By Kieran Mulvaney
When Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather enter the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 2, they will not just shatter all existing pay-per-view records for a single night. Their joint appearance will substantially pad the lead the two men presently have on boxing’s career PPV charts. Mayweather, the undisputed king of pay-per-view, has generated $840 million from 14,460,000 lifetime PPV buys to date; in terms of revenue, Pacquiao is tucked in just behind him with $750 million on 13,160,000 buys. Both men have expressed an intention to continue fighting after May 2, whatever the result, so given the sky-high expectations for next Saturday’s event, it is entirely possible that either or both of them could ultimately walk away having been a part of 20 million PPV buys.
And after that … what’s next? Or, more accurately, who’s next? There is never a shortage of prognosticators eager to pronounce the imminent death knell of boxing, and rest assured those pronouncements will be out in force as the finish line approaches for the careers of Money May and the Pacman.
But such doom-laden predictions have shadowed boxing for decades – including when Oscar De La Hoya (number three on the PPV revenue list) and Mike Tyson (number five) entered the autumn years of their pugilistic lives. Who could have predicted, as Tyson lay on the canvas after being battered by the fists of Lennox Lewis in 2002, that the man who would replace him as boxing’s biggest global superstar was a young Filipino who defended a super bantamweight title on that same card?
So the next big star may be hiding in plain sight. Or he may be only now entering the public consciousness. Or perhaps he’s one of any number of champions or contenders already standing on the next level, ready to make that big leap (a group which could include Miguel Cotto, had he not already established his PPV credentials) . The future is uncertain and career trajectories are tough to predict, but here’s a handful of nominations for the title of boxing’s Next Big Thing.
The Heir Apparent:
Alvarez has already had one shot at the brass ring, of course, falling short against Floyd Mayweather in what is presently the highest-grossing PPV of all time. That 2013 loss, the young Mexican’s only professional defeat, scored 2.2 million buys in the United States, generated approximately $150 million in revenue, and followed on the heels of 39,000 spectators crowding into the Alamodome to watch him defeat Austin Trout. Since the Mayweather defeat, Alvarez has continued to draw crowds and rack up PPV numbers; he returns to HBO on May 9 against James Kirkland.
Triple G hasn’t fought on pay-per-view yet, but he surely will. The likeable knockout artist’s popularity is growing, as evidenced by the fact that his seemingly effortless dismissal of Marco Antonio Rubio in October set a boxing attendance record for the StubHub Center and was HBO’s third highest rated boxing broadcast of the year. His next HBO bout, against Willie Monroe, Jr., is on May 16; the only thing standing in the way of the middleweight’s PPV success is the difficulty in convincing top-tier opponents to take the risk of facing him.
Like Golovkin, the Russian light-heavyweight is seeing his Q rating increase with every impressive outing. His surprisingly one-sided win over Bernard Hopkins last November was HBO’s second highest rated boxing broadcast of 2014, and his exciting stoppage defeat of Jean Pascal took place in front of roughly 12,000 fans in Montreal’s Bell Centre. He showed against Hopkins that he has a bright boxing brain, but it’s his dynamite right hand – and its ability to knock opponents into tomorrow – that makes him a fan favorite and a PPV natural.
A New Contender:
A year or so ago, this might have seemed an odd suggestion. Crawford is a sensational boxer, for sure, but could this soft-spoken technician really have what it takes to be a PPV main eventer? That was before his Fight-of-the-Year caliber slugfest with Yuriorkis Gamboa, his determinedly aggressive domination of Ray Beltran, and his most recent outing, a sixth-round knockout of Thomas Dulorme that was set in motion by as sweet a one-two as you’ll see in a long time. Crawford has graduated from someone whose skills can only be fully appreciated by the hardcore. He’s become an exciting fighter. Soon he’ll be a star.
Others to Watch:
The Russian-born, Montreal-based light-heavyweight is 8-0 with 8 knockouts. He has annihilated veterans like Tavoris Cloud and Gabriel Campillo. Coudl a future clash with Kovalev be on the horizon?
Fans love heavyweights, and Britain’s Joshua, who won gold at the 2012 Olympics, may well be the best of a crop of young ones. No less an authority than Wladimir Klitschko sings his praises.
Another Olympian, Dallas welterweight Spence is 15-0 and on the verge of stepping up from prospect to contender. It likely won’t be long until he bursts into the spotlight.
Puerto Rican Verdejo seemingly has it all: terrific boxing skills, knockout power, and a natural charisma topped with a winning smile. The lightweight seems destined for stardom, and he’ll be making his HBO debut on June 13 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.