Floyd Mayweather Jr. may be about to fight Manny Pacquaio in what is set to be the biggest fight of all time but naysayers dismiss these super-fights as one-offs that won’t fend off the challenge of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is winning over the hearts of fight fans.
Yet there are a few reasons to believe this latest uptick is a more than a blip—like many a fighter, boxing is in the midst of its comeback.
Boxing is back in US primetime
The sport returns tonight to NBC for the first time in 30 years, featuring fighters like the loud-mouthed Adrien Broner, a sort of mini-Mayweather who is sure to say something to rile up fans.
In the search for money, boxing moved to pay-per-view events over the past few decades but lost out on the cultural cachet that came with being on free-to-air TV. The New York Post reported sportscaster Al Michaels as saying:
I’m as curious as anybody to see if this provides a resurrection of sorts for a sport that became a pay-per-view sport and didn’t enable a lot of guys to become particularly well-known. It’s an opportunity for a lot of these fighters to get into the mainstream.
The sport is trying to leap into the future while it has the NBC audience hooked. The fighters will wear gloves carrying accelerometers and a magnetometer, allowing precise measurements of impact and punching power, and a 360-degree camera rig suspended above the ring allows for Matrix-style slo-mo moving shots of the knockouts as they happen.
A billion people could be tempted in
Also tonight, China’s Zou Shiming is fighting against an old foe from the amateurs in his first professional world title fight in Macau. His trainer, Freddie Roach, thinks the undefeated boxer* could spark a revolution in China for the sport, in terms of participation as well as viewership:
This could be the greatest thing for China in a long time. With the number of people they have in China, and the talent you have, there’s bound to be some world champions out there. If Zou does it, everybody else would want to do it. They are very competitive people.
Oh, and Roach is also Pacquiao’s longtime trainer.
And then there’s this fight of the century
It’s not just about Mayweather but it is mostly about him and his mouthwatering fight against Pacquiao. The fight will generate an estimated $250 million in pay-per-view revenue, dwarfing the previous record of $150 million set by a previous Mayweather fight from 2013. Mayweather’s business acumen will ensure that it is everywhere.
The press conference for the fight is scheduled for March 11, and everyone wants to be a part of it, as Boxing News reports:
The requests we’re receiving from the media—not just the regular boxing media but international news organisations and outlets, network news and morning shows—I think we’re seeing something phenomenal… I got an email yesterday from the Goodyear Blimp and they want to do a flyover of the press conference and it’s not even outside!
For boxing fans, this could be a good year.
*Update: Shiming couldn’t do it.