Boxers Who Are Next in Line to Headline Their 1st Pay-Per-View Card
There is no sure formula for developing a pay-per-view star in boxing. Dominant skills are required but far from enough.
Explosive knockout power helps a lot, but it's ultimately secondary to intangible qualities of charisma—what show-biz folks would call the "it" factor.
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have been the only two legitimate pay-per-view stars of their generation. Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley meet on PPV later this month, and while I find that a very compelling bout, I'm not convinced it will do big sales numbers.
When Mayweather and Pacquiao move on, there may be no immediate star in place to fill the vacuum. In today's economy and with the added competition of the UFC, selling boxing pay-per-views is tougher than ever.
The following young fighters are most likely to achieve big time, pay-per-view stardom.
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Why He Could Be the One: Mikey Garcia might have the most all-around talent of any fighter on this list. The younger brother of super-trainer Robert Garcia, he has demonstrated veteran-like ring I.Q. since his prospect days.
Garcia is an excellent defensive fighter with killer instincts. He is 32-0 with 27 KOs; he knows how to lower the boom when an opponent is in trouble.
What He's Got Going Against Him: Garcia has a modest and likable personality. It's a sad reality that this could work against him in today's media landscape.
Garcia has been a featherweight so far in his career and moves up to super featherweight in November to face WBO champion Roman Martinez. I can see him continuing to dominate all the way up to lightweight, at the least. But pay-per-view stars have traditionally fought at welterweight and above.
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Why He Could Be the One: Golden Boy has been grooming Adrien Broner as the future of boxing for a couple of years now. He's amassed a 27-0 record with 22 KOs, and his performances have often been dazzling.
When Broner captured the WBA welterweight title from Paulie Malignaggi last June, it made him a three-division world champion at just 23, a remarkable achievement.
What He's Got Going Against Him: Broner has received more criticism than praise from boxing fans for his split-decision victory over Malignaggi. I felt he clearly deserved to win, but it was just as clear that he's not yet an elite fighter at welterweight.
Malignaggi is not an easy fighter to beat by stoppage, but Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton both did it, and when Malignaggi was a younger, fresher fighter too.
My bigger reservation about Broner is his attitude. Broner's transparent mimicry of Floyd Mayweather has long since worn thin, even with fans who would like to support him.
Mayweather developed his "Money" persona over many years of dominance. Broner has yet to even approach that level of accomplishment. The fact that he acts as if he's already arrived makes me doubt he truly understands how much hard work he has left to do.
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Why He Could Be the One: Danny Garcia has so far been viewed as the underdog for some of the biggest moments in his young career, but each time he has come out on top and displayed an impressive combination of skill, intelligence and heart.
Garcia is a well-rounded boxer with a dynamite lead hook. His laid-back personality plays off from his father and trainer Angel's out-spoken and animated demeanor at press conferences and media events.
A Philadelphia native of Puerto Rican decent, Garcia has a certain amount of built-in fan base just waiting to rally behind him.
What He's Got Going Against Him: At this point, boxing fans are simply going to have to wait and see if Garcia can develop into the sport's next pay-per-view star. He's 25 and has a perfect 27-0 record with 16 KOs. More than likely, he'll be selected as an opponent for one of Floyd Mayweather's remaining fights.
If Garcia can continue to succeed as he has in the past at welterweight, he could be the one. I have my doubts about Garcia reaching that elite status, but I also picked him to lose against Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysse.
Why He Could Be the One: Keith Thurman has fight-changing power and extremely solid boxing skills. He conveys a combination of self confidence and focused determination that boxing fans will respond positively to and rally behind if he continues to turn in impressive performances.
In his last fight in July against undefeated Argentinian Diego Chaves, Thurman demonstrated intelligence and poise. He's a young fighter who has become accustomed to mowing his opponents down, but when Chaves showed his own impressive power, Thurman adjusted and made it a boxing match instead. The result was a Round 10 KO.
What He's Got Going Against Him: Thurman is just 24 and developing at a promising pace, but he's still far away from the high peaks of pay-per-view stardom. I've included him here based more on my own assessments and projections than on anything he's actually done so far.
He's got legitimate talent but also has a lot to prove. I just happen to think he will prove it.
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Why He Could Be the One: Saul Alvarez was the opponent for his pay-per-view appearance against Floyd Mayweather last month, but he was also a driving force behind the event's record-setting number of buys. The red-headed Mexican star is the most popular fighter to emerge in North America since Oscar De La Hoya in the 1990s.
Of all the fighters on this list, he's the closest to having already arrived.
What He's Got Going Against Him: Alvarez's loss to Mayweather made clear how much work the young fighter still has left to do. He is a natural talent who has worked hard, and his skill set is high for a 23-year-old fighter.
But his ability and accomplishments are so far dwarfed by his immense popularity and that's a recipe for backlash among boxing fans.
Alvarez also looks to me to have a hard ceiling on how high he can climb in the weight classes. Middleweight would no doubt be a comfortable weight class for him, but I doubt he would dominate there with his height and reach.
Why He Could Be the One: Gennady Golovkin has been the hottest fighter in the sport over the past year. The WBA middleweight champion is 27-0 with 24 KOs and has completely blown out contenders who give other champions competitive fights.
The Kazakhstan native has made a major effort to fight and train in the U.S. and American fans have rallied behind him.
What He's Got Going Against Him: Golovkin is 31 and has still yet to face another elite fighter. That is not really his fault. He's been the most avoided fighter in boxing over the past few years.
But it takes time to develop a pay-per-view star, even in the best of circumstances. Golovkin is still a young man, but he's not a young fighter.
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Why He Could Be the One: Andre Ward is rated the No. 2 pound-for-pound star in boxing by most writers, behind only Floyd Mayweather. The super middleweight champion has cleaned out his division more thoroughly than any champion in the sport.
There may not be a ton of talent left for him to fight at 168, but he has Gennady Golovkin at middleweight below him and light heavyweight sensations Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev waiting for him if he moves up.
What He Has Going Against Him: Ward has been completely dominant in his career, but sometimes dominant doesn't equate to scintillating.
Ward's performances have earned him raves from the hardcore boxing fans who understand what they are looking at, but the more casual fans who are needed to drive pay-per-view sales have often responded to him with yawns.
Why He Could Be the One: Deontay Wilder is 29-0 with 29 KOs. So far in his career, no one has made it out of the fourth round against him. The most reliable recipe for a pay-per-view star is a heavyweight with major punching power, and Wilder has got it.
His handlers have been cautious about bringing him along, but there has been no slowdown in his knockout rate as his quality of opposition has improved. Last August, he knocked out former world champion Siarhei Liakhovich in Round 1.
American boxing fans have been desperate for another great heavyweight champion for going on two decades now. They are eager to embrace Wilder as the chosen one.
What's He's Got Going Against Him: Wilder is a bomber; there's no denying that. But there are still major questions about him.
At 6'7" and approximately 225 pounds, he's built more like an NBA swingman than a traditional heavyweight champion. That's not necessarily a deal-breaker. He's athletic, and his power can't be denied.
But fans are still waiting to see what will happen when Wilder encounters another big man who can stay in the pocket against him and fire back with equal power. To me, his lean torso and legs look vulnerable to a legitimate heavyweight punch.