De La Hoya-Mayweather set the stage
Boxing must follow Mayweather-De La Hoya with knockout cards, writes The Mag's Tim Struby.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s split-decision win over Oscar De La Hoya lived up to the hype. But in the long run, the megafight's impact might be more phantom punch than haymaker if boxing doesn't cash in on other big draws. It's not like the sport doesn't have plenty of monster matchups to keep the masses tuned in. Here are four possible bouts, along with the chances of each actually happening.
Purists want to see technician Miguel Cotto (29-0, 24 KOs) against loudmouthed brawler Antonio Margarito (34-4, 24 KOs). Both boxers know only one way to fight -- full speed ahead. "It has the potential to be Corrales vs. Castillo at welterweight," says HBO analyst Max Kellerman.
The fight is a virtual lock for later this year, provided each man gets by his next opponent. But those are big ifs. On June 9, Cotto faces the always dangerous Zab Judah (34-4, 25 KOs), and on July 14, Margarito must beat Paul Williams (32-0, 24 KOs), a 6-foot-1 slugger with a whopping 82-inch reach.
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Bros, pals possible opponents: IBF heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko (48-3, 43 KOs) is 31 and hasn't lost since 2004, while 35-year-old brother Vitali (35-2, 34 KOs) is unretiring to fight Oleg Maskaev or Samuel Peter for the WBC title. If the brothers fight, it could unify half of the division.
Klitschko vs. Klitschko would rake in a big U.S. audience, with an even bigger overseas draw. "They've said no a thousand times, and both promised their mother they wouldn't do it," says ESPN.com's Dan Rafael. But didn't Bernard Hopkins promise his late mother he'd retire at 40?
Welshman Joe Calzaghe (43-0, 32 KOs) has ultrafast fists. Denmark's Mikkel Kessler (39-0, 29 KOs) is a devastating puncher. This super middleweight battle of unbeaten champs would be more than huge on the PPV front. "It would be monstrous in Europe," says Showtime's Al Bernstein. Geography is a big hang-up.
With massive followings in their native countries, Kessler and Calzaghe have been unwilling to compromise on a location. But public demand -- and big money -- means the fight will likely happen somewhere late this year. Look for Vegas to provide a neutral site.
Back in 2004, Manny Pacquiao (44-3-2, 35 KOs) knocked down Juan Manuel Marquez (47-3-1, 34 KOs) three times in Round 1. But Marquez recovered to earn a controversial draw. Since then, the junior lightweights have emerged as top pound-for-pounders, and a rematch has become a must.
Yes, it's a potential PPV gem that would rally every important demo, but there's only a 50-50 chance this fight will ever occur. Pacquiao's Top Rank promoters are in a nasty legal spat with Marquez's Golden Boy, which claims Pac-Man reneged on a signed contract and a $250K cash exchange.
Tim Struby is a features writer for ESPN The Magazine.