As 2014 begins, talk of a possible Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight has picked back up after waning over the past two years.
And as long as that fight is even being considered as a possibility, PacMan and Money are the two hottest fighters in the sport, no matter what curmudgeonly boxing writers might want to think.
But after a year like 2013, the sport is loaded with hot names. As the first big boxing weekend of 2014 approaches, the parts are in place for 2014 to be another year filled with classic fights.
WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev was one of the sport's exciting breakout stars in 2014. The Russian native who trains out of Florida went 4-0 on the year with four early stoppages, against two former world champions and two prospects with a combined record of 44-2.
Kovalev won the WBO belt in August when he stopped unbeaten Nathan Cleverly in front of Cleverly's hometown crowd in Wales. Kovalev ended 2013 with a scary Round 2 knockout of Ismayl Sillakh in Montreal.
It pains me to include Saul Alvarez on this list, because he frankly doesn't deserve it based on ring performances. But in terms of drawing power alone, he merits inclusion.
There's a reason Golden Boy thinks it can sell him on pay-per-view with Alfredo Angulo.
I am actually a fan of Alvarez as a fighter and think he sometimes gets a bad rap from certain fans, due to his popularity. But in my opinion he continues to be over-hyped and popular beyond what his ring performance deserves.
But like I heard an art school professor tell Jon Stewart on the Daily Show recently, "the public is a critic. It's not a good one, but it is one."
On my own Bleacher Report ballot, I picked Mikey Garcia for 2013 Fighter of the Year. Garcia extended his perfect record on the year, recording three stoppage victories and collecting world titles in two divisions.
As 2014 begins, there have already been signs that Top Rank and HBO stand ready to promote Garcia harder than ever. He is an extremely well-rounded fighter technically and has a keen finishing instinct when an opponent is in trouble.
Beyond that, he is a humble yet intelligent personality who will continue to become more popular with the large Mexican-American fanbase, as well as with boxing fans of all other backgrounds.
Marcos Maidana came into 2013 already a popular fighter. For a couple of years now, Golden Boy has known it can always go to Maidana as a headliner on a Saturday night Showtime card and count on creating a fan buzz.
Like fellow Argentinian Lucas Matthysse, Maidana was known as a busy, mauling slugger. But Maidana has worked with super trainer Robert Garcia for all of his recent fights, and the development in his overall boxing skills and ring generalship has been evident.
Everything came together for Maidana last December when he beat up unbeaten Adrien Broner and captured the WBA welterweight belt.
Broner's public antics had caused many boxing fans to sour on him, despite his talent. The down-to-earth but super tough Maidana was the perfect dramatic foil for deflating the cocky young American star and his popularity since has been surging.
In 2013, Montreal resident and Haitian native Adonis Stevenson recorded four knockout victories while capturing the WBC and lineal light heavyweight championship from Chad Dawson by stunning Round 1 KO in June.
Montreal has always been a fight-mad town, and the fans there have adopted Stevenson as their new favorite. Although the fight that HBO would obviously love to make with Stevenson is a unification bout with WBO champ Sergey Kovalev, Stevenson has stated a preference for either Bernard Hopkins or Carl Froch.
Froch and Hopkins both have big wins over Montreal fighters, so those fights make sense business-wise for Stevenson. On the other hand, a fight with Kovalev is what boxing fans want worldwide.
Either way, Stevenson is a very hot fighter who a lot of people look forward to watching in 2014.
For two straight years, Danny Garcia has turned in one of the year's most impressive boxing performances. In 2012 it was his Round 4 TKO of Amir Khan, to unify the WBC and WBA light welterweight belts.
In 2013 it was his dismantling of the normally dangerous Lucas Matthysse on the Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez undercard. Matthysse had himself entered the fight one of the sport's hottest stars.
As 2014 starts, Garcia is probably looking at a move up to welterweight, where he can look forward to more very high-profile fights. If he keeps winning, his ticket for the Mayweather jackpot will no doubt get punched in the next couple of years.
There are still a few boxing fans reserving judgement on Gennady Golovkin as 2014 begins, claiming that the WBA middleweight champion's unbeaten record contains nobody of true note.
But most fans are evaluating GGG on the eyeball test, too, and he aces things there. And it's not accurate to say he's fought nobodies. He has early, brutal stoppages over Grzegorz Proksa and Matthew Macklin, who both won rounds and gave competitive fights to world champions.
And Golovkin's people have been calling for unification fights for two years now. Golovkin vs. Sergio Martinez will be one of the most called for fights in 2014.
In March 2013 Timothy Bradley outlasted Ruslan Provodnikov in a brutal war of attrition that was most people's pick for the Fight of the Year. In October he won a taut and exciting chess match against future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez.
The full range of Bradley's abilities were on display last year, and for the first time in his career, he has begun to finally gain some of the fan appreciation that a fighter with a resume like his deserves.
Bradley is guaranteed a major fight as 2014 begins. A rematch with any of his last three opponents would be among the spring's most-anticipated fights.
In November, Manny Pacquiao won a one-sided unanimous decision over Brandon Rios in Macau, China. Pacquiao looked crisp and quick against Rios, but Rios has a style that was expected to make Pacquiao look good, so nothing was really established in terms of whether or not Pacquiao was still the fighter he was circa 2010 or 2011.
But it was more than enough to start back up the Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather talk. And when those kind of conversations are in play, even if it's just speculation and arguments on message boards, it means that Pacquiao is automatically one of the two hottest fighters in the sport.
I won't believe the fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather happens until they are actually touching gloves in the center of the ring. But as long as the possibility remains, the fighters will stay red hot.
When a fighter can continue to make $50 million-plus every time he fights, in today's climate where boxing has largely been reduced to a niche sport, that proves he is the hottest fighter out there. The box office has spoken.
Whether people who hate him like it or not, it's just a fact. Nobody is hotter than Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather is coming into this year hot off his record pay-per-view sales against Saul Alvarez last September. As hot as Mayweather is right now, he has the potential to cool down as the year progresses.
If 2014 ends and Floyd Mayweather has only managed to fight opponents like Marcos Maidana or Amir Khan, he will end the year less hot than he is right now.
But as long as that long-awaited clash with Manny Pacquiao continues to flicker as at least a slight possibility, Mayweather will remain one of the two hottest fighters in the sport.