Ward, Valero, Bradley, Berto: Why Boxing is Better than Ever
By Alexander Fugate: Many in the mainstream media have been insisting for years that boxing is dead. Nothing could be further from the truth. They point to the popularity of UFC and say it’s taken over boxing. That’s interesting considering in the last UFC PPV, UFC 109, the headliner Randy Couture got a whopping $250,000 for his winning effort against Mark Coleman. That was the most of any contestant that night. If Mayweather-Pacquiao ever happens both stand to earn between $30-$40 million.
The top earner in the UFC just got a quarter of a million. Dana White, head of the UFC, moved a PPV event from May 1st to May 8th when he found out that Mayweather-Mosley was going to fight the same night. In September 2009, UFC went head-to-head with Mayweather-Marquez. The boxing match over doubled UFC’s PPV buys getting over a million to around 400,000 for the mixed martial arts contest.
With fighters such as Bradley, Alexander, Khan, Maidana, and Valero on the cusp of being PPV stars and household names, the future of boxing looks great. All these fighters are all in or close in weight division. Marquez has reportedly turned down a bout with Khan, because in case of a loss he doesn’t want to be seen as a stepping stone for Khan. Eventually Marquez will probably be a stepping stone for one of these fighters; the adage “The ring retires fighters” seems to be true. And the people that beat the greats at the end of their career go on to become big draws and big stars themselves.
One can’t overrate how great the Super Six tournament is. Never has there been any event like this in boxing before. The top six fighters at the super middleweight division in a tournament to crown the best! Andre Ward is building his name recognition and resume. The young American is only 25 years old and possesses a record of 21-0-0 with 13 knockouts. He was an underdog entering the Super Six and was considered a long-shot to win it, but after handing Mikkel Kessler only the second loss of his career, he is now one of the favorites. The world west of the Atlantic is now being forced to pay attention to “King” Arthur Abraham. He has a defense and style similar to Winky Wright and with a record of 31-0 with 25 knockouts should be a force in the middleweight and super-middleweight divisions for years to come. The young Andre Dirrell is Abraham’s next opponent in this exciting tournament. Dirrell is a 26 year old with amazing hand-speed and his only professional loss was in round one of the Super Six against Carl Froch. Froch is 26-0; that is an impressive record with wins over some top tier opponents, yet 26 professional bouts seems a low number for a 32 year old. Froch is from the United Kingdom, and like Kessler and Abraham has had relatively little press in the states. Regardless of the outcome of this tournament, it will only enhance all the competitor’s name and the image of boxing to the mainstream media.
The welterweight division is obviously the big one right now with Pacquiao, Mayweather, and Mosley all in the same division and all considered top 10 and by many top five pound-for-pound boxers. Andre Berto is also in the welterweight division. Berto recently pulled out of a bout with Mosley due to the tragedy in Haiti which claimed the lives of several members of his family. Berto is a top young prospect. He is relatively untested thus far, but when he is mentally healthy enough to return, he looks destined to get big fights and possibly take over the division in a few years.
What happens if Mayweather beats Mosley and then Mayweather-Pacquiao happens and both stars retire? That seems very likely now. Personally, I believe Mayweather-Pacquiao will happen later this year. I see maybe one or two more fights for both before “retiring”; but “the ring retires fighters” and not the other way around. Both could come back to the sport. I think Mayweather definitely will after a year or two. Much has been made of Mayweather flaunting his “0” but I firmly believe his ego and/or spending habits will keep him fighting until that goose egg disappears. Remember he is just turning 33 and Pacquiao is only 31. Mosley is fighting at an elite level at 38. A 43 year-old Hopkins gave a top fighter a lesson in boxing, putting on a clinic against the young Kelly Pavlik.
Which brings us to the middleweight division, where Pavlik looks to be taking his first big test since losing to Hopkins. It appears Pavlik will be fighting junior middleweight champion Sergio Martinez this spring. Paul Williams is an exciting and talented fighter that will fight anywhere between 147 and 160. He won a close decision against Martinez and was scheduled to fight Pavlik twice but a lingering staph infection kept Pavlik out of the ring for a while. Now it appears he could face the hard-hitting Kermit Cintron later this year. Cintron has knockout power and his only two losses are to Antonio Margarito, and since he got caught with plaster in his hand wraps, the legitimacy of these losses have been questioned. Most boxing fans would love to see Mayweather or Pacquiao test their skills against Williams. That could be difficult though, since both Mayweather and Williams have the same manager, Al Haymon. It seems unlikely that a skilled manager such as Haymon would put his two biggest money-makers against each other. More than likely the loser would lose profitability and drawing power. However, if Mayweather can get by Mosley and Pacquiao there will be few, if any, other plausible opponents. It could happen, with Mayweather retiring again after the bout regardless of the outcome. Then Haymon would only stand to gain by pitting the two stars against each other. Pacquiao probably won’t ever give Williams a match simply because Williams would have an almost seven inch height advantage. Williams doesn’t fight in a style that utilizes his height advantage, but still a height difference that large would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The demise of boxing that some have been saying is inevitable for years now, isn’t even visible on the horizon. With young fighters such as Ward, Dirrell, Bradley, Khan, Berto, Valero, and many others boxing could be on the verge of another Golden Era.