Who’s Next?

By Johnathan Lee Iverson on August 28, 2017
Who’s Next?
Who has what it takes to galvanize the public and elevate the sport in the open market?

One needs more than a willing and dangerous dance partner of stature. You need good ‘ole fashion promotion…

The era of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has officially come to a close, so he says. His perfect record and the validity of that record will now be the subject of much scrutiny among boxing’s intellectual elite and the fans. What is certain, the wonder kid from Grand Rapids, Michigan is without a shadow of a doubt, a first ballot Hall of Famer. What is also not in question is his economic impact, not only on boxing, but the sports world as a whole. Talking heads and fans alike will be left to ponder his standing as a pugilist, but there is no argument to be made regarding his marketing and promotional acumen. Pound for Pound, Floyd Joy Mayweather, Jr. is, in fact, the greatest of all time, until further notice.

Even as its greatest star rides off into the Las Vegas sunset boxing is still very much alive. The talent pool is opulent in a multiplicity of divisions. Even the long lamented heavyweight division has experienced a much-welcomed resurgence. But, alas this is prize fighting and for all the talent that litters the sport, it takes a star to fill the seats, generate pay per view revenue, and overload the streaming on my Periscope. Who among the many talents has what it takes to become a brand, galvanize the public, and elevate the sport in the open market?

Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Oscar Del La Hoya, and Floyd Mayweather, Jr., among others, were a special brand of pugilistic excellence and star power. Each simply had “it.” Something in their makeup, their story, or just savvy management afforded them mainstream appeal. Much of what we have at present are territorial stars. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a darling among Mexicans. Anthony Joshua fills Wembley Stadium. Terence Crawford packs them in, in Nebraska. The real test of stardom tends to happen outside one’s respective territory or safe zone; and of course, as is the case in most instances, one needs that star-making contest, as was the case for Marvelous Marvin Hagler when he faced off against Thomas Hearns or even, Naseem Hamed’s short-lived stardom that came against, the then-formidable Kevin Kelley. Anthony Joshua might do well to take a cue from his fellow Brit, venture over to the States and take on the likes of a Deontay Wilder. I can’t imagine a fight such as that not elevating the victor to extraordinary heights. I suspect “Canelo” Alvarez’s imminent encounter against Gennady Golovkin, if he should emerge victorious, will in fact, do just that. Canelo’s great fortune in this respect is the stature of his dance partner, but as we’ve seen even with Andre Ward’s great victory over Sergey Kovalev, one needs more than a willing and dangerous dance partner of stature. You need good ‘ole fashion promotion.

Great promotion doesn’t merely give the public what it wants. It gives it to them at the right time. The public salivated for Golovkin versus Alvarez, much like it did for De La Hoya versus Trinidad or Leonard versus Hearns. The anticipation made those respective promotions even grander.

At bottom, boxing’s next matinee idol will be a collaborative effort and in this climate it should not be hard to identify him. The media outlets for boxing are no longer exclusive to networks like HBO and Showtime. The Premiere Boxing Champions series, as well as ESPN’s resurgence grant fighters and their promoters, greater options to reach a broader audience. We also mustn’t discount the gift that was Mayweather vs. McGregor. For all the condemnation about the event, it very well may have created a new audience and greater interest for the sport of boxing.

September 16, all eyes will be on Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin, most specifically, Saul Alvarez. The reality is a victory for Golovkin will only benefit him. He’s in the twilight of his career and despite his talents has never shown the potential for mainstream stardom. Alvarez is in the throes of his prime and has a healthy following. A victory for him will only elevate his stature for the benefit of the sport as a whole, thus, making him the new face of boxing.

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