SAY what you want about Mayweather-McGregor, but it attracted an unprecedented level of attention to the sport of boxing. There’s a good chance that more people tuned in to it than did for Mayweather’s 2015 fight with Manny Pacquiao – and an overwhelming chunk of that audience would not describe themselves as ‘hardcore boxing fans’.
Mayweather-McGregor wasn’t aimed at those fans, it was a spectacle, a one-off event that captivated those who only flirt with boxing every so often or, perhaps, have never really watched it before.
To those fans I say this: stick around, boxing has so much more to offer you.
Thankfully, Mayweather-McGregor was not the insulting disappointment that Mayweather-Pacquiao ended up being, and so many of those more general sport fans will not have turned their backs on boxing. Experts of the sport said that Mayweather-McGregor wouldn’t harm boxing, that all these extra eyes can only be a good thing. Well, now it’s time to keep those eyes fixed on the sweet science.
Boxing has a tendency to get in its own way but, right now, things are going very well.
In just under three weeks the most significant fight of the year takes place in the same place Mayweather trounced McGregor – unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin fights Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez. There’s a strong argument that the winner will be the best fighter on the planet and they are both undoubtedly, pound-for-pound, top five right now.
Mayweather-Pacquiao took years and years to come to fruition and when they finally met, they were both past their best and Manny in particular was dreadful. Golovkin and Canelo have both looked imperious lately, and while ‘GGG’ flirted with defeat against Daniel Jacobs earlier this year, the Kazakh is arguably the most captivating puncher in the sport today.
Canelo, since his lopsided defeat to Mayweather in 2013, has dramatically improved and his recent knockout wins over Amir Khan and James Kirkland are evidence of his chilling power.
The boxing world is split as to who will win – a clear-cut marker of a standout fight – and the contest itself will not underwhelm. Yes, it’s another pay-per-view but it is so, so worth it.
A week prior to Golovkin-Canelo, the StubHub Center in Carson California plays host to the best boxing card of 2017. Topping the bill is Nicaraguan wizard Roman Gonzalez seeking revenge against Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai for the WBC super-flyweight title. Gonzalez was widely considered the best in the world before Sor Rungvisai outpointed him in March – it was one of the best fights of recent years and a huge upset to boot.
Former Gonzalez victims Carlos Cuadras and Juan Francisco Estrada fight each other on the same bill. Both men pushed Roman hard in thrilling contests and their meeting could be very special. The winner will get the Sor Rungvisai-Gonzalez winner. Also on the show is super-flyweight supremo Naoya Inoue, fighting outside of his native Japan for the first time against Antonio Nieves. He is a vicious puncher and him against any of the aforementioned super-flyweights would be exceptional match-making.
Now, none of the fighters on that show are well-known outside of boxing circles and that is just the point of this article – it’s a card more than worthy of the attention Mayweather-McGregor drew and hopefully plenty tune in.
September will also see the World Boxing Super Series kick off. The tournament pits eight of the best fighters in the super-middleweight and cruiserweight divisions against each other, and the signs are good. Both are stacked – the cruiserweight class in particular is ridiculous – and there is a lot of money behind it.
It’s set to culminate early next year and the knockout format makes it an exciting prospect. It’s the sort of initiative that can create stars.
Speaking of stars, there’s a certain hulking heavyweight who is already drawing flocks of people to boxing. Anthony Joshua was a star before he fought Wladimir Klitschko, but when he defeated the future Hall of Famer in one of the greatest heavyweight title fights of all time, he hit the stratosphere. He is one of the UK’s biggest sports stars and American broadcasters and falling over themselves to secure him to a deal.
There has been a lot of talk of finding the next Mayweather, but it might be time to start looking outside of America. Joshua and Klitschko drew 90,000 to Wembley Stadium in April and smashed PPV records in the UK. Joshua is the full package and could usher in a thrilling heavyweight era.
Then there is the trifecta of Andre Ward, Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko. With a combined record of 73-1 (46), these three have announced themselves as unmissable talents.
Ward currently sits on the pound-for-pound throne after consecutive wins over former unified light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, and a dominant run at super-middleweight. The Olympic gold medallist is an incredible fighter.
Crawford recently became men’s boxing’s first undisputed world champion since 2005 and, thankfully, the wider public are starting to pay attention to the gifted switch-hitter.
Lomachenko was arguably the greatest amateur boxer of all time and as a professional has become a two-weight world champion in under 10 fights. He is able to do things inside a boxing ring that don’t look possible.
All three are throwback fighters; they’ll fight anyone and seem hell-bent on making history and creating legacies.
The point is this; Mayweather-McGregor was a gross mismatch and if it had taken place during a boxing lull, it would have been a problem. But it didn’t. The sport is in a very healthy state and if some of those more casual fans who tuned into May-Mac continue to follow boxing going forward, it will continue to thrive.