, Wilder defending his title on network television as part of Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions series would go a long way toward winning back the fans who turned off their TVs in disgust this past weekend.
For now, it’s the sport’s responsibility to make Wilder a household name and force boxing fans to make good on their promise. You’ve begged and pleaded for an American heavyweight to restore your faith in the sport. Now you’ve got one. It’s time to put up, or shut up.
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