Manny Pacquiao: Will Boxing Struggle When He Retires?

Trae ThompsonSenior Analyst IJanuary 17, 2011

Manny Pacquiao: Will Boxing Struggle When He Retires?

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    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:

Reason No.5 It Will Struggle: Peaks and Valleys

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    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. 

Reason No.5 It Will Be Fine: Not The First Time

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    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.

Reason No.4 It Will Struggle: One Less Fighter

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    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.

Reason No.4 It Will Be Fine: The Pond's Still Stocked

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    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.

Reason No.3 It Will Struggle: The Glamour Division

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    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.

Reason No.3 It Will Be Fine: Staying Power

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    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. 

Reason No.2 It Will Struggle: Lack Of Marketing

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    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. 

Reason No.2 It Will Be Fine: Pass The Torch

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    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.

Reason No.1 It Will Struggle: Who's The Superstar?

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    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. 

Reason No.1 It Will Be Fine: Keep It In Context

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    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.


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    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.