Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez preferred to lose his title rather than face Gennady Golovkin. Bob Arum struggled to promote the fight for Manny Pacquiao, who had disappointed a year earlier in his fight with Floyd Mayweather.
It seems that boxing is on the canvas at the end of a year in which it also mourned with the death of the greatest exponent in its history.
During Muhammad Ali’s funeral, comedian Billy Crystal said that on June 3, when news of his death broke, “the world stopped, took a deep breath and sighed.”
Crystal’s phrase about who was her friend for 42 years could also be applied to Ali’s fights, which caused excitement in New York, Kinshasa or Manila.
Boxing itself usually seemed capable of generating global interest, even in more recent times, those of other idols, those of the “pay-per-view” mode on television, those of the endless multiplicity of governing bodies.
Now, for example, one of the few fights that everyone wanted to see in 2016 was not agreed.
In May, days after knocking out Britain’s Amir Khan in a fight that was looming as the prelude to the long-awaited duel with Golovkin, the Mexican Álvarez announced that he would not face the Kazakh. Consequently, he had to renounce his middleweight title.
The argument was that the World Boxing Council (WBC) had imposed an insufficient deadline to negotiate the fight. But various outlets pointed out that Álvarez simply did not want to measure up to who is perhaps the best boxer in the world, pound for pound.
In April “GGG” Golovkin knocked out Dominic Wade in two rounds and in September it took five rounds to finish off Kell Brooks, thus retaining his WBC, WBA and IBF titles, in addition to placing his record at 36-0 .
“‘Canelo’ is not afraid to face ‘GGG,” said Oscar de la Hoya, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions this month. «In 2017, he will fight three times, in May, September and December. On one of those dates, I could face it, hopefully in September.
Closer seems a duel against another Mexican, Julio César Chávez Jr. The fight, longed for by many when both fighters began their careers, seems to come out of time.
The son of legendary boxer Julio César Chávez is trying to revive his career, following a series of problems that included a suspension for marijuana use in 2013, a fight in which he did not make the regulation weight in 2015 and two bouts canceled this year.
The inability to arrange bouts at times when they seem most attractive is undoubtedly among the problems that have depleted boxing. A year after Mayweather’s retirement, boxing is still hung over from his fight against Pacquiao.
The May 2015 lawsuit was hired by 4.6 million households in the United States to watch it on television, generating revenues of more than $ 400 million.
Both figures represented a record. But the phenomenon around the fight was full of chiaroscuro.
Many viewers were disillusioned with Pacquiao’s performance, unable to connect with any powerful blow to the ever elusive Mayweather. Immediately after the fight, the Filipino said he had fought despite a shoulder injury, which would require an operation.
Rather than quelling the controversy, that statement fueled it. There are still 26 pending lawsuits from viewers who are considered defrauded.
And another part of the public lost interest. For the fight on November 5, in which Pacquiao defeated Jessie Vargas by unanimous decision, the promoter Arum could not sign a contract with the HBO network and had to take charge of the production and distribution of the fight for the TV companies on his own account. pay.
Which it was the result?
“We sold a little over 300,000” pay-per-view broadcasts, Arum later said. In other words, the audience was less than 10% of what the confrontation with “Money” Mayweather had registered.
Pacquiao, who would have pocketed $ 100 million for facing Mayweather, earned about $ 4 million this time.
“You can’t always hit a home run,” Arum said. «We all earn money. Sometimes you hit just a single or a double. I am very satisfied ».
From ringside, Mayweather witnessed the Filipino fight.
“I invited him,” Pacquiao said. And about the possibility of starring in a new contest with Mayweather, he commented “we’ll see”
The American said that he had only witnessed the fight to fulfill a wish of his daughter. But versions have emerged that he will return to the ring in search of rekindling audience levels and income, both his own and those of the sport in general.
Of course, there are still potential fighters and fights that could spark international interest in 2017.
Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev fought perhaps the most attractive match of 2016. After a controversial unanimous decision gave Ward the victory, the Russian has called for an immediate rematch.
Golovkin continues to impress. The Mexican public could soon appreciate the successes of Oscar “King” Valdez, undefeated featherweight champion by the WBO. Román “Chocolatito” González is already established in Nicaragua, after winning his fourth world title in different categories this year. Félix «Diamante» Verdejo can establish himself as the new glory of Puerto Rican boxing.
But if you ask the new generations what is the fight they look forward to, many will mention some of mixed martial arts.
And Dana White, the president of the UFC, wonders why this new audience would want to wait years to see a fight like the Mayweather-Pacquiao one.
“We have Conor McGregor here,” White said last month, referring to the Irish gladiator who holds titles in two simultaneous categories. If he puts a hand on you, he sends you to sleep. Mayweather puts you to sleep but with his boxing style, not with his fists. (Courtesy of terra.es)