If anyone really wanted to save boxing, the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would be airing in prime time on free TV. Or at least ESPN.
Think about it. Would football be what it is if the Super Bowl could only be seen in Mexico or on pay per view for a hundred bucks? What if the college Bowl games were all seen only on pay per view?
What if all Yankees vs. Red Sox games cost a hundred bucks to watch? What if NBA playoffs, or the Stanley Cup finals, the Masters, Wimbledon, or the Olympics, were only available to wealthy people with access to pay per view? Would any of those sports be as universally popular as they are now? They would make money, yes. Vegas would love it. But would they be healthy, and a part of our national consciousness?
It's impossible to clean up boxing, which never has really been spotless, but it sure would take it a bit of the stroke out of the hands of the high-stakes gamblers, undesirables, and celebrity hangers-on (Justin Bieber for Money and Mark Wahlberg for Pacman.) If regular people could watch big fights, and if tickets were priced reasonably enough that normal people might be able, if they wanted, to attend a big fight, the sport might one day be what it was. Ask those who remember when Sugar Ray Leonard was fighting for a title amid a pack of superb welterweights and middleweights. Every fight was a huge fight. Free, live, on "Wide World of Sports."
It's a cautionary tale for certain to other sports, with their $11 hot dogs and climbing ticket prices - $53 average for regular season NBA, $62 for NHL and $82 for NFL). Don't price your sport where only Hollywood types and gamblers can afford it, unless you want your sport run by those people.
If kids aren't wearing it on their t-shirts, it doesn't have much of a long-term future. If a kid can't grow up watching a sport, don't expect them to be a fan when they are an adult. Most people could care less about boxing at this point.
Thankfully, most sports, aside from pro rasslin' and MMA, haven't gone the pay-per-view route. And at least MMA provides the fights people want to see, when they want them - not six years of dodging.
Why isn't there much competition for boxing titles?
Don't expect your greatest athletes to go into a sport than no one sees on TV growing up. Tough, wiry kids are looking at mixed martial arts if they fancy making a living at sports.
Once upon a time, Ali-Foreman-Frazier level fights were shown live on free network TV, and the interest in an appearance by The Greatest put even the Super Bowl games to shame.
Now - quick, without Googling - who's the current heavyweight champion of the world? (Insert sound of crickets and blowing tumbleweeds here).
It doesn't help that five different groups declare their own champions. Clear as mud.
I'll bet you more people can tell you who Ronda Rousey is than can name any athlete in boxing today aside from May/Pac.
This is the one fight that might have saved things for boxing. A fight people actually care about.
Are care they should. It has been hyped to the point where it's treated as the second coming, The Beatles reunion, Haley's Comet, Evel Kneivel jumping Elvis in Monica Lewinsky's dress, all rolled into one entertainment happening.
Odd level of attention, really, for two fighters pushing 40, plumped up half a dozen divisions from their prime, who have dodged this very fight ad nauseum for six years or so, squabbling about everything from their share of hundred-of-million-dollar purse to drug testing.
Not to say that they are not outrageously talented - Mayweather has an opportunity to be the most famous fighter to retire undefeated in a long career since Rocky Marciano. Pacquiao may be the only fighter ever to win titles in eight weight divisions.
They are also about as clearly separated as the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. Bad guy vs. good guy has never been so delineated outside of a Hulk Hogan wrestling match.
Mayweather is obnoxiously boastful about his, well, money, collects supercars, posts pictures from his "Big Boy Mansion," cultivates celebrity status, and is careful to dodge questions about his multiple cases of alleged violence against women. (By the way, football is cracking down on abusers, boxing is celebrating a serial abuser as its greatest hero. That could be part of the problem.)
Pacquaio, on the other hand, is likeable, political, religious, obsessed with basketball, has his own sitcom show in the Philippines, funds scholarships for orphans and does a passable version of "Sometimes When We Touch."
Their ring styles are as different as their lives outside boing. Pacquaio is a straight-ahead puncher bent on delivering punishment and willing to take it on the way, Mayweather a slippery technician who dances away from contact and avoids taking punishment at all costs.
Maybe what fascinates us so much about this fight is that it's a bit of a microcosm of life itsownself.
One way of living, one way of acting, vs. another. Do we admire like-ability, or riches? Humility or glitter? Toughness or slickness?
Both men will go down among the greats of their sport, but will the sport be great after them?