The superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in Vegas Saturday night was heralded as an electric event that would jolt the flatlining sport of boxing back to life. It was going to restore the glory of the sweet science and put it back on the map of the crowded sports landscape for the first time since Iron Mike was pummeling humans into submission.
Today, the fight is a joke.
To be fair, there was no way the fight was ever going to live up to the hype.
Hard-core boxing people argue that with an estimated 4 million Pay-Per-View buys, a new record, such a claim is preposterous because dead sports don't sell that many seats. And athlete's in dead sports don't walk away with $100 million for their troubles. But taken in context, the NFL, which is king of the hill, sells about 2 million Sunday Ticket subscriptions each season. If the Super Bowl, watched by more than 115 million people last year, were a Pay-Per-View event, it would probably dwarf the May-Pac sales.
Still, there were winners Saturday night. Mayweather won. Big. And internet piracy was also a big winner, too. But plenty of people walked away from Saturday night's fight (which took place on Sunday morning for many viewers) disappointed they spent $100 just to "watch a man walk backwards for 36 minutes." But remember that people regretted spending money on blink-of-an-eye Tyson fights, too. It's always something, isn't it?
Boxing is one of the few sports that still charges viewers to see championship bouts on TV. Had the NBA sold Pay-Per-View rights to playoff series, you could make an argument that the Game 7 between the Spurs and Clippers that aired prior to the fight Saturday offered more drama and a better viewing experience than May-Pac. Meanwhile, the MMA has eaten boxing's audience in recent years not for being better, necessarily, but for being accessible.
So if money is your measure of success, then this fight was one for the ages. An all-timer. But if you like boxing, it was pretty weak. And in the aftermath it turned off a lot of casual fight fans and will make them think twice about plunking down another $100 to watch the next over-hyped fight. The truth is, you can see better fights outside a New Nersey clubs on Saturday nights than what Mayweather and Pacquiao were able to deliver.
Boxing, once a mighty sport and among the most popular for spectators, has devolved into a niche sport. While it has the potential to attract massive attention and spectacle as evidenced by May-Pac, the fact of the matter is that the dud superfight may have somehow set a sport already completely out of the public consciousness back a few more years.
"Nothing will kill boxing," Larry Merchant said, "and nothing can save boxing." It may be the truest statement about the superfight’s incredible letdown. Right now, nothing can save it. Until the next big thing comes around, which could be years from now.
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