New era promises to pack a punch

Boxing’s dramatic decrease in popularity has seen it go from one of the most high profile sports during the golden eras of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard and their equally talented rivals to it generating virtually no interest outside of hardcore fans even for world title fights.

There are a raft of reasons for this. In particular, the best champs refuse to fight each other to preserve their marketability, numerous governing bodies and titles fragmenting the sport and general mismanagement of the noble art are the main problems.

Floyd “Money” Mayweather avoiding being matched with Manny Pacquiao is a prime example of so many things wrong with boxing.

How Mayweather, on a $300 million six-fight deal with Showtime can refuse to be matched with the only fighter everyone wants to see him in the ring with because he wants to preserve his unbeaten record beggars belief.

He stands to earn at least $120 million just for this bout but steadfastly defies all requests.

Pacquiao has signed to meet Mayweather but the American seems to again be wriggling out of making the commitment. No wonder the sport is in disarray.

Mayweather still has two fights remaining on his Showtime deal but Pacquiao is not on his agenda, apparently, preferring a rematch with Miguel Cotto, on May 2. This will be for Cotto’s WBC middleweight crown and if Money wins that will be the sixth division he has won a world title in.

Pacquiao is resigned to not getting the fight the world wants to see and is being lined up to face British champ Amir Khan at Wembley Stadium this summer.

Khan met with Pacquiao in London last week to hold talks over a potential clash.

The British welterweight trained alongside the Filipino legend for several years under ex-trainer Freddie Roach and always maintained they could never fight. But both are now open to meeting and the match looks a real possibility.

Regardless of Mayweather’s reluctance, for the first time in a couple of decades, boxing is attracting more interest because more matches are being made that are genuinely exciting and will generate wider appeal.

Heavyweight sensation Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder, the newly-crowned WBC champion had a coming out party against Bermane Stiverne two weeks ago.

Wilder answered all questions when he bludgeoned and outboxed Stiverne over 12 rounds.

Wilder looks capable of giving the universally recognized heavyweight king, Wladimir Klitschko his first really competitive contest for years if the match can be made this year.

Another good aspect is that the stranglehold pay-per-view has on the sport is about to end because boxing promoter Al Haymon has secured a deal with NBC on Spike TV for 20 dates.

The NBC series starts on March 7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with welterweight champ Keith Thurman facing former two-division titleholder Robert Guerrero and former three-division titleholder Adrien Broner facing John Molina in the junior welterweight co-feature.

The second card, on April 11 at an East Coast site to be determined and also on NBC in primetime, will pit junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia against champ Lamont Peterson in a non-title bout at 143 pounds.

Pay-per-view specialists HBO and Showtime must be worried that Haymon and his huge stable of elite fighters are making the move to free TV.

Spike’s first date in another Haymon series will be March 13, when former welterweight champions, Andre Berto and Josesito Lopez, meet in a non-title bout and former welterweight champ Shawn Porter faces Robert Garcia.

Spike is available in 98.7 million U.S. homes and NBC has a much bigger audience than HBO and Showtime combined so the ripple effect will be quick and widespread.

Another exciting fight being made is Saul “Canelo” Alvarez taking on James Kirkland after negotiations for a contest with Cotto fell through.

It will be on regular HBO on May 2 and would go head-to-head against any Mayweather bout that doesn’t have Pacquiao as the opponent.

Canelo will only relinquish the Cinco de Mayo weekend date for Mayweather-Pacquiao.

British champ Carl Froch’s spring fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr. has been put back because Froch has injured his elbow.

It’s heartbreaking for Froch because he desperately wants a Las Vegas fight before he hangs up his gloves, but there is still a possibility of rescheduling for a summer bout against the Mexican.

If Froch cannot be matched with Chavez, James Degale, the mandatory challenger for his IBF belt is a potential opponent. Degale is looking to become the first British Olympic gold medalist to go on and win a world title.

Other fights in the works include Bernard Hopkins against Gennady Golovkin.

Andre Ward is also active again after management disputes and injury problems and is insisting on meeting the best. Jamaica’s brilliant featherweight world champ Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters also wants to test himself against the top contenders to prove who is the finest in the 126 pound division.

Floyd “Money” Mayweather avoiding being matched with Manny Pacquiao is a prime example of so many things wrong with boxing.

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