by David P. Greisman
Allow me, for a moment, to recall two brief conversations that took place during another great weekend of boxing.
One friend, a fellow reporter, told me of the results of an informal poll he’d conducted, asking which pay-per-view fight his readers were most looking forward to. An overwhelming majority picked the bout between 140-pound titleholders Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse, and not the main event from that same broadcast pitting Canelo Alvarez against Floyd Mayweather, nor either of the other two upcoming major matches, Timothy Bradley vs. Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios. I agreed with them.
Another acquaintance sounded somewhat surprised when I told him I was no longer as excited about Mayweather’s and Pacquiao’s fights as I once might have been.
It wasn’t intended to be a knock on their talents or their personalities. They remain two of the biggest stars in this sport, with legions of fans who will pay hundreds or thousands to travel just to see them perform, and with millions more staying home on a couple Saturdays each year to watch pay-per-view shows that are essentially the Super Bowl of The Sweet Science.
Their storylines are still compelling. Mayweather, his legacy long ago secured, is finishing his career with a string of huge paydays. That includes this September’s fight with a younger, heavier, hard-punching junior middleweight in Alvarez, who also happens to be the biggest boxing star in Mexico and who is increasingly popular within the United States.
Pacquiao, after a stretch of victories that brought him multiple title belts and numerous accolades, is coming off a year that could be considered his worst. He lost a split decision to Timothy Bradley, a highly controversial and debatable loss but a loss nonetheless, and then was knocked out and unconscious by a single right hand from Juan Manuel Marquez. His November bout against Brandon Rios is expected to be an entertaining test of what Pacquiao can still do, and it carries with it the spectacle of being staged in the Chinese gambling mecca of Macau.
I will watch, of course. But theirs are no longer the most thrilling narratives to me.
Again, that’s not an insult. Rather, it’s that I’m even more interested in the changing of the guard that is going on in our sport, with old stars hanging up their gloves or nearing retirement, and with new stars rising and commanding more of our attention.
After all, the sport will move on when Floyd and Manny are gone. Even if it takes a while for someone else to have a similar combination of talent and charisma, there always will be new champions and titleholders, and the ascent of skilled technicians and knockout artists. Most will eventually fizzle out. Some will be quite fun while they last. And they will infuse the sport with fresh matchups while also inspiring curiosity and debate.
Chaos reigns in a vacuum. And so we’ve seen divisions sorting themselves out, with Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse rising to the top of their weight class. We’ve seen other power punchers seize opportunities, including Gennady Golovkin steamrolling his way into the spotlight at middleweight, Adonis Stevenson capturing the championship by force at light heavyweight and Sergey Kovalev joining the fray as well at 175 due to his own formidable knockout power.
This past weekend’s fight between middleweights Daniel Geale and Darren Barker was broadcast on HBO due to a business settlement owed to promoter Gary Shaw. Nevertheless, the fighters performed with the urgency of men who not only were competing for a world title, but also as if they were auditioning for the network’s attention and for a potential shot at Golovkin or Sergio Martinez.
Among the other recent notable talents is heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder, who wrote on Twitter this past weekend that he likes the early knockouts he’s been getting rather than putting more rounds under his belt. He’s received more buzz this way in a division where contenders and pretenders have long waited for the kings Klitschko to vacate or be forced from their thrones.
Adrien Broner gets some of the highest ratings among American audiences even though he’s had a shallow pool of challengers at 130 and 135 and hasn’t yet faced a top opponent at 140 or 147.
And recently we’ve seen more young fighters as Showtime broadcasts an increasing number of tripleheaders and preliminary bouts, and as HBO features a newer generation of talent. Beyond the United States’ big two, there are more and more fights available not only through the other networks, but through the Internet as well.
Boxing, in a way, is like the proverbial 1,000 monkeys at 1,000 typewriters — amid the chaos, eventually cohesive storylines will come together.
We will watch our long-professional protagonists go from the spotlight off into the sunset. We will see new characters introduced, as they rise and fall and rise again. Those that stick around the longest at the top will earn a special spot, and we will find ourselves captivated as they transition from triumphant to transcendent.
The 10 Count will return soon.
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]