19
Jan
11

Manny Pacquiao: Will Boxing Struggle When He Retires?

ARLINGTON, TX - MARCH 13:  Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines throws a punch in the ring against Joshua Clottey of Ghana during the WBO welterweight title fight at Cowboys Stadium on March 13, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. Pacquiao defeated Clottey by unanimou

Manny Pacquiao definitely isn’t showing any signs of a letdown.

Boxing’s pound-for-pound champ looked strong in both of his wins over Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito last year. Pacquiao will return to the ring on May 7 when he faces Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The fight has drawn heavy criticism, even from Pacquiao fans who were hoping to see a third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. Of course, most boxing fans still want a megafight with Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., but at this point there are thoughts about whether the fight will ever happen and whether Mayweather is simply ducking him.

Beating Mosley and fighting Mayweather seem like the final things left in what’s already a tremendous legacy. Question is: What happens when Pacquiao retires? Will boxing persevere after he’s gone, or will it be in trouble? 

Let’s discuss. Here are five reasons it will struggle, and five why it will be just fine:

HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 03:  Sugar Ray Leonard poses beside the Waikato River at SKYCITY on September 3, 2009 in Hamilton, New Zealand.  (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

It’s realistic to expect a downturn of sorts when you lose a superstar. It’s what happened when Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard both retired for good, but the key is to make sure there are other high profile fights being made and other fighters who are emerging and putting themselves in line for title shots. 

NEW YORK - APRIL 20: Mike Tyson attends Sony Pictures Classics' screening of 'Tyson' at the AMC Loews 19th Street on April 20, 2009 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)

This won’t be something new for boxing to lose a superstar. The sport has continued to persist and even grow after greats like Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson have finished fighting. Fans always miss watching them, but at the same time, their absence also gives other fighters a chance to get the spotlight.

Sports fans can appreciate talented boxers, but they’re drawn in by brawlers and fighters. Pacquiao has been one of the best. He hasn’t been afraid to stand in and trade, and can also take punishment.

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 13:  Manny Pacquiao (white trunks) of the Philippines throws a punch against Antonio Margarito (black trunks) of Mexico during their WBC World Super Welterweight Title bout at Cowboys Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Arlington, Tex

Boxing certainly isn’t hurting in the talent department. There are still plenty of great fighters to watch like Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and Andre Berto (pictured). The problem, of course, lies in the heavyweight division and lack of talented American heavyweights, with the Klitschko brothers really the only thing worth seeing.

NEW YORK - APRIL 21:  WBC Welterweight Champion, Andre Berto attends ESPN the Magazine's 7th Annual Pre-Draft Party at Espace on April 21, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Getty Images for ESPN)

Fact is that boxing will continue to be on life support as long as the heavyweight division remains so dreadful. There isn’t a true, viable, charismatic American heavyweight right now who can capture the public’s attention, and mainstream sports fans won’t waste their time watching hulkish heavyweights from Britain or Eastern Europe.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12:  Former heavyweight champion of the world, Lennox Lewis, steps in between David Haye and Audley Harrison as they go face to face during the official weigh-in at The Lowry Theatre on November 12, 2010 in Manchester, Engla

Boxing, in a way, is the sports equivalent of termites or roaches: It’s been around forever, and isn’t leaving anytime soon. Boxing may not be what it once was on a national scale here in America, but it continues to expand its reach around the globe and attract more fighters from Latin America, eastern Europe and southeast Asia. 

NEW YORK - JUNE 05:  Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico looks on during the WBA world super welterweight title fight against Yuri Foreman (not pictured) on June 5, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Cotto wins by TKO in the ninth round

Even with Pacquiao still around, promoters are still struggling with how to grow the sport and market it and fighters to mainstream sports fans. There are more opportunities than ever now for the sport to extend its reach through social media, Internet radio and the continued emergence of more websites that are wanting to provide fans with more information and news about the sport. 

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 13:  Manny Pacquiao (white trunks) of the Philippines raises his hand in the air as he stands in the ring waiting to fight against Antonio Margarito (black trunks) of Mexico during their WBC World Super Welterweight Title bout at

If there is someone who’s on the cusp of superstardom, it’s middleweight king Sergio Martinez. He’s got the looks and the talent to attract fans, and the middleweight division has always garnered respect among even mainstream sports fans for ages.

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - NOVEMBER 20:  Sergio Martinez enters the ring against Paul Williams for the Middleweight Championship fight on November 20, 2010 at The Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Boxing always thrives when it has a superstar, a face to the sport. Someone who will draw people in. Pacquiao has been drawing fans in, along with Floyd Mayweather Jr., but you can’t really say Floyd will keep carrying the sport, since his legal troubles haven’t been decided.

Martinez would be the most likely heir to this position, but time will tell if he can capture the public’s imagination like Pacquiao and Mayweather have. 

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 01: Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr watches a game between the Miami Heat  and the Detroit Pistons at American Airlines Arena on December 1, 2010 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading a

Pacquiao definitely is carrying the sport right now, but his name doesn’t carry the same weight in America—especially among mainstream fans—as that of Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield. Pacquiao’s had great pay-per-view numbers, but those three consistently set records and were able to cross over and attract people who didn’t follow boxing to watch their fights.

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 13:  Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines makes his way to the ring for his fight against Antonio Margarito (black trunks) of Mexico during their WBC World Super Welterweight Title bout at Cowboys Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Arli

Boxing certainly will miss Pacquiao once he retires, but the sport’s growth and its problems don’t hinge on him alone. As long as promoters keep a business-as-usual mindset and don’t seek new avenues and means to market fighters and fights, then boxing will continue to remain a niche sport and become less and less relevant while UFC builds momentum and flourishes.

ARLINGTON, TX - MARCH 13:  Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines looks on in the ring against Joshua Clottey of Ghana during the WBO welterweight title fight at Cowboys Stadium on March 13, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. Pacquiao defeated Clottey by unanimous deci

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