The implosion of the “Fight of the Millennium” between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. has left a mass of disappointed and angry fans, but it just may have opened the door for some real talents to finally take their steps up to superstardom.
Here are four fighters who look to turn the boxing world’s loss into their personal gain:
The quiet, unassuming champ from Palm Springs, CA sits atop an absolutely loaded junior welterweight division. After a tremendous 2009 that saw him finish as a runner-up to Pacquiao for Fighter of the Year, Bradley hopes to continue forward and grab even more headlines in 2010. Beneath him are plenty of quality names and potentially explosive contests. Fighters like the UK’s Olympic Gold Medalist wunderkind, Amir Khan; New York’s finest talker, Paulie Malignaggi; South American bangers, Juan Urango and Marcos Maidana; silky smooth American stylist Devon Alexander; and Golden Boy slugger, Victor Ortiz wait in line. Old foes like Nate Campbell and Kendall Holt could also be brought back to settle some unfinished business.
With Pacquiao and Mayweather stuck on pause, Timothy Bradley has plenty of fuel to propel him to the very top.
The American Gold Medalist, coming off an outstanding 2009, is in the unique position of becoming the highest regarded Super Middleweight since a prime Roy Jones Jr. owned the division over a decade ago. Already with wins over Mikkel Kessler and Edison Miranda, Ward will have the chance to add three more big names to his resume by the end of the year via Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic 168 lb. tournament.
He has the charisma and talent to become a major star and his easy-going persona stands in sharp contrast to some of the ego-driven antics involved in the Pacquiao-Mayweather debacle.
Ward can bring boxing back to the old days when fighters actually knew their craft and were willing to prove themselves in the ring without catchweight concessions and pre-fight contractual stipulations.
Could the collapse of Pacquiao-Mayweather inspire a resurgence in the heavyweight division? The brash WBA champion, David Haye, sure hopes so.
Haye has the style and the mouth to make headlines on the grand stage, but it’s still open for debate whether his fragile chin can handle the division’s biggest and best. If the UK’s Haye can stand his ground against the true monsters of the sport, he just may find himself in a position to reap the benefits of a boxing public absolutely hungry for something to follow at heavyweight.
2009 saw Haye establish himself as a “for real” big boy with a blowout of journeyman Monte Barrett and a shutout over reigning WBA champ, the 7-foot tall Nikolai Valuev. Haye’s first test this year will be against veteran spoiler, John Ruiz in April.
Should he get by Ruiz, it’s upward and onward for Haye and his quest to become the mega star he’s always claimed to be.
Before his schooling at the hands of Bernard Hopkins in late 2008, Pavlik was well on his way to becoming a superstar in the sport.
The middle class, blue collar fairytale story of Kelly Pavlik was derailed by the old school master and he may have taken his share of physical and emotional lumps in 2009, but the new year promises him a chance to regain some of his momentum.
Several opponents are a possibility for Pavlik, with Paul Williams, Sergio Martinez and Felix Sturm being at the top of the list. If Pavlik can keep his mind and body healthy, he can most definitely reestablish himself as a true star of the sport. After all, he still holds two of the middleweight belts and is still a very entertaining and compelling fighter to watch. The absence of the mega hype surrounding a Pacquiao-Mayweather mega fight could very well allow Pavlik to shine.
While the sport’s number one and number two pound-for-pound greats put themselves above the sport and bicker back and forth at the expense of the fans, there are more than a few athletes below them ready, and more than willing, to bump them off their ivory towers.
Let this be a lesson to all fighters: No one man is bigger than the sport and boxing waits for no one.
Tags: Andre Ward, Boxing, David Haye, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Kelly Pavlik, Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather Jr, Timothy Bradley