The long wait finally ended and the eventual event overwhelmingly dominated boxing’s story lines in 2015. Unfortunately for many fight fans, the five-year tease that resulted in the highly anticipated Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao showdown failed to live to its hype.
Financially, the bout on May 2 shattered pay-per-view records with an excess of 4.4 million buys. Moreover, boxing enjoyed mainstream acceptance in the weeks leading to the bout. However, the fight lacked the ebb-and-flow action fans anticipated from the top two fighters of the past decade as Mayweather won a tactical, risk-free decision.
Mayweather fought again four months later, winning a lopsided decision over Miami native Andre Berto. After the bout, Mayweather announced his retirement. If he does stick to his retirement plans, Mayweather finished his career with a 49-0 record.
With Mayweather’s departure and Pacquiao planning one more fight in 2016 before storing the gloves for good, boxing looks for new personalities to take over the pay-per-view landscape. Two notable possibilities solidified their aspirations with standout performances in 2015.
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Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, immensely popular in his native Mexico, provided fight fans the type of action lacking in the Mayweather-Pacquiao match. A week after Mayweather defeated Pacquiao, Alvarez scored a third-round knockout win over James Kirkland in a bout that drew 31,000 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Six months later, Alvarez fought on the year’s second-most watched pay-per-view event when he won a decision over defending champion Miguel Cotto to capture a middleweight belt.
Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin arguably now can be considered the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighter after three additional convincing performances in 2015. Golovkin made his pay-per-view debut with an eighth-round TKO victory over David Lemieux on Oct. 17 before a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York. The reigning middleweight champion also scored TKO wins over Martin Murray and Willie Monroe Jr. in February and May.
Another fighter considered along with Golovkin in pound-for-pound supremacy is Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Currently in his third division run as titleholder, Gonzalez made an impressive TV introduction to American fight fans on May 16. Fighting on the same HBO telecast as Golovkin’s bout against Monroe, Gonzalez stopped Edgar Sosa in two rounds. Gonzalez also fought on the Golovkin-Lemieux undercard, scoring a ninth-round TKO over Brian Viloria to retain his world flyweight belt.
One of boxing’s longest running championship runs ended Nov. 28, when Wladimir Klitschko lost a decision against Tyson Fury in Germany. A part-time Hollywood resident, Klitschko had held a piece and eventually unified the majority of the heavyweight titles since his second stint as champion began in 2006.
Deontay Wilder became the first American to win a version of the heavyweight crown in nine years after his decision victory over Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17. Wilder retained his belt with two successful defenses in May and September.
Russia’s Sergey Kovalev continues to ascend in pound-for-pound consideration and separate himself from the rest of the light-heavyweight class. Kovalev retained his multiple light-heavyweight belts with knockout victories over Jean Pascal in March and Nadjib Mohammedi four months later.
Mayweather and Pacquiao helped the welterweight division become the deepest in the sport. And their departures won’t dilute the talent, considering that welterweights such as Timothy Bradley, Keith Thurman, Kell Brock, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and Amir Khan still provide the division obvious clout. The aforementioned fighters were a combined 11-0 in their 2015 appearances.
Talent also abounds in the sub-welterweight classes, none more evident than with the continued rise of 140-pound champion Terence Crawford. A former lightweight titleholder, Crawford won a junior-welterweight belt with a sixth-round TKO of Thomas Dulorme April 18 and retained the title after his 10th-round TKO over Dierry Jean six months later.
Boxing enjoyed a TV revival in 2015. Premier Boxing Champions, the continuously-growing stable of fighters overseen by influential manager Al Haymon, struck deals with major networks, and the sport suddenly reappeared with live telecasts on CBS and NBC. Premier Boxing also had exclusive rights and televised fights on ESPN, Fox Sports1, NBC Sports Network and Spike TV.
But with Premier Boxing’s growth also came legal disputes. Rival promoters Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions filed suit, accusing the company of creating a monopoly. Miami-based Bad Dog Productions recently reached a settlement with Premier Boxing-aligned promoter Warriors Boxing over the rights to current lightweight champion Rances Barthelemy.
But Premier Boxing is not the only powerbroker facing accusations of contractual interference. Miami-based All Star Boxing is expected to finally have its day in court next month against Golden Boy Promotions. All Star Boxing first filed suit against Golden Boy over the promotional rights to “Canelo” Alvarez four years ago. But the case has dealt with repeated delays.
After only one show the first half of the year, the local fight calendar improved with four cards during a four-month period. Miccosukee Resort and Gaming had its first card in five years on Nov. 7. Hialeah Park and Casino presented two shows, including South Florida’s only world title bout of the year — Erislandy Lara’s successful defense of his 154-pound title against Jan Zaveck on Nov. 25.
Miami resident Luis Ortiz won a second-tier heavyweight belt with his seventh-round TKO over Bryant Jennings on Dec. 19. A native of Cuba, Ortiz also appeared on the Golovkin-Lemieux pay-per-view telecast and scored a third-round knockout over Matias Vidondo.
Although Miami resident Guillermo Rigondeaux is considered one of the best fighters in the lighter-weight classes, his performances fail to captivate many fans. Rigondeaux, a former 122-pound champion, had the platform to win over converts when he fought on the Alvarez-Cotto pay-per-view telecast. But Rigondeaux only added detractors with an action-lacking, punch-deficient decision win over Drian Francisco.
Pembroke Pines resident Shannon Briggs continues to pursue another heavyweight title despite turning 44 in July. Briggs, the last U.S. fighter to win a heavyweight title before Wilder’s accomplishment, scored knockout victories in his two ring appearances of the year.
Miami’s Randall Bailey returned to the ring after a two-year absence and stopped two opponents. A former junior-welterweight and welterweight champion, Bailey seeks a third title as a junior-middleweight.