Last September Floyd Mayweather left vacant the pay-per-view title, earlier this month Manny Pacquiao regained the lavish crown and then vacated as he vanished into another retirement.
Early next month the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, a glittering trophy hidden behind the parking lots at the New York, New York complex, will host boxing for the first time when Amir Khan, the kid from Bolton, and Canelo Alvarez, the kid from the streets of Jalisco, fight for pay-per-view millions.
The rest of the sport is trading punches and insults in Alvarez’s slipstream at the moment with leading contenders Gennady Golovkin, who fights this Saturday, Miguel Cotto, who lost to Alvarez last November, and Danny Garcia, who beat Khan in 2012, all looking for an Alvarez fight or hoping that Mayweather ends his exile.
Mayweather was, we must always remember, never the most exciting boxer but his appeal shattered pay-per-view records, gate receipts and earnings so completely that he left behind a ruined marketplace for the rest of the sport. He cleared in excess of $50ms easily on six or more occasions and would make double that amount if he returned this September; it has to be said that between private jets and shopping in Europe Mayweather is putting a serious dent in the riches he made during his career.
Alvarez against Khan is for the middleweight title but they have agreed to fight at just one pound above the light-middleweight limit, which means that the winner can look both ways in search of his next massive payday. Golovkin, the unbeaten Kazak middleweight champion with 31 knockouts in 34 fights, operates five pounds above Alvarez’s best weight and Garcia, unbeaten in 32 with 18 ending quick, fights eight pounds below the same weight.
Khan agreed to the Alvarez fight, which has been made at 155 pounds, even though he had never fought above the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. It was a risk from the start and Khan quite rightly was prepared to take it because of the potential rewards: “It’s not enough weight to worry me and the extra pounds will only make Canelo slower,” he insisted, and added that the word ‘middleweight’ is confusing people and that he is in reality only fighting at light-middleweight. He is partly right, but the real fear is Alvarez’s natural strength and the shocked testimony of the men that he has crushed.
Assuming that Pacquiao stays retired this time to concentrate on politics in the Philippines, there is every chance that Alvarez, Khan, Cotto, Garcia and Golovkin fight against each other in some type of combination before the end of the year. There is a chance that Sheffield’s Kell Brook will join from the edges of the tiny gang and that Errol Spence, one of the American flops at the London Olympics, but now being hailed as the next star, will also be part of the matchmaking search for boxing’s next cash cow. Spence dismantled a man called Chris Algieri last weekend in five painful rounds; Algieri was fresh from going the full twelve with Khan and Pacquiao.
The belts they all own and fight for have long since become obsolete in a boxing landscape where pay-per-view figures mean more than any of the weight limitations imposed by the ancient strictures of fighting as a welterweight or a middleweight. There will be super fights, make no mistake and they will be thrilling and that starts in Las Vegas with Khan against Alvarez.