Every ten years or so there is a Megafight in the sport of boxing. While hardcore fans like me get excited several times a year about big fights the Megafight transcends the sport. The nature of the event also attracts the mainstream media.
When covering the Megafight the mainstream media can be guaranteed to do two things: pronounce the fight as the last Megafight in boxing history because the sport is dying and display a complete ignorance of the sport of boxing.
I thought of this as I listened to an astoundingly ignorant panel-discussion on Pacquiao-Mayweather on Q. Q is the truly painful hour of hipster-fluff imported from Canada to St. Louis week days at 7pm. The show replaced the only African-American hosted show on the station ( a few weeks later Mike Brown was killed and the host of the previous show was sent to Ferguson for a townhall while Q entertained us with the ironic voices of the latest indie bands in Toronto).
One of the idiots on the panel stated Floyd Mayweather had no fans. While Mayweather is a polarizing figure a quick glance at his social media accounts will show you he has a massive fan following particularly in the African-American community. Another panelist said the UFC is the future. The data doesn’t support that argument. The numbers in the UFC are down and no event will come close to Mayweather-Pacquiao numbers. A third panelist said she liked boxing: but agreed May-Pac is the last Megafight.
The non-boxing media has some huge holes in their argument:
-Yes boxing is a niche sport. We are moving towards a niche society whether that be in music with the end of the Top 40 era or television with hundreds of channels. What is important is that boxing maintains a strong and loyal niche which it is doing.
-Boxing is international. Wladimir Klitschko may not be popular in America but he is selling out soccer stadiums in Europe. The United Kingdom routinely sells out arenas for big fights and hosts a vibrant boxing scene and the same can be said of a number of other countries.
-Demographics. While the UFC may edge out boxing in suburban white American culture boxing is still way more popular in the African-American and Latino communities. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is one of the most famous sports stars in Mexico and already a pay-per-view star in the United States as an example. As is Miguel Cotto with his Puerto Rican fan base.
-Boxing is back on network TV. For decades boxing has suffered from bring a prisoner to late-night premium cable and pay-per-view. Now boxing is back on network TV ( NBC, CBS, ESPN-ABC), as well as a number of basic cable stations ( BET, Spike TV, Tru TV, ESPN, NBCSN, FS1, Telefutura, etc. ). This greater television exposure will in the long run produce household names who themselves will one day headine pay-per-view events and possibly Megafights. The TV picture for boxing, while complicated by promotional fueds, is improving.
-Future stars. Manny Pacquiao wasn’t a pay-per-view star when he first came to America. Floyd Mayweather wasn’t a pay-per-view star until the Arturo Gatti fight. Star’s are built-up and occasionally they collide giving us a Megafight. If we divide boxing into the HBO / Top Rank / Golden Boy camp and the Al Haymon/PBC camp we can look at the future stars.
First of all boxing fans know the Cold War between the promotional companies and the networks is bad for boxing and blocks fights. While I hope the war is ended at present that is wishful thinking.
On the HBO side you have Canelo Alvarez who is already a Pay-per-view star. The Kazakh Gennady Golovkin, the Ukrainian Vasly Lemenchenko and the Russian Sergey Kovalev are being groomed for pay-per-view status due to their fan-friendly styles. Terrence Crawford is also being groomed for stardom although he has a steeper hill to climb without landing a Pacquiao or Mayweather fight. Felix Verdejo is being groomed to be the next Puerto Rican star and if Mikey Garcia ever fights again he’s being groomed as a Mexican – American star. Then there is the question of if Andre Ward will ever merit pay-per-view status.
On the Haymon side you have Errol Spence, Danny Garcia, Deontay Wilder, Adrien Broner, and others being groomed for that level of stardom.
On either side fighters have to keep winning to ever dream of getting to the Megafight status. Who it will be I don’t know. Perhaps no one on this list. However, one thing I can guarantee is that Mayweather-Pacquiao isn’t going to be the last Megafight.