The biggest fight in history is little over two weeks away as both Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao enter into the final stages of what has been a gruelling preparation. Their respective social media accounts have been a continual stream of pictures and video that detail the measures being taken by two almost 40-year-old fighters to turn back time, harnessing every possible training and technological advantage.
Speculation naturally exists that due to the money on the table currently; a rematch is very plausible, if not a guarantee. However, it may very well occur out of desperation given the fact that encounters between these two are the only money matches left to professional boxing and in turn the industries that rely on the sport as a source of revenue such as premium television.
Furthermore there is huge revenue fallout to the Las Vegas area without regular top level fights. So much so that Mayweather Jr.’s time behind bars in 2012 was postponed to let his fight with Miguel Cotto go ahead.
A multitude of issues for the sport exist going forward with the lack of any real heavyweight stars a glaring issue to casual fans. More so, increased competition from other sports – in particular Mixed Martial Arts means that money, fans and talent traditionally directed towards boxing has begun to migrate a problem the sports glory days never had to contend with.
Add to the fact the unsurprising issues of so many sanctioning bodies clashing with promoters and it’s easy to question what lies beyond Mayweather and Pacquiao for the boxing. Sure, there may be exceptions to the rule like the excellent marketing by Matchroom Sport that placed the ring housing George Groves and Carl Froch on the Wembley centre circle last year. However, occurrences like that are by far the exceptions than the norm.
The disorganisation that exists in boxing means that the upcoming fight between the two biggest draws in the business does not yet have fixed retail price for television or even tickets for the MGM Grand Garden card on sale yet. This comparison could never be made towards the juggernaut that is the Ultimate Fighting Championship when they run events in the same venue.
In a time when live sports broadcasting rights have never meant as much to the television industry boxing has failed to capitalise in any major sense. Demand might currently be high in the short-term for boxing but fans don’t have a desire to invest their time or money in a fragmented ranking system, which by far favours the defending champion in terms of opponent selection.
Loss of revenue may currently be a stumbling block in the merging of sanctioning bodies but looking to the future it may be one way of maintaining and rebuilding the sport. The possibility of one or two unified major leagues as seen in MMA would instantly give more bargaining power in broadcast and licence negotiations. If things continue the way they are going, it could be one of just a few options available in the further decline of the various ‘alphabet organisations’ like the WBO and WBC.
Regardless of what lies ahead, there is future potential for the sport to change its ways. It still remains a large part of western sporting culture despite its decline and the right strategies can again return it to a strong financial position. However, it may take some time to come about – just like Mayweather and Pacquiao.