Boxing is dead. If it isn’t dead then it’s on life support at best. What was once was one of world’s most iconic sports has slipped from the public conscience and is still slipping as we begin 2015. Those who watched Muhammad Ali “float, like a butterfly, sting like a bee” or Mike Tyson rampage inside the ropes with a man’s ear between his teeth, could never have predicted the downward spiral that has afflicted the sport since the turn of the century. Why has Boxing become irrelevant? The answer to that one is simple: Politics. The best will not fight the best. What former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis has called “Boxing politricking” is digging the fight game an even deeper grave.
Back in 2009 two fighters were head and shoulders above the competition: Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The duo were so dominant they weren’t number 1 and 2; they were more like 1a and 1b. With each man holding multiple title belts in multiple weight divisions, a box office clash between them to decide the title of undisputed number one was on the cards. But whilst the world patiently waited for the announcement that would bring Boxing back to life, negotiations suddenly broke down. A variety of reasons were tossed around with regards to why the fight wasn’t made; Mayweather couldn’t negotiate with the Filipino’s promotor Bob Arum, Pacquiao would not agree to random drug testing; the list goes on and on.
Everyone who loves sport loves a good old ding-dong between the very best. Imagine a Premier League season without a potential title decider between the top two sides. It’s unthinkable. But this is Boxing and it’s never been that simple. Before a contract is even inked nowadays we see debates rage on surrounding purse splits, glove sizes and ring dimensions and fight locations. A sport that was once dominated by no nonsense, hardnosed brawlers who just wanted to “get it on” is now the land of primadonnas. It seems Mayweather would much rather flaunt his private jets and fleet of luxury cars on Instagram then step into the ring with Pacquiao. The pair regularly land blows on one another over social media but that’s as far as it goes.
Now however it seems that the social media sparring might finally be getting us somewhere. Pacquiao engaged in sustained badgering of his rival on Twitter over the festive period. In one tweet he declared “The ball will drop at midnight to usher in 2015. @FloydMayweather let’s not drop the ball on fighting each other next year! #LetsMakeFistory.” If that wasn’t mouth-watering enough, Mayweather himself publicly announced his intention to fight the legendary Filipino slugger on live television in December. Appearing on a Showtime Sports Boxing broadcast, swaggering behind a pair of designer shades he claimed “we are ready, let’s make it happen May 2nd, Mayweather-Pacquiao!” Despite the fact both fighters are getting on a bit in terms of age; Mayweather is 37 and Pacquiao 36, a clash between the pair would most likely be the highest grossing event in Boxing history. It looks so close we can feel it, so near we can reach out and touch it; May 2nd 2015, the day new life is breathed into Boxing. Let’s not get too optimistic just yet though, after all we have been here before.