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One of them is a wild, gritty, scruffy-looking Filipino, who has been hailed as the best “pound-for-pound” fighter in the world. He is the first boxer to win titles in seven different weight classes and became famous for his thunderous left-hook that knocked Ricky Hatton not only unconscious at the time, but possibly out of boxing for life. He is a congressman in his native Phillipine Islands, started his own political party in the country called the People’s Champ Movement, has released two studio albums, three singles and four music videos. He became a professional boxer as a 14-year-old to earn a living (he had been sleeping on the streets in the Philippine slums for years after running away from home when his father ate his dog amidst an argument).
The other is a flashy, cocky, showman who has given himself nicknames that include “Money,” “Pretty Boy,” and the “Pay Per View King.” He has also been hailed as the best “pound-for-pound” fighter in the world. He is only the second fighter ever to go an entire round without being hit and won the highest-grossing boxing match of all time in a controversial bout with Oscar De La Hoya. He has starred in his own television shows on HBO to build attention for his fights, has appeared on the WWE, Dancing with the Stars, and, lately, has been seen in Forbes magazine more than in the ring.
And, at this point, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao still haven’t fought.
ESPN’s Dan Rafael broke down the recent pacification of the boxing game in his blog, which goes deeper than just Pacquiao/Mayweather. But with two big names who seemingly refuse to fight, is the boxing game missing out on a big opportunity to be launched back into the mainstream sports scene?
Since the Great Depression, boxing has thrived off of rivalries and the anticipation over two big names ready to clash. From the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling fights filled with racist/Nazi undertones, to the Thrilla in Manilla pitting sworn enemies Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier against each other, and even to boxing’s first cannibalism when Mike Tyson shook up the sports world by chomping on Evander Holyfield’s ear, history shows sports fans will tune in when there are two clashing personalities going at it.
But, with the spectacle that modern sports has become, Mayweather and Pacquiao have found every reason not to fight. First there was Mayweather’s retirement, then demands for drug testing, and now, well, “no talks took place.” Boxing fans aren’t even getting an excuse out of either side this time. While representatives from either side continue to bicker over who is backing out this time, all we know for sure is that another supposed date for the two to meet has been cancelled.
At the same time, the younger markets continue to ignore boxing and tune into UFC. The past decade has seen the retirements of Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, the depressing aging effects upon Oscar De La Hoya and the commercialization of Mike Tyson. Mayweather and Pacquiao have each had a couple of interesting fights (Mayweather/De La Hoya, Pacquiao/Hatton and Cotto), but mostly they’ve had to rely on their television, music and government news to get a mention on Sportscenter.
Meanwhile, Chuck Lidell, Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar are becoming household names.
So, with this week bringing the most recent in a two-year series of disappointments between Mayweather and Pacquiao, boxing seems to be missing out on an opportunity to pick itself up from its currently obscure status. Setting aside all of the negotiations, speculation, drug-allegations and general nonsense, an actual fight between these two might have the potential to break Mayweather’s previous revenue record against De La Hoya. Come to think of it, maybe these two are marketing masterminds, setting up ridiculous allegations and creating years of anticipation for the day they finally do fight, in which people will tune in just to see what has been put off for so many years.
Either way, it’s just embarrassing, and sports fans don’t deserve it. If we are expected to view boxing as a legitimate sport, it can’t have two alleged best “pound-for-pound” fighters in the world. As Cal Naughton Jr. said it: you can’t have two number one’s, that makes 11.
We need a champ. We need a reason to watch. In order for either one of those things to happen, they need to drop the microphones, pick up their gloves, and man up for their sport.