Now that boxing’s first two pay-per-view dates of 2016 are locked up, speculation begins as to the medium’s sustainability the rest of the year. Will there be sufficient demand and emerging fighters worthy of the coveted elite showcases?
The sport featured four pay-per-view events last year, two involving the since-retired Floyd Mayweather Jr. With his performances, Mayweather raised the sport’s attention meter.
Mayweather’s absence could create the vacuum that boxing’s bigwigs fear the missing crossover personality whose fights require pay-per-view designation.
Manny Pacquiao and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez have earned their stripes as pay-per-view performers, although both fighters are at different stages of their careers. Not surprisingly, Pacquiao and Alvarez will be featured in the year’s first two pay-per-view events.
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In what he has announced as his last fight, Pacquiao will face Timothy Bradley for the third time April 9 in Las Vegas. An eight-division world champion, Pacquiao lost a disputed decision against Bradley in 2012 and avenged the loss with a convincing decision win two years later. Pacquiao, 37, participated in the sport’s highest watched pay-per telecast when his decision loss against Mayweather last September generated 4.4 million buys.
“Without you guys and without your support, we’re not here,” Pacquiao said to boxing fans during a news conference that officially announced the bout three weeks ago. “I’m so thankful for another opportunity to be given another chance to prove that I can fight until the end.”
Like Pacquiao, Alvarez enjoys strong fan support, especially in his native Mexico, and now looks to permanently remain in pay-per-view events after his middleweight-title winning performance against Miguel Cotto last November.
Alvarez will make his first title defense against Amir Khan on May 7 in Las Vegas.
Ever since Oscar De La Hoya’s reign as the sport’s most popular fighter, the first Saturday in May features a pay-per-view telecast and Alvarez, 25, now wants his bouts linked with boxing’s closest correlation with a Super Bowl-type date.
De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions, which represents Alvarez, believes his fighter’s appeal will serve as the transition from the Mayweather and Pacquiao eras.
“Canelo is the biggest star in the sport, and as he demonstrated against James Kirkland and Miguel Cotto last year, he is only getting better,” De La Hoya said in a statement.
But if Pacquiao fulfills his retirement plans and Mayweather refuses the temptation of another ring return, Alvarez could be left as the sport’s only must-see attraction.
Gennady Golovkin would seem the logical new attraction. The reigning middleweight champion is considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters, but Golovkin’s first pay-per-view appearance last October resulted in below-than-expected sales.
The emergence of new pay-per-view performers usually occurs when they share headline billing with an already popular fighter. During the height of his popularity, De La Hoya provided high-profile opportunities to opponents such as Felix Trinidad and Mayweather, who later became pay-per-view headliners.
Golovkin’s ticket to crossover stardom likely rides on a unification match with Alvarez.
Successful defenses of their respective titles this spring could intensify talk of an Alvarez-Golovkin match for September and another date secured on the pay-per-view calendar.
AROUND THE RING
The USA Knockouts defeated the Mexico Guerreros 4-1 in a World Series of Boxing match Friday night at Miccosukee Resort and Gaming.
Kissimmee resident Antonio Vargas helped lead the Knockouts’ victory with his unanimous decision win over Mexico’s Orlando Huitzil in their lightweight bout.
Vargas, a 2015 Pan American Games champion, is attempting to earn a berth on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.
Light-heavyweight Jonthan Esquivel, super-heavyweight Brandon Lynch and lightweight Carlos Balderas also won their respective bouts for the Knockouts, who are now 1-1 in the WSB season.
The Guerreros avoided a shutout after welterweight Fernando Armeta defeated the USA’s Paul Kroll by split decision.
Prior to the match, two members of the USA Boxing Elite Women’s National team won bouts against Mexican opponents. Flyweight Virginia Fuchs and Mikaela Mayer scored unanimous decisions against Sulem Urbina and Victoria Torres, respectively.
Tuesday (11 p.m., Fox Sports1): Jamel Herring vs. Luis Flores, 10, lightweights.
Saturday (11 p.m., UniMas-Ch. 69): Alex Saucedo vs. Clarence Booth, 10, welterweights.