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SPORTS - BOXING Back With A PUNCH

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BOXING - BACK WITH A PUNCH

MAYWEATHER JR. vs PACQUIAO – FIGHTING FOR THE RICHEST PURSE EVER IN HISTORY – HOPING TO PUT BOXING BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT 

Over the past few decades, the sport of boxing has been anything but the talk of the town, with MMA taking the forefront, and with many fans and sports commentators continuing to refer longingly back to “the glory days” of boxing. 

And even the fact that this fight is a championship fight seems to be secondary to all the hype and hoopla. True, boxing has lost its headlining marquee status – but not everyone agrees on why. Some say boxing was just never the same when we lost Sports Commentator Howard Cosell. Some simply prefer the cage of the UFC. Many agree that the fighters themselves simply haven’t been, well, boxing ‘stars’ (like the fast-footwork charm that made Muhammad Ali so popular, or the insane antic of Mike Tyson biting Holyfield’s ear, which sent shocks through the nation, dividing fans: those who disagreed and felt it was unsportsmanlike conduct, and those who hollered for “more!”). During boxing’s “glory days”, fans were on the edge of their seats. There was no telling what you might see. It is a ‘show’ after all—and fans like to be entertained—and oftentimes, many of the more recent fights have become, well, boring. Then there are the old-schoolers that say that boxing’s reign as one of the most popular sports in America stopped on March 20, 1985, the last date NBC showcased a primetime boxing event. The match was between Larry Holmes vs Carl “The Truth” Williams in a 15-Rounder, in which Holmes improved his record to 48-0 in a violently pounding fight. When boxing stopped being aired on television and moved to Pay-Per-View, many believe that changed the sport. People can’t become fans of a sport they simply don’t get to see. 

Now, over two decades later, two of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world: Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. and Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao will meet May 2, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in a welterweight world championship unification bout. 

With the cheapest seats selling for around $5,400, this is no poor man’s sport, and the purse is expected to be at least $200 million, putting over $120-million in Mayweather’s pocket. And that’s because after years of haggling over the possible fight terms, the two boxers agreed to a contract of 60/40 split—Mayweather getting 60 of the purse, win or lose. The boxing industry expects the purse to continue to grow up right up until fight night, with expectations of record-breaking figures—and that would be great news that many hope would put the gloves back in the forefront, reminiscent of boxing’s glory days. But still others argue that, until boxing is aired and available for all to see (for free), it may not ever gain back the status it had in its heyday of decades ago. 

$5-MILLION ON A SIDE BET 
Pacquaio offered Mayweather a $5-million challenge: Whomever didn’t pass their drug test would pay the other man $5-million. But Mayweather declined, because he realized he could legally acquire a much larger sum if it were to occur. Pacquaio has actually already made money from damages caused by members of the Mayweather team (seven figures, reportedly), when they began demanding that there be drug testing (inferring that he might have used performance-enhancing drugs in the past).

Both boxers must submit themselves to random testing under the U.S. procedural rules during the weeks that lead up to the fight, as well as immediately after the event, complying with the World Anti-Doping Agency standards applied for the Olympics. Pacquaio readily submitted to testing when he received a surprise visit in mid-March from drug testers. The fighter gave both blood and urine samples without hesitation. “No problem,” he told the medic, with a smile. As we go to print, Mayweather hadn’t yet received his surprise test visit—but as both fighters had wholeheartedly agreed on the drug-testing, he too, will most certainly be randomly tested sometime before the May fight.

HAYMON PACKING A PUNCH
Mayweather’s promoter, Al Haymon, (who handles a string of fighters) has purchased airtime for boxing on NBC and its affiliates (spending a reported $20-million), and including prime-time cards, as well as signed deals with Spike, CBS, Bounce and Telemundo to televise boxing. His first prime-time broadcast (of probably many) “Premier Boxing Champions” aired on NBC just this past March. The show featured Keith Thurman and Robert Guerrero and drew 3.4 million viewers (that’s more than double what the best cards can do on pay cable channels like HBO or Showtime). There just may be hope for the glory days of boxing to return to the masses.

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