I would call the closing of the deal to stage the mega bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao a big victory for the rich history of the welterweight to middleweight divisions in the modern era.
Simply put it, the fight, whatever the outcome, will make a big contribution to the rich history of the said divisions that greatly rivals the greatness of the heavyweight division’s own history.
Although the welterweight to middleweight divisions had its best era during the rivalry of Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler, it is foolish to dismiss the contributions of Oscar Dela Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Felix Trinidad and even Shane Mosley in making those divisions shine brighter than the heavyweight division before Mayweather and Pacquiao came into the picture. And let’s also give some credit to Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Marquez in adding some luster to those divisions recently.
It actually boggles my mind as to how much of today’s boxing fans have clamored in the past 12 months for the showdown between Mayweather and Pacquiao to finally happen, when both are no longer in their prime. It clearly shows how boxing’s “small men” have stolen the thunder from the heavyweights. The heavyweights of today are even the biggest the division has seen in its rich history, but the spotlight still belongs to “small men” Pacquiao and Mayweather.
I can still recall vividly how the welterweight to middleweight divisions stole the thunder from the heavyweight division when Leonard, Hearns, Duran and Hagler battled it out for superiority. And I thought that would only be the era in modern boxing history where the smaller fighters in the sport were more popular than the heavyweights.
But Dela Hoya, Trinidad, Hopkins and Mosley, and up to a certain extent, Fernando Vargas, showed later that the welterweight to middleweight divisions were worth more watching than the heavyweight divisions, especially after the Mike Tyson era.
Yet who would have ever thought that the Mayweather and Pacquiao would eventually continue the legacy of the great fighters of the welterweight to middleweight divisions? And the fact that Dela Hoya, Mayweather and Pacquiao are among the highest paid boxers in the modern era, even surpassing the earnings of some popular heavyweights, attests to how fans have adulated the welterweight to middleweight divisions.
Of course, the fact that Mayweather-Pacquiao will become the richest fight in boxing history also attests to how millions of fans are willing to pay to see a mega fight in the lower divisions.
Should Pacquiao or Mayweather or both retire after the mega bout on May 2, it will be a great challenge to the current crop of top fighters in the welterweight to middleweight divisions to continue the legacy set not only by the two outstanding fighters but their predecessors as well. That will be a tough act to follow.
There are “potential” fighters in the welterweight to middleweight divisions today who can continue the legacy of the greats in those divisions. Among them are: Canelo Alvarez, Erislandy Lara, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, and even Marcos Maidana and Lucas Mathysse. Miguel Cotto is also good for three to four fights at middleweight.
Can they carry on the legacy? Tough to answer.