As we gear up for tonight's big main event between WBO Welterweight champ and pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao and undefeated pound for pound fighter Timothy Bradley, there have been several comments from different people saying this could be Manny Pacquiao's last fight if he loses. I believe whether he wins or loses Manny won't have too many more nights such as this one because I do believe he wants to fight Floyd Mayweather and then call it a day. Realistically beyond this fight the showdown with Money is the only one left at this point because well, who wants to see him fight the young up and coming welters who provide an awfully big risk to his status without the high reward of a Floyd Mayweather.
And if this is in fact Manny's last fight then the usual questions and narratives will arise no doubt. We're going to get the usual "boxing is a dying sport, it's dead, mma is killing it" talk from folks who were looking for a reason to hate on boxing anyway, we're also going to get questions about the next Manny Pacquiao; which isn't unusual if you know boxing's history. When Muhammad Ali retired there were people wondering who would carry the torch after this iconic transcendent figure bowed out after numerous drubbings at the hand of younger opponents. Sugar Ray Leonard eventually moved into that role as boxing's central super star and crossover face of the sport. When the great Ray Leonard finally hung em up fans and the like we left waiting for another face to break through. Then came an Olympic gold medalist from East LA named Oscar De La Hoya who had all the makings of boxing's Hollywood prize fighter. His looks, smile, and charming personality not only attracted young girls to the sport but it also opened the door for the current PPV king and co face of boxing Floyd Mayweather. Early in his career Mayweather struggled to fill arenas but as time went on, and his ego grew along with his talent more people became interested in him as a top young fighter.
Boxing's problem has never been a lack of stars because we've enjoyed a whole host of stars from Roy Jones Jr. to Felix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto, Arturo Gatti, Prince Naseem Hamed, and many others. If Arturo Gatti were alive and both he and Mickey Ward were in their prime you could hold all three of their legendary battles at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey and a good 49,000 would come out because both fighters enjoyed sizable followings in their hometowns; Gatti in particular.
I think it's always been an exaggerated issue for the sport in terms of who will carry the torch when said super star's career comes to a close. For boxing the future perhaps looks a lot brighter than the present, and perhaps much brighter than originally anticipated with the rise of Canelo Alvarez who by all accounts looks to be the next likely crossover face of the sport.
Unlike Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo enjoys a dedicated, almost cult like following in his native Mexico, but his star is beginning to shine bright here in the US.
So while I appreciate the bleak views of Emanuel Steward who believes boxing is headed for troubled times post Mayweather and Pacquiao, I tend to look at our sport's future from a more optimistic vantage point. I'm not one to entertain the idea that the UFC will hammer the final nail in boxing's coffin because quite honestly if they were going to do so 2008-2010 would have been the ideal time because boxing was experiencing a low point. I've said this many times, boxing has been around for so long the only way you can achieve certain death of the sweet science is if you allow boxing to kill itself. Believe me the only wounds inflicted on the sport the last four or so years have been of the self inflicted variety.
Globally the sport is thriving and football stadiums are selling out in Germany, Russia, and the UK and I think we often focus solely on the state of boxing in America and make our conclusions based on that. There's a whole world out there and they still have a passion for the sport.