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What's Boxing's Next Superfight After the Mayweather-Pacquiao Era?

FILE - In this combination of file photos, U.S. boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, prepares to spar at a gym in east London on May 22, 2009, and Manny Pacquiao, right, of the Philippines, weighs in for the junior welterweight boxing match against British boxer Ricky Hatton, May 1, 2009, in Las Vegas. The March 13 , 2010 megafight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been thrown into jeopardy. Mayweather's camp is demanding the fighters submit to Olympic-type drug testing in the weeks leading up to the bout. Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather's manager, says the fight will not go on if Pacquiao doesn't agree to blood testing under standards followed by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photos/Alastair Grant and Rick Bowmer, File)
Alastair Grant
Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2014

Boxing missed a golden opportunity on Saturday night.

Had Tim Bradley duplicated his initial victory over Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a long and generally unsatisfying era in the sport might have come to a skidding halt.

In one fell 12-round swoop, “Desert Storm” could have all but snuffed any remaining optimism—as misguided as it usually seems to be—that Pacquiao and chief verbal nemesis Floyd Mayweather Jr. would ever find themselves in a ring with the intention of actually fighting.

But because Bradley was unable to officially pull the plug, a smattering of life lingers.

Bob Arum was asked about the match at the post-fight press conference, and comments sections on boxing-focused websites across the galaxy are still home to suggestion that the fight will happen, regardless of the seemingly endless sets of circumstances plotting against it.

For our purposes here, however, we’re going ahead as if the sheet’s been pulled up.

Though it’ll seem nerve-wracking to finally embrace the idea that there’s life after Mayweather-Pacquiao, a quick look at the horizon does indicate potential for some profitable and compelling matches even if the outspoken American and genial Filipino never actually get together.

Compelling phenoms are available to fight established veterans. Respected champions in weight classes can and will meet ambitious titleholders on a heavier ladder rung. And talented guys whose paths have run parallel will inevitably make the turns needed to lead to a violent intersection.

Boxing’s heart will indeed go on without Floyd and Manny…and here are a few reasons why.

 

Deontay Wilder vs. Wladimir Klitschko

Few people gave it much notice when an American heavyweight won a bronze medal amid a historically lousy performance by Team USA at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

A few more began paying attention when that same heavyweight got started on the requisite string of knockout victories at the start of his professional career.

But now that the run has reached 31, a catchy nickname (“Bronze Bomber”) has been applied and the fighter in question has begun calling for the heads of fighters that the casual fan has heard of, Deontay Wilder is edging ever closer to becoming a heavyweight household name.

Throw it all into a bowl and add a sprinkling of Wladimir Klitschko for taste, and voila…it’s a superfight.

The prospect of an unbeaten power-punching American competing for the heavyweight title on which Klitschko has had a Ukrainian stranglehold for what seems like an eternity would be a ratings bonanza for whatever network prescient enough to broadcast it.

And if Wilder were somehow able to pull off what seems like a mammoth task, it’d kick start an era of good feeling that’s been absent among the big men since the days of Lewis, Holyfield and Tyson.

 

Gennady Golovkin vs. Andre Ward

While it’s nice to have two giant-sized guys to add to the imagery when trying to sell a particular boxing match—particularly among the heavyweights—some fights don’t need the help.

Those are the ones, based on the acumen and career trajectories of the principals involved and on the adjacent nature of the sport’s weight classes, which just feel like a logical occurrence.

Gennady Golovkin fighting Andre Ward fits the latter set of criteria perfectly.

They were both decorated amateurs. They’re both undefeated professionals. They’ve both established a level of dominance in their given weight classes. And, conveniently enough, they both are standard-bearers for the same premium cable operation.

The fact that they’ve mentioned each other as desired future opponents, in this case, is gravy.

Provided each guy gets through 2014 without a bump, mark this one down for 12 months down the road and stake out a good seat for what could turn into an epic miniseries.

 

Adonis Stevenson vs. Bernard Hopkins

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

Philadelphia’s Bernard Hopkins is an aging, respecting champion in his weight class, but he seems ripe for the picking now that younger, stronger (fill in the blank) has appeared on the scene.

Some plot lines never seem to go away, huh?

It’s been nine years since Hopkins was chased from the middleweight division by Jermain Taylor, and many thought his career was dead and buried three years later when he signed to fight a younger, stronger and then-unbeaten Kelly Pavlik. Instead, the geezer resurrected his legitimacy with a dominant 12-round schooling, and he’s been feasting on similarly youthful prey ever since.

Adonis Stevenson appears to be next on the menu.

The Haitian-turned-Canadian is no newbie at 36, but he feels like the new kid on the block since erasing Chad Dawson (the last man to beat Hopkins, incidentally) in one round and defending the WBC with a pair of KOs since. His recent alliances with Al Haymon and Showtime seemed solely for the purpose of getting a Hopkins fight done, and assuming both men handle their intermediate business this spring—Hopkins against Beibut Shumenov and Stevenson against Andrzej Fonfara—it’ll be go time in the fall.

A streaking KO machine against a guy just months away from a 50th birthday? Just try not to watch.

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