Neither Mayweather, Pacquiao, Cotto or Bradley boxing’s last hope

By Luis Agostini: Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are taking part in the biggest boxing matches of the year. Just not against each other. After years of wrangling, negotiating, stall tactics and bluff calling from Team Mayweather and Top Rank Boxing, “Money” Mayweather and the Pac-Man will square off against Miguel Cotto and Timothy Bradley, respectively, in two of 2012’s hottest bouts. Their bouts have the potential to change the face of boxing forever – and possibly not in the way intended.

Victories for both Mayweather and Pacquiao may bring them one step closer to a purse rumored to be as high as $55 million per fighter later this Fall. The bout would give boxing fans the dream match they’ve been waiting for since Pacquiao iced Ricky Hatton in a May 2009 second-round knockout, and Mayweather pitched a perfect game against Juan Marquez in September of the same year.

But what if Cotto pulls the ultimate upset, and delivers Mayweather his first taste of defeat? And could Pacquiao possibly suffer a loss at the hands of Bradley, and move that much closer to leaving the squared circle and embracing a life of politics and religion in the Philippines?

The last superstars?

Pacquiao and Mayweather have been heralded by many as the last superstars of a “dying” sport. The casual combat-sports fan most likely would recognize the names of Ultimate Fighting champions George St.Pierre and Anderson Silva, than they would Super Six super-middleweight tournament winner Andre Ward, or even the Klitschko brothers, boxing’s heavyweight kings. Victories by the number one and two pound-for-pound pugilists could set up the potential mega-fight, and reignite interest in the sweet science.

But could losses by both men have the same effect? Could Cotto/Bradley wins create an overnight, mainstream superstar, and finally include Cotto in the same the conversation of all-time greats as Pacquiao and Mayweather? I say no.

Cotto is boxing’s current number-three pay-per-view draw, behind Pacquiao and Mayweather. Considered by the masses a first-ballot, future hall of famer, Cotto’s stoicism, tenacity and humility draws a stark contrast against the flashy, oftentimes inciteful Mayweather, who routinely turns to social media to display his six-figure gambling earnings on Twitter, and flaunts rolls of hundred-dollar bills while driving an Escalade or in a hotel room with buddy 50 Cent.

Still, as evidenced by his hardcore fan base in Las Vegas and New York against his last three opponents (Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito), Cotto is already a fan-favorite superstar.

Say Tim Bradley’s name to the average person on the street, and more than likely you will be greeted with a blank stare, or “Who?” The undefeated Bradley (28-0, 12 KO) , who just recently moved up to 147 pounds to take on Pacquiao, is a name only widely recognized by boxing’s most hardcore fans. His most-watched fight was a unanimous decision against Devon Alexander in January 2011, which was stopped in the tenth round due to an accidental headbutt, sending the bout to the scorecards for a decision.

Bradley’s jump into boxing’s biggest stage may not be enough to bring him Nike sponsorships or guest spots crooning on Jimmy Kimmel, but definitely could have people talking the following Monday morning, and recognizing him on the street.

Boxing will survive, mega-fight or not

If Mayweather decides to hang it up following his three-month jail sentence this summer, and Pacquiao chases his political aspirations of becoming the president of the Philippines, boxing will continue to groom future superstars. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., are on the cusp of superstardom. Fans are waiting to see Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez jump into the Pacquiao-Mayweather lottery. Lighter, faster fighters such as Yuriorkis Gamboa, Brandon Rios and Juan Manuel Lopez continue to excite fans and gain steam with the masses. Mayorga and Margarito, boxing’s super-villains, will still have some paying to see them lose a few more times, possibly against each other.

Building for the future

They may not have fans purchasing branded Affliction or TapouT t-shirts, but the purses of boxing’s superstars will continue to be exponentially higher than mixed martial artists, and boxing will continue the historic trend of beating out UFC PPVs.

One thing that MMA does have over boxing is its ability to create fan-friendly fights. To continue its path toward survival, boxing needs to allow rationale, not ego or pride, to reign, and create the fights and cards boxing fans want to see. That includes strengthening undercards. The May 5 event may be the first of many strong boxing cards, as the Alvarez-Mosley bout serves as the co-main event for Cotto-Mayweather. Boxing must continue this trend of great matchmaking and undercard development.
May 5 and June 9 will not decide the fate of boxing, but rather lay down the groundwork for an exciting future.

Article posted on 25.02.2012

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