Updated: Sunday, 12th July 2020 @ 9:02am

Inside Sport: Boxing on the verge of golden future if it can stop beating itself up

Inside Sport: Boxing on the verge of golden future if it can stop beating itself up

By Jack Travers

Boxing is widely considered not to be the sport it once was. There are many reasons for this with the lack of quality in the high profile heavyweight division being arguably the most quoted.

However, this argument fails to notice that there is something with the potential to become a ‘golden age’ occurring in the light-welterwight and welterweight divisions - and it has been happening for years.

Granted, not many eras have ever, or ever will, match the heavyweight division from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Floyd Patterson, Ken Norton and others went toe-to-toe.

The same can be said of the 1980s welterweight and middleweight divisions as Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns, ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran traded blows and belts in nine absorbing fights against each other.

However, Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquiao are already assured of their places in the Hall of Fame. Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley and many others have also been lighting up the 140-154lb divisions for years and there are others such as Amir Khan who are well on the way to attaining ‘legendary’ status.  

But there is something holding this era back and Khan has not been afraid to talk about it – the best are not fighting the best often enough.

Khan himself is a prime example. Bolton’s favourite son is regarded among the top two in the world at light-welterweight (140lb) but is having to step up to welterweight (147) in order to chase the biggest fights which this ambitious and precociously talented pugilist needs to solidify his position at the sport’s top table. His Saturday night bout in washington DC against Lamont Peterson is expected to be his last at light-welterweight.

This is not the only reason Khan is moving up a division. He might be even better at welterweight than at light-welterweight. However, the fact that his main rivals in the division are refusing to fight him makes it worthless for him to stay where he is. There are just too many variations of the same title. WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF -  four opportunities for someone to call themselves a world champion and thus hide from potential unification fights.

The main culprit is Timothy Bradley. The undefeated American is the WBO light-welterweight champion but has avoided and continues to avoid Khan as he obviously fears for his belt, and perhaps his health, if he steps into the ring with his counterpart who currently holds the WBA and IBF versions.

This is a sad state of affairs and shows that boxing is not all about proving you are the best for some – it is also a business, as all sports are these days, and business is better if you remain undefeated, even if you do hide from the biggest threats to your belt(s) and record.

The Khan-Bradley debate has similar undertones to the Mayweather-Pacquiao debacle which is now showing signs of finally being resolved without anyone holding their breath quite yet.

All boxing fans, and sports fans in general, are praying for these two modern masters to take control from the lawyers and promoters and hark back to a time when the best and bravest sports stars in the world let their gloves do their talking.

This is easier said than done as both men (if not the men themselves then definitely their respective camps) are probably concerned that if the unthinkable happens and they lose then their legacy will suffer but boxing needs this fight to happen.

It will be one of the great sporting events of this generation if it does as nobody doubts these two men are amongst the best this division, and perhaps any division, has seen for a long time.

With Mayweather renowned for his barely-believable defensive skills and Pacquiao for his lightning fast attacking combinations, it is the ultimate ‘The irresistible force meets the immovable object’ bout. The men and their promoters need to read George Kimball’s Four Kings – the story of Leonard, Hearns, Hagler and Duran. Maybe then they would spark the revival of the very top fighters getting in the ring together to see who is the best of the best.

Just think, Mayweather v Pacquiao, Khan v Bradley, Mayweather v Khan, Marquez v Pacquiao (4), Khan v Marquez….This is more than enough to whet the appetite of any boxing fan.

The sport is blessed with big characters but sadly all the noise is coming from outside the ring with trash talkers hogging the headlines. All it needs is one super fight, namely Mayweather v Pacquiao, and this sleeping giant of a sport will be roused and ready to usher in a new ‘golden era’.