Boxing in 2019: Five biggest questions left to answer this year in the sweet science
From the heavyweight renaissance to what Canelo does next, there's plenty of burning questions for the rest of 2019
Entering the midway point in the calendar year for the sport of boxing, optimism is certainly high when glancing at the long list of projected fights over the final six months of 2019.
From the resurgence of the heavyweight division to boxing's continued push front and center on network television to the rise of streaming networks pumping money back into the sport, it's a good time to be associated with the business of the sweet science.
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As we ponder what is still to come over the second half of 2019, let's take a closer look at the biggest questions that still need answering.
1. How long will this heavyweight renaissance last? The answer is as long as the best are willing to fight the best and the powers that be are willing to work together in order to make that happen. Considering the old mantra that as the heavyweight division goes, so does boxing, things couldn't be any better at the moment with a handful of marketable top names and a bevy of matches we badly need to see. Not only have the names Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua slowly evolved to the entry level of mainstream recognition, the recent collaborations between networks and promoters have been encouraging. The next nine months are expected to bring must-see rematches (Andy Ruiz Jr.-Joshua, Wilder-Luis Ortiz and Wilder-Fury) that should get us closer to finding out who the best of the group truly is. Now we just need those in power to take that final step and allow a truly undisputed champion to be crowned. If that happens, the financial health of the sport will be such that everyone will be richer for having helped create the rising tide.
2. How far are we from finding out who is the best welterweight in the world? The decline at heavyweight over the past two decades has allowed the 147-pound division to become the sexiest in the sport thanks to consistent and big-money pay-per-view matchups. The division is once again loaded to nearly historic levels with all but one of the top names (Terence Crawford) residing under the Premier Boxing Champions banner. Despite the recent public optimism shared by Crawford promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank, it doesn't appear as if Crawford will be fighting fellow unbeaten champion Errol Spence Jr. anytime this calendar year. But with that said, PBC has scheduled a trio of must-see fights over the next few months (Pacquiao-Keith Thurman, Spence-Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia-Mikey Garcia) that should get us closer -- as almost a de facto tournament -- in finding out who within PBC truly is the best and whether a fight against Crawford will be marketable enough to see rival networks and promoters pool resources.
3. Who really calls the shots in Canelo Alvarez's massive DAZN deal? If there has been one constant in the Mexican superstar's rise of supplanting Mayweather as boxing's P4P king in North America, it has been his insistence upon daring to be great. With the exception of the two years he seemed to be waiting out middleweight rival Gennadiy Golovkin, all Alvarez has seemed to do is face the biggest and most difficult challenge available. Fresh off of two all-action classics against Golovkin, Alvarez signed a monster $365 million deal with the all-sports steaming app DAZN and has subsequently flashed that willingness to take on tough challenges by coming back three months later to knockout Rocky Fielding for a secondary super middleweight title before outpointing Daniel Jacobs in their May middleweight unification bout. If you polled boxing fans and DAZN executives alike, there's little doubt the unanimous choice for Alvarez's next opponent would be a trilogy bout with GGG, especially after DAZN signed the Kazakh slugger to an equally handsome exclusive deal. Alvarez, however, has echoed his promoter Oscar De La Hoya in recent weeks by saying Golovkin's lack of a world title at the moment makes him an unattractive opponent to the idea of Alvarez adding to his legacy. A more cynical observer might interpret that as Alvarez not feeling he has anything more to gain by going to war for a third time in a rivalry in which he was lucky to come away with a draw and a close win in fights most felt he had lost. Alvarez has seemed more interested in the idea of going to England to challenge unbeaten super middleweight titleholder Callum Smith, whose promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport also has a deal with DAZN. Either way, DAZN didn't sign Alvarez and Golovkin for any other reason than matching them up as a way to disrupt the market in the sport. It will be interesting to see who holds more power at the end of the day.
4. When will fans realize just how amazing the World Boxing Super Series truly is? For as historically broken and unorganized as the sport can be, there has been a true oasis in the desert happening over the past 18 months with the launch of the WBSS, only very few it seems have taken notice. Originally launching without a U.S. television deal, the series of tournaments surrounding some of boxing's most overlooked divisions found a home this year on DAZN and has done nothing but put out one sensational fight after another at cruiserweight, bantamweight and super middleweight. In the case of cruiserweight in 2018, the eight-man tournament crowned an undisputed champion in Alexsander Usyk while helping to make him a rising star in the process. This year, the tournament has threatened to do the same with Naoya Inoue at 118 pounds and the winner of the 140-pound tournament final between Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor. The WBSS is completely old school in the sense that the best end up fighting the best. If only the rest of the sport could take notice and follow suit. It's an idea that's certainly more difficult to pull off in the glamour divisions where rival promoters and networks tend to get in the way. Yet the WBSS is a refreshing and simple reminder of what boxing could look if those in power focused more on the health of the sport and not their own bottom line.
5. How serious should we take Dana White's attempt at crashing the party? If you listen to the bold UFC president talk, the answer should be very serious. White, who joined forces with PBC's Al Haymon to promote the 2017 blockbuster bout between Mayweather and UFC star Conor McGregor, has teased ever since that an invasion within the sport that has always been his first love is inevitable. Recently, White has pointed all questions toward some form of a fall reveal. White, during a recent interview with Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports, finally gave some rather vague information about what that could look like. After shooting down rumors that UFC parent company Endeavor was on the verge of purchasing the PBC, White said both he and the UFC streaming network Fight Pass were interested in making a number of inroads into the sport. From signing fighters to promotional deals to winning purse bids to televise big fights on Fight Pass to using the UFC's new and intimate Las Vegas arena as a venue, White certainly has plans to make as big of an impact as possible. The biggest potential impact, it seems, would surround if the rumors of a PBC buyout are true. Considering White's history as an expert marketer and promoter whose strategy in building UFC seemed to surround doing everything that boxing wasn't to serve its fans, it would be interesting to see whether he could have the same impact in a sport that has been so historically segregated.
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