Half a century ago, boxing was perhaps the biggest sport in the world. If you were a champion in one of the eight weight classes, you were famous—plain and simple.
Now, many title holders wallow away in almost total obscurity (anyone ever heard of 154-pound American titlist Austin Trout, for example?).
However, there are still some fighters out there who have the ability to create a stir each and every time they step into the ring. Here are the five boxers who are currently the biggest stars in the sport of boxing.
Living in the New York City area, I've attended Cotto fights as frequently as I could. Let me tell you, when Cotto fights at the garden, the atmosphere is unreal. Thousands of his fans turn out and are as passionate as any fans in the world. Every time he fights it's an event in New York.
Cotto has sold out Madison Square Garden numerous times, and has fought in Yankee Stadium. A casual sports fan knows his name, which is a rarity in today's fight game. As a testament to his popularity, here is a trivia question: Who has the attendance record for Madison Square Garden for a single event?
I really debated putting Canelo on this list, but when looking at the TV ratings that he does, I had no choice. In the US, Canelo routinely does excellent ratings when he is on HBO, and he is a proven draw, consistently drawing over 10,000 fans whenever he fights in the United States.
In Mexico, Alvarez is a legitimate superstar. His fights average over 40 million viewers south of the border. While already impressive, when put into perspective, that's about 40 percent of the population watching him every time he fights. The only time that happens in the United States is for the super bowl.
Canelo is only 21, which means that he has plenty of time to become an even bigger star than he already is. If the fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. comes off, they could possible sell out Estadio Azteca in Mexico City and break JCC Sr.'s all time attendance record.
While not largely popular in the United States, in Europe these guys are legitimate rock stars. They do huge TV ratings in Europe every time they fight, especially in Germany.
The Klitschko brothers both routinely sell out soccer stadiums, something almost no fighters could do in the United States, short of a couple guys yet to be mentioned.
Wlad and Vitali have incredible earning power, and are household names all over Europe. Also, Wladimir's fight against David Haye was a true worldwide event with viewers in about 150 countries.
While they aren't the most beloved fighters by Americans, they are still very well known to most sports fans, and I'll admit that despite not liking their style, I still will tune in and watch every one of their fights, no matter who it is against.
It was hard deciding between No. 1 and No. 2 on this list, but in the end I went with Floyd in the No. 2 position. Floyd is very arguably the PPV king today in the sport. His fights do huge numbers and are always big news.
Through the HBO show 24/7, and others such as dancing with the stars, Floyd has become a household name. His family is both intriguing and funny, and we love to watch and see what happens whenever they get together.
Floyd's personality is probably just as big a reason for his popularity as his boxing skill is. He talks a HUGE game outside the ring, but has backed it up inside it. As he'll say on his next 24/7 series, 42 have tried, 42 have failed. Floyd Mayweather is a true star in the sport today.
This was a tough decision, but I had to put Manny at No. 1. Him and Floyd are pretty much equal in terms of PPV numbers and name recognition in the United States, but what put Manny over the edge is his worldwide popularity.
Yes, Floyd is very well known outside the US, but he'll never get the admiration in his home country that Manny has. Manny is the most popular athlete, singer, actor, politician, and whatever else you can name in his home country of the Philippines.
He's so popular that when there used to be a conflict between the army and insurgents in the jungles, ceasefires would be called for a few hours so that everyone could sit down and watch him fight. If that's not true star power, then I don't know what is.
Pacquiao's ability to transcend the sport of boxing on a worldwide scale has been amazing. Although, his whirlwind style in the ring and overall exciting nature have helped him quite a bit to achieve the status he currently holds.