Boxing's new wave of stars – young, talented, aggressive fighters like Nonito Donaire, Abner Mares, Lucas Matthysse and Brandon Rios – have the ability to take the sport to another level.
It's always been filled with problems, but boxing has drifted far from the mainstream in the last quarter century. There is the occasional event or two a year that capture the public's imagination and lead to wistful dreams of what could be. But for the most part, those who run boxing make those who run the NHL look like business juggernauts.
Any NHL fan could tell you how difficult that is to do, but it's the truth.
Boxing is never going to be what we want it to be. It's never going to be a clean and tidy sport with a logical business plan. Smart, well-run businesses spend time and invest money to research their customers and learn what they want. They then find ways to deliver that product.
Boxing is the sport that takes its biggest potential event and lets it evaporate amid chaos and finger-pointing, with two fools allowing a fight that would have paid them the equivalent of the GDP of Slovakia slip through their fingers while arguing over which of them was wrong.
There is no making sense of what goes on in boxing, though at its best, it is so compelling that we can't turn away.
By its standards, boxing had a marvelous year in 2012. There were great fights, sometimes on a weekly basis, and television ratings on HBO and Showtime increased in response. There were even back-to-back weekends in December when network television dared to grace its air with the sport.
Still, boxing fans deserve far more.
Unraveling the many Byzantine feuds and petty disagreements that permeate the sport is only slightly less complex than trying to understand the issues in the Middle East.
There are few workable solutions, unfortunately. There is no barrier to entry, so anyone with enough money to pay a state licensing fee can become a manager or, with slightly more money, can get a promoter's license. A fax machine and a cell phone is all that is needed to set up shop.
The only group that can bring some sort of order to this chaos is the fighters themselves.
It's no secret that Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions hate Bob Arum and Todd duBoef of Top Rank. The sides refuse to do business with each other.
Their refusal to work together severely impacted the potential of a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight – at least a $100 million mistake.
But the superfight isn't the only mouth-watering matchup impacted by the petty squabbling between the two promotions. It's also depriving the audience of fights such as Mares (Golden Boy) against Donaire (Top Rank) and Rios (Top Rank) against Matthysse (Golden Boy).
Mares wants to fight Donaire, and Donaire has made it just as clear that he wants to fight Mares. There has been no movement toward putting together the most significant super bantamweight bout since Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera III in 2004, though, because of the feud.
Journalists and fans can scream about it all they want, but it won't matter. Only the fighters can make an impact, though it's going to take a massive sacrifice and a lot of courage on their part to accomplish anything meaningful.
Donaire told Yahoo! Sports before his third-round knockout of Jorge Arce on Dec. 15 that he has asked Top Rank officials about a potential Mares bout, but hasn't gotten a firm answer.
"They say they're working on it, but it never really happens," he said.
It's going to take the star fighters speaking out to end this travesty. Clearly, it's a difficult situation for the fighters to be in because they only make money when they fight.
It's easy for a sports columnist to urge boxers such as Donaire, Mares, Rios and Matthysse to not fight until they're offered the fight they want. The boxers are the ones who will suffer as they need to fight to not only earn money, but to hone their skills and keep themselves in the public eye.
Still, imagine how effective a news conference in Los Angeles would be if Mares and Donaire each walked to a podium and said they're willing to fight each other but that their promoters would not help them make the bout they wanted?
It would clearly have an impact, but it couldn't be a one-time thing to make a significant difference. The sport's big names would have to consistently pressure its promoters in order to get the biggest fights made.
It's never going to be 100 percent effective, but if boxing's budding stars band together, they and only they can be a force for positive change in the game.
Boxing flourishes around the world – stadiums are packed with fans, television ratings are through the roof and fighters are celebrities of the highest order.
In the U.S., where the most fights are held and where the vast majority of stars compete, the sport has become the stuff of cable television.
Boxing needs its stars, now more than ever.
As good as 2012 was, 2013, 2014 and 2015 can be significantly better if the world's best boxers put the onus on their promoters to make the fights the world wants to see.
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