Various media outlets are reporting today that boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao has, as expected, extended his contract with Bob Arum's Top Rank for another year.
His current contract was set to expire at the end of 2013 and will now extend through December 31, 2014.
The initial knee-jerk reaction is that this move makes a proposed fight between Pacquiao and pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. even more unlikely.
This is simply not the case.
Fundamentally, Pacquiao was already under contract for the next year. It wasn't as if he was a free agent and able to sign with rival promoters. If he had been, then the move could easily be seen as unwillingness to pursue the fight.
Pacquiao, who faces rival Juan Manuel Marquez for a fourth time in December, has stated he would like to face Mayweather next year. One of the main sticking points preventing the fight has been Mayweather's unwillingness to work with promoter Bob Arum.
Arum promoted Mayweather from the time he debuted in 1996 to 2006. The two had a highly publicized and ugly split with Mayweather accusing Arum of underpaying him while exploiting his talents.
Simply put, these two men don't like one another, and Mayweather has held fast on his promise to not allow Arum to make another cent off his name.
Manny Pacquiao is currently, and has been for some time, Arum's biggest cash-cow. He was already under contract for the next year, and as many in the boxing community are coming to realize, the shelf-life for the fight has begun to wane.
In simple boxing terms, and more importantly to many, in business terms this fight needs to happen next year.
For one thing both boxers are beginning to get up there in age. Not everyone is Bernard Hopkins and can compete at an elite level into their late 30's and even late 40's.
Mayweather is 35 and will be 36 before he steps back into the ring, presumably in the Spring, and Pacquiao will be 34 in December. Both are at an age where certain skills naturally begin to slip and taper off.
Pacquiao has not looked his best in his last several fights, perhaps a combination of decline and a lack of full commitment to the sport.
Mayweather was impressive in defeating Miguel Cotto in May, but was hit more than we're used to seeing and could begin seeing his trademark reflexes and speed begin to slip.
This fight has withered on the vine for so long at this point that we are already well past the point where both fighters are at their peaks. And every month that goes by draws us further from that point.
So for that reason alone, this fight needs to happen as soon as possible. 2013 is already too late and by 2014 many will say, what's the point?
This fight was going to need to happen involving Arum one way or another, or not.
That was always the premise and always a sticking point, this contract extension will not change that fact.
Another reason the fight needs to happen next year is the rise of a new crop of boxing stars who are going to challenge—if not steal—the mantle of best in the world from both Mayweather and Pacquiao.
Young guns Andre Ward and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez both either have, or are developing rabid fan followings. Both men are young, entering the prime of their careers, and have exciting fights in their respective weight divisions.
Both have recently scored impressive victories, and are looking towards big fights next year.
Alvarez in particular, could dramatically raise his star in the sport with fights against Miguel Cotto, Sergio Martinez or even Mayweather. While he might not be ready yet, he has all the tools to become one of the sport's biggest stars.
Ward, who is the undisputed champion at 168 pounds, has already cleaned out his own division and could now seek to do the same at light heavyweight.
Then there's the crop of younger, less-established rising stars like Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia and Brandon Rios. All have high-impact, action packed styles, that will attract mainstream appeal.
The point is that while Mayweather and Pacquiao remain the biggest names in the sport, they are no longer the only game in town. And the gap between them and other big stars, such as Ward and middleweight king Sergio Martinez, has closed.
If you ask the average boxing fan at this point if they'd rather see Mayweather vs. Pacquiao or Alvarez vs. Martinez, you'd be surprised at how many would choose the latter. If you asked that question even a year ago, the result would likely have been close to unanimous for what was then dubbed the fight of the century.
Bottom line, this fight needs to happen next year, or it might as well not happen at all. And if this fight were to happen in 2013, Bob Arum would've been a part of it either way.
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