Let’s pretend for a moment that Manny Pacquiao doesn’t get sloppy at the end of the 6th round with his right hand. The bell rings and he maintains momentum through the remaining rounds to grind out another win against Manuel Marquez. Then what? We go back to praying for Pacquiao/Mayweather, wondering why Timothy Bradley’s even remotely relevant and waiting for the next great fighter to battle for the attention of the country.
Lucky for boxing fans, that didn’t happen. Pacquiao leaned into a perfect counterpunch from Marquez and got knocked out for nearly two minutes. And now that the status quo has been shaken up, boxing can begin to fix itself.
Boxing used to be the only game in town. If you wanted to see two people fight, it was either the scripted drama of the WWF, Bum Fights on YouTube or boxing. When someone asked you, “Did you see the fight last night?” you knew exactly which one they were talking about. Boxing enjoyed a monopoly and took advantage of it with Pay-Per-View prices and corruption. Those days are over.
The emergence of UFC and mixed martial arts has changed a lot. I can’t remember the last time there was a major boxing event that didn’t have a UFC event scheduled the same day. To help casual fans gain interest in the sport, there’s a clear distinction as to who the champion is in each weight class. UFC is even showing championship fights on network television. Who cares if they can’t show fighter’s flipping the bird? That’s not why we tune in. The fight? Which one?
Almost every mainstream sport has made changes to improve. Major League Baseball has interleague play and expanded playoffs. The National Football League has improved instant replay and plays games three days a week. The National Basketball League has started to punish flopping. It’s also becoming more and more difficult for athletes at any level to get away with using performance enhancing drugs.
Although I was thoroughly entertained by UFC on FOX, boxing stole the headlines. But on December 9th, I didn’t see Manny Pacquiao’s face planted in the canvas. I saw the sport of boxing getting knocked out. Let’s all hope that both the boxer, and the sport can wake up and improve so neither has a sloppy moment again.