The year that was in boxing: The five biggest stories in 2017
Save for the traditional year-end shows in Japan, boxing is pretty much done for 2017. And by all accounts, this past year was a very eventful and fruitful one for the sport. Big fights took place all around the globe and major moves were made outside the ring that shook up the dynamic of the industry.
It was certainly a far cry from the malaise of 2016.
Here’s a look back at the five biggest stories of this past year on Bash Blvd. (in no particular order):
– Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin battle to a draw: The world middleweight championship bout fight many fans were skeptical of Golden Boy Promotions and Saul Alvarez pulling the trigger on finally took place at the T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas, on September 16. It was the most highly anticipated “real” boxing match of 2017 (more on that later) and, for the most part, it delivered inside the ring.
No, it wasn’t Marvelous Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns or at least an all-time great classic but it was a very good bout between two marquee fighters, over 12 hard fought rounds. The majority of observers believed Golovkin should’ve had his hands raised in victory but Alvarez earned respect, with his toughness and grit down the stretch. Not only was this fight a critical success but a commercial one, as it had the third highest gate in history, with a take of just over $27 million and pay-per-views totaling well over a million buys.
With the fight being ruled a draw and the promotion doing well with the bottom line, we’ll most likely see a second chapter of “GGG”-Canelo.
– Top Rank moves to ESPN: For years, Top Rank was the major content provider with HBO and together this partnership was able to produce pay-per-view stars like Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. Coming into 2016, WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko and undefeated former undisputed junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford were key components of HBO’s boxing franchise.
However after months of speculation, it was announced, in the summer, that Top Rank would be taking its whole stable (from Crawford and Lomachenko to their four-round prospects) to the “Worldwide Leader” in entertainment and sports – ESPN. Yes, the four-letter monolith would dive headfirst into boxing in a big way and it started off with a bang, on July 1, with a card from Brisbane, Australia. There, Jeff Horn upset Manny Pacquiao, for the WBO welterweight title, in a bout that did a sizable Nielsens rating.
Todd duBoef, the president of Top Rank, the architect of this deal, believed it was time for the sport to be featured on a bigger platform than just premium cable and one that catered to a general sports audience. For years, ESPN looked at boxing as a niche sport but now it’s making a major commitment to the sport, in recent months (when they provided week-long coverage of pay-per-view bouts that didn’t involve Top Rank), and using its vast array of platforms and shows to promote its boxing broadcasts.
So far both parties seem to be benefiting during the honeymoon phase of this relationship and it will be interesting to see how this union works out in the long term.
– Anthony Joshua downs Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000: On the night of April 29, at Wembley Stadium in Britain, it’s not clear which was the bigger story: That it was perhaps the “Fight of the Year” (a rarity for a heavyweight fight nowadays) or the actual attendance and atmosphere that accompanied this titanic battle.
Knockdowns were traded and there were huge momentum shifts between the two hulking heavyweights. In the end, the younger Joshua was finally able to subdue Klitschko. It was the type of fight that created a palpable buzz that extended beyond the sport. It showed that perhaps boxing isn’t truly dead (at least not in certain parts of the world).
For Klitschko – who eschewed a rematch – it was a valiant and honorable way to end a Hall-of-Fame career. For the IBF/WBA champion Joshua, it elevated his status as the biggest (literally and figuratively) draw in all of boxing.
– Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia plays to huge TV audience: No, the bout between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia wasn’t a particularly memorable one. In fact, boos could be heard echoing throughout the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, during the middle rounds of this welterweight title unification bout that was eventually won by Thurman.
But it didn’t hurt the television ratings, as CBS procured a sizable audience (certainly by modern-day boxing standards) that peaked at over 5,000,000 viewers.
In many respects, Premier Boxing Champions has failed to draw a general audience to the sport on its myriad of networks, with its time buys, but this was its best night.
– Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor: Yeah, it happened on the night of August 26 and guess what? It wasn’t the downfall of western civilization or the end of boxing, for that matter. The event came and went and, for the most part, the actual fight (in which Floyd later admitted to carrying Conor) was well-received by the public.
Just think about this: For that weekend, of all things, boxing was the biggest event, not just in sports but in all of pop culture. Mixed martial arts’ biggest star made his biggest payday not in an Octagon but in the squared ring and, lo and behold, Dana White, of all people, (who has been talking about the demise of boxing for years) is now contemplating throwing his hat into this business.
You can debate all you want about the credibility of this fight and if this should really count on Mayweather’s record as his 50th victory but there’s no denying this promotion resonated with the public. And guess what?
When it was over, the sun came out the next day and boxing moved on.
Here’s a look back at 2017 with Mike Baca, Doug Fischer and me on this year’s final installment of “10 Count.”
Not much to say other than Merry Christmas…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.