By Sean Crose
What’s going to happen to boxing after Floyd Mayweather stops dominating the sport? Even if he doesn’t stop fighting in 2015 – and I personally think he probably won’t – Floyd’s still going to fade away, sooner rather than later. Then what? Who will be there to pick up the baton?
This may all sound like silliness, but it isn’t. Boxing had a banner year in 2013. What’s more, 2014 is finally starting to look promising after a slow start. Still, boxing lives and dies on the backs of certain individuals. There’s always someone at the forefront of the sport, or at least there traditionally has been. With the absence of Floyd, however, boxing may find itself with a vacuum. And that’s not good.
Think about it, boxing has had a single premiere draw since the 70s. Ali gave way to Leonard. Then Leonard gave way to Tyson. Then Tyson gave way to De La Hoya. Then De La Hoya gave way to Mayweather. Who’s Mayweather going to give way to, though? It’s good to keep in mind that all previous heirs to the throne were well on their way to the top spot while the current king was still active. Ali, for instance, was still fighting when Leonard emerged onto the scene.
But who’s on the scene right now? Who’s the heir apparent? Canelo Alvarez? Sure, he’s good, but he’s yet to be proven great, that’s for sure. Adrien Broner? You’re kidding me, right? Golovkin and Kovalev, those terrors from the east? You might be on to something there…eventually. Still, Kathy Duva claimed she had a hard enough time getting a fighter from the former Soviet Bloc on HBO, much less on Pay Per View.
So who’s the next face of boxing? The truth is, the sport doesn’t have one. And that’s frightening, especially when so many future golden boys keep coming up short. Seriously, did ANYONE believe Danny Garcia won that fight in Puerto Rico a few nights ago?
Naturally, the idiot “cold war” that’s been raging for who knows how long now hasn’t been helping matters much, either. When there’s even a remote possibility that a rising star like Adonis Stevenson may not fight Sergey Kovalev simply because he’s gone over to the warm embrace of Al Haymon, something is rotten in Denmark. Even die hard fans tire of seeing top fighters battling tomato cans.
But this really isn’t about the die hard fans. It’s about the casual fans, the fans who once upon a time made boxing relevant. I know of no fans – of any sport – who would prefer it if that sport were marginalized rather than embraced by the mainstream. Those of us who remember when boxing was one of the top sports in the country, behind only football, baseball and basketball, long for the days when fights and fighters mattered to the nation as a whole. Wholesale acceptance might not seem important, but it is.
Take Ali-Frazier. Those fights weren’t just about the heavyweight division. They were about the way people saw things like America, celebrity and the world they lived in. To have a sport become indicative of something larger than winning or losing, as American football is now, is pretty amazing. Naturally, a sport doesn’t have to become something that important – but it’s nice when it does. And it’s really lousy when it ceases to be.
So yeah, boxing doesn’t need a mainstream audience to remain active and lucrative. That’s especially true in today’s world of balknaized marketing. When a sport has a potential to unify, however, then it should at least try to do so.
And that, my friends, is why boxing needs its next big attraction – and soon.