In some ways, Saturday night's welterweight title bout between Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao and "Sugar" Shane Mosley is also a fight for the sport's future. Boxing has relied for a dozen years on revenue from HBO's airings of big fights, but this time, Pacquiao promoter Top Rank cut a deal to air the pay-per-view matchup on Showtime — and the internet — with some friendly commercial promotion by CBS, too. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum hopes one day to get boxing back on network TV, where it created a generation of fans in the '70s and '80s. Is this the first jab in boxing's big comeback?
This is boxing's best shot in years: The Showtime/CBS deal is already paying off, in terms of buzz and box office receipts, says Kevin Iole at Yahoo! Sports. Top Rank's master plan is to use big draw Pacquiao as "a Trojan horse to get fans who haven't watched boxing regularly and lure advertisers who drifted away in the 1980s back to the sport." And if enough advertisers return to support free network broadcasts, the sport will really be in business.
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Sorry, boxing has turned into a bore: Sure, "people have been predicting boxing's demise since Jack Johnson stopped Jim Jeffries" in 1910, says Gautham Nagesh in The Atlantic. But while it's still huge outside the U.S., boxing isn't ready for the big time here: The heavyweight class is a snooze, long dominated by two Ukrainian brothers, and American fans will stay on the sidelines until Pacquiao fights U.S. champ Floyd "Money" Mayweather — no sure thing. Everything else is a sideshow.
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Time will tell: "I honestly can see this thing swinging either way," says Tim Starks in The Queensberry Rules. Though the CBS/Showtime deal looked "downright revolutionary" when it was inked, it's begun to seem "more incremental." CBS was once in talks to pick up an "actual boxing match," but that didn't happen. Now it comes down to the numbers. We'll only see boxing on network TV again if the Pacquiao-Mosley fight sells really well.
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