Boxing comment: The next two and a half years could ultimately determine just where Floyd Mayweather Jnr will stand in the long list of ring greats. While many have debated his worth as the pound-for-pound leader, there is little doubt that the US pugilist is the undisputed ruler in terms of revenue, a reputation he cemented recently by agreeing a staggeringly lucrative TV deal.
Last month the undefeated 36-year-old parted company with US broadcaster HBO to join rivals Showtime in a six-fight 30-month pay-per-view deal expected to be worth over $200 million (£132m).
His 14-year association with HBO saw nine pay-per-view contests generate $543m (£358m) from 9.6m buys.
Despite those impressive figures and the litany of world titles he accumulated along the way, from super-featherweight to light-middleweight, critics have cited Mayweather’s reluctance to take risks by fighting peak top-level opposition.
Yet though expectations are high that Mayweather, who starts his quest against Robert Guerrero on May 4, will fight a number of worthy opponents, there is every chance that some of the sport’s most vaunted names will never face him.
After all, boxing isn’t simply asking two men to face off. The complex relationships between rival promoters and TV companies can prevent some of the dream match-ups from ever being staged.
Many of the proposed future Mayweather challengers may already be out of the equation with promotional outfit Top Rank — an organisation with whom Mayweather has a poor relationship — laying claim to Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr.
Nonetheless boxing fans will hope the TV wars don’t prevent them from seeing the memorable matches that first attracted them to the sweet science, especially considering that other sports, by and large, host the best against the best.
Increasingly the sport is being governed by the broadcasters who with the massive help of the paying public continue to fund the likes of Mayweather. An interesting sidenote is HBO’s decision to stop buying fights from leading US promoters Golden Boy, who have co-staged Mayweather’s recent bouts as they say their focus is on seeing the best fighters in the most compelling match-ups.
If Showtime take a leaf from the HBO book, then hopefully this six-year deal will ensure that Mayweather won’t simply end up counting up his dollars without being suitably tested.
Of the current protagonists, middleweight king Sergio Martinez would probably give Mayweather the most problems.
The 38-year-old Argentinian has already beaten British hopefuls Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin, destroyed Paul Williams and comprehensively outpointed Chavez Jnr.
He is preparing to face his third Brit in Martin Murray next month and is highly ranked in many top 10 pound-for-pound lists.
Martinez (50-2-2) doesn’t appear to be easily intimidated and would also be willing to engage in an all-out war with Mayweather.
Being the naturally bigger man and possessing substantial power would require Mayweather to use his brilliant defensive skills, boxing off the back foot and successfully countering. The biggest stumbling block to the bout taking place could be the agreed fight weight, with Mayweather highly unlikely to make his bow at 160lbs and Martinez being reluctant to drop down to 154 or lower.
Unless the bout was made at middleweight I would see Mayweather using his superior speed to outbox Martinez over 12 rounds.
However a success over Guerrero would more likely lead him to a duel with the latest hot Mexican prospect Saul Alvarez.
At just 22 years old, “Canelo” has already chalked up an impressive 41-0 record and is the current WBC light-middleweight champion with six world title bouts behind him.
It is the kind of match that could break pay-per-view records as Alvarez is a huge marketable commodity.
He has beaten former world rulers Kermit Cintron and Shane Mosley and has a naturally aggressive come-forward style that may draw Mayweather into a gruelling battle.
There is a danger that meeting Mayweather any time in the next 18 months could be premature and he may run the risk of him being outclassed.
Ultimately I can only see Mayweather coming unstuck during the Showtime deal if his reflexes slow rapidly.
Mayweather (43-0) is still an example of exemplary preparation and dedication. He hasn’t been hit often or involved in wars.
He lives a clean-cut life and would hold his own in any era. I expect the money to roll in and the money man will roll on.
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