Boxing started the year off with a bang.
According to Nielsen, January’s Danny Garcia vs Robert Guerrero fight for the WBC Welterweight title generated great numbers for Fox, averaging a 1.5 household rating with 2.5 million viewers; these were double digit increases over the last PBC broadcast on NBC in December. In addition, 3 million viewers tuned in for the actual Garcia vs Guerrero bout, which ended with a unanimous decision for Garcia.
Last Friday, Adrien "I'm talking about water and cornflakes", “The Problem” Broner won the fight and the night for both Spike and the DC Armory, selling out the arena and generating over 1.1 million viewers for his fight alone, making it the most watched PBC fight on Spike ever.
With the retirement of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao announcing that his fight on Saturday night against Timothy Bradley would be his last, boxing has been searching for its next superstar. Gone are the days of Tyson, Holyfield, Leonard, Hagler, Hearns and Chavez.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)
While the more recognizable names and faces are no longer in the ring, a question comes to mind which needs to be asked.
Does modern day boxing actually need one true superstar?
If one looks to MMA, the answer is no. Ronda Rousey’s rise to stardom brought a new light and attention to the sport it hadn’t experienced until her arrival. Yet, arguably, her loss was actually more beneficial for the UFC and the sport as it brought even more attention to the octagon and its athletes. In addition, it brought parity to a burgeoning area: women’s MMA.
In boxing, we are witnessing the emergence of many good and great fighters, but there aren’t any true superstars as of yet. This is actually an asset for the sport and an advantage for organizers and governing bodies, if they recognize the fact and capitalize on the potential.
Compare this situation to other professional sports and you’ll understand what parity brings to the table. Salary caps and free agent signings have led to the death of dynasties that are, in all reality, a thing of the past. Dynasty franchises don’t survive anymore because these factors, but the leagues have not suffered from this.
As a matter of fact, not having dynasties has enabled teams and leagues to spread the wealth, support and promotion, leading to more interest on a local, regional, national and global basis. It has also allowed them to celebrate and promote the accolades of a wider array of players through more avenues, including social media
And that’s a great thing. One that boxing needs to emulate.
I spoke with a friend, an extremely knowledgeable boxing mind, and we discussed the idea of creating a March Madness tournament type of event for boxing. And you know what, it could work and benefit everyone involved, especially the sport itself. The most ideal way to make this happen is to utilize the extremely competitive Welterweight division.
The top 11 fighters in this division (according to Box Rec) are as follows:
Timothy Bradley Jr.
With Pacquiao retiring, you have the Top 10 fighters in the division lined up and ready to go, all with something to prove. The storylines have been established so the promotion has commenced. Pacquiao vs. Bradley could result in Bradley finally earning the respect he deserves with a victory in the rubber match.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)
The rescheduled Thurman vs. Porter bout in June could either solidify Thurman as the division leader or push Porter up significantly in the rankings. Fans continue to doubt Garcia, saying he should have two losses on his record, yet he still remains undefeated. Fans in the U.K. are dying to see Kell Brook face off against fellow Brit Amir Khan. Jesse Vargas has been hounding Bradley for a rematch. Lamont Peterson is seeking much deserved recognition, especially after his controversial loss to Garcia. Sammy Vasquez wants to climb the rankings and earn a title shot while Broner has creeped back into the discussion with his win over Theophane. And don’t forget about Carlos Molina and Errol Spence, who continues to prove that he is “The Truth” with each knockout.
All well written stories.
All with loyal fans and rabid detractors.
Now it’s time for the various entities in boxing to unite and give fans what they want and deserve: a real boxing tournament and fairly crowned champion.
After Pacquiao vs Bradley Saturday night and Thurman vs Porter in June, we’ll be left with three fighters who can compete in the tournament. Let’s assume that Bradley beats Pacquiao and Thurman beats Porter. The division would then have four belt holders with one loss total amongst them. Brook with the IBF, Thurman with the WBA, Bradley with the WBO and Garcia with the WBC.
These four fighters, along with Khan (after returning to the division after his May fight with Canelo) and Porter, would make up the top six seeds.
That leaves the next four ranked fighters, who would fight a “play in” fight featuring Vargas vs. Vazquez and Peterson vs. Broner.
After these initial fights, we would be left with the eight men who would make up the second round of the Tournament. Similar to March Madness, all of these fights could be broadcast across various networks which could bid on the rights for the various rounds. With NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN, the larger networks are broadcasting the majority of the bigger fights and original fight related programming. This could create a great source of revenue for the governing bodies, promoters, venues, networks and fighters.
Picture it, in one month fans could see the early rounds on one of the aforementioned networks and then a few months later could be treated to four consecutive weekends of boxing featuring the following pairings:
Thurman vs. Peterson-Broner winner
Brook vs. Vargas-Vazquez winner
Bradley vs. Khan
Garcia vs. Porter
Then a few months after that we’d be able to watch:
Winner of Thurman vs. Peterson-Broner against the winner of Garcia vs. Porter
Winner of Brook vs. Vargas-Vazquez against the winner of Bradley vs Khan
This would culminate in the ultimate fight featuring the winners of the fights above.
Again, no superstars.
Just great fighters in great fights, competing for one unified crown.
That’s what fans really crave. A true victor emerging from a tournament where participants are given a real chance at victory. Not one determined by preference, pre-conceived notions of greatness or computer generated rankings. Put the fighters in the ring and let them compete.
Now this is no easy task and it would require the cooperation of many different entities, but it’s an opportunity that could be pursued. If Mayweather-Pacquiao could be created through cooperation between competitors such as Showtime and HBO, then there’s no reason why PBC and Top Rank can’t work together to give fans what they crave.
(Photo credit: Top Rank)
We all know they’d make money. Their broadcast partners would generate ratings and revenue and their advertising partners would get their exposure and brand awareness they seek.
For long-time boxing fans, they would finally have the opportunity to witness the sweet science take a major step in a direction they’ve been hoping it would for decades.
Most importantly, the sport of boxing would continue to grow as a mainstream sport and some of the controversy and criticism that has plagued the sport for years would be alleviated.