On Saturday night, the sports world will witness the biggest boxing match in at least three decades — and it could be terrible for the sport.
Probably not since the 1980s has there been a boxing match as anticipated as Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquaio. While the fight may be six years past when it should have occurred, Mayweather and Pacquaio remain the consensus top two pound-for-pound fighters in the sport and among the highest paid athletes in the world in any sport. The fight will break every conceivable financial record in boxing, with each fighter likely to earn in excess of $100 million — and in the case of Mayweather, well in excess.
Boxing enthusiasts hope the fight will help rejuvenate boxing, which some see as a dying sport. It may well do the opposite.
It is very likely that more people will tune in Saturday night to watch the fight than have tuned into watch a boxing match in some time. Some may be new to the sport, others returning to watch a fight after a long absence. It will be an opportunity for boxing to captivate a new generation of fans and excite an older generation to return to the sport.
But the reality is, despite how much the boxing world is looking forward to the fight, the match-up has the potential to be boring, especially for the casual boxing fan. Mayweather is a defensive fighter. His fights can be sleep-inducing. If he comes out and attempts to win by dancing around Pacquaio, we might not see much action.
“There have been very few Floyd Mayweather fights where people have walked away fully satisfied from the point of view of being a sporting competition,” boxing writer Thomas Hauser recently noted.
You can just hear all the people who paid $100 to tune into a fight for the first time — or the first time in a long time — collectively groan: “This sucks.”
It probably would have been much better for the sport if people tuned in a few weeks ago when Lucas Matthysse engaged in a slugfest against Ruslan Provodnikov. It’s a safe bet that first-time viewers of that fight became repeat customers.
I hope Saturday night’s fight lives up to the hype. Pacquaio very well may force Mayweather to engage in a battle. In fact, if I were to make a bet, I would bet against the smart money and say that Pacquaio will win the fight, which means that there could very well be some real action in the ring.
But most boxing experts believe Mayweather will win by decision. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance we will be in for a snoozer and people who tuned into a fight for the first time will likely have also have tuned in for the last time. It’s hard to see how that would be good for boxing.