Dan Wetzel has the pulse, y'all:
While it searches for a way to salvage a marquee fight this year – Mayweather-De La Hoya II was expected to be at least the second richest fight in history – you could almost see the boxing game smarting at the sucker punch of Mayweather’s early retirement.
Where does the sport go when it’s two biggest stars are aging (De La Hoya) and retired (Mayweather); when it isn’t exciting fights that make headlines but past champs’ weight (Mike Tyson) or financial troubles (Evander Holyfield)?
Where to start?
It's no secret that MMA is a more popular sport than boxing. It's also no secret as to why. Wetzel is hardly uncovering things that nobody has thought of before. Even the most ardent boxing fan (well, the most ardent with an open mind) won't for one second argue that boxing is more popular than MMA, that it has the potential to be any time soon, or that the UFC in particular isn't promoted in a way that makes boxing look antiquated and outright dumb a lot of the time.
But there's an asterisk there, or at least there deserves to be. You know why Dana White and the UFC can make all the biggest fights they have? Because they're a company. Boxing does not have COMPANIES. There are promotional companies like Top Rank and Golden Boy, but in truth they really need the others to exist and share rings for the sport to be its very best. UFC has such a deathgrip on mixed martial arts (don't buy the hype on Affliction's big show) that they'd be fine if every other company went under and they cherry-picked the best talent. Then a bunch of other upstart companies would come along. I'm not saying it isn't great to have WEC or IFL or anyone else, because they serve as feeder systems for Dana and Co.
But you can't compare the promotional opportunities of UFC to what boxing has available. There's really no chance for someone to come up to a Mayweather and say, "Hey, you're fighting Cotto. That's that." There's a lot more red tape.
And, yes, that's why UFC is the better-promoted and thus more successful product. Or at least the biggest reason, I think.
As far as the second point goes, let's question that one even harder. Whose fault is it that the media doesn't spend much time on the vast majority of boxing's best fights and best fighters and instead talks about Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and Muhammad Ali and the fall of the heavyweights, and what ever will the sport do without the heavyweights, my God, the heavyweights!
There is not a single viable pay-per-view attraction in heavyweight boxing. Wladimir Klitschko is a hell of a fighter and he hasn't been on pay-per-view in years. Yet the sport is thriving more right now than it has in a long time, thanks to lower-weight stars like Mayweather and Oscar and Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton. Two of those four are retiring? Great. Miguel Cotto and Kelly Pavlik are ready right now to step into those voids. Even if Cotto loses to Antonio Margarito, you know what that does? Makes Tony Margarito a bigger star. And Cotto's young enough to get all of that back within one fight.
"It isn't exciting fights that make headlines" -- well, why not? What more do you want in the last 15 months than those three Vazquez-Marquez thrillers, Pacquiao-Marquez II, the Pavlik-Taylor rivalry that made a new superstar, the two biggest fights of Joe Calzaghe's career, Oscar-Floyd breaking records, Floyd-Hatton making history as the biggest pay-per-view ever that didn't have Oscar, Tyson or Holyfield, and a large number of other quality fights that just weren't attention-grabbing enough for you guys to stop talking about Mike Tyson?
Maybe it's not entirely about the sport. Maybe it's the coverage.
No doubt, Mayweather "retiring" is a body blow to the sport. Guess what? It will move on. It has moved on post-every great fighter ever. It has moved on when the bankable stars say goodbye. It will move on now. Amazingly, other guys will become bigger names now. There's a good pool of fighters out there that would relish that opportunity, and I have no doubt that these guys can grab the brass ring.
Of course, this will all be irrelevant in a year when Floyd is coming back.