By Frank Pingue
The superfight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao is expected to be the highest grossing bout in history but will do nothing to resuscitate a sport that has been in perpetual decline for years, according to experts.
Boxing will enjoy more exposure than it has seen in decades during the build-up to the May 2 fight but will quickly reclaim a back seat to other sports after the last crushing blow is landed at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“It’s going to be massive, but it’s also going to be a massive one-off,” Bob Dorfman, executive creative director of Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco, told Reuters.
“It would’ve had more impact overall on the boxing world if it happened five years ago when it could’ve been the beginning of an ongoing series of fights between these guys that would’ve maybe built in momentum.”
Mayweather and Pacquiao will be 38 and 36, respectively, on fight night and their failure to agree to meet earlier in their illustrious careers robbed the boxing world of what could have been one of the sport’s all-time great rivalries.
But for one day, at least, boxing will likely be at the centre of the sporting universe given the intrigue of watching Filipino southpaw Pacquiao, who has held world titles in eight different weight divisions, take on an undefeated Mayweather.
“This may be the last hurrah of boxing,” said Robert Boland, sports business professor at New York University. “It’s an interesting moment and maybe a moment that boxing will come together and figure out where it goes for the future.”
Tickets for the fight between two of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters have not gone on sale to the public yet but are expected to start at $1,000 with ringside seats fetching a face value of $5,000, according to Forbes.
Pacquiao’s promotor Bob Arum said on ESPN Radio last week that ringside seats for the fight will be made available only to customers who have a $250,000 line of credit with the casino.
A news conference in Los Angeles on March 11 featuring both fighters is expected to draw such a massive contingent of media that those wishing to attend must apply for credentials to gain admission, which is unusual.
For Kathy Duva, chief executive of New Jersey-based boxing promotion company Main Events, the years-long focus on getting boxing’s two biggest names in the ring has only served to hold back other up-and-comers who could help the sport.
“This fight has taken so long that talking about it, waiting for it, has so consumed the fans and the media that I am just happy that they are getting it over with,” Duva told Reuters.
“There are a lot of good younger fighters out there who are ready to step up and become the stars and it’s hard to do that when you got two people who are still there, lingering and not willing to pass the torch.”
A lack of star power, the rise of other genres like mixed martial arts and splintering sanctioning bodies that left casual fans wondering who the true champion is have all contributed to boxing’s decline.
It is now a far cry from a nearly 80-year period during the 20th century when boxers were among the biggest names in sports, including Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Mike Tyson.
“Certainly new talents will always come to any sport and a transcendent talent can change the dynamic of any event,” said Boland.
“But this is definitely a situation where there really are not fighters in the pipeline and this is a time when boxing is probably at its lowest point since the beginning of the 20th century and the rise of pro fighting.”