Floyd Mayweather is 35 years old and, for all intents and purposes, he's a semi-retired fighter with a once-a-year fight schedule. Manny Pacquiao is 33 years of age, winless in 2012, and coming off a brutal knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December.
While both of boxing's big earners can still create a buzz and generate seven-digit pay-per-view buys, it's clear that Mayweather and Pacquiao are in the final stages of long, distinguished careers. The time will come, soon enough, when another fighter (or fighters) will have to step up and be the face of high-end, big-ticket boxing.
Here's a look at four candidates for cash cow status and whether they honestly have a chance to be crossover superstars:
He looks like Mayweather, fights like Mayweather, and infuriates fans like Mayweather. If there's anyone likely to step into the boxing bad guy role, it's the 23-year-old Cincinnati native with the slick style and a flair for the dramatic. Broner recently became a two-division world titlist with a stellar performance against WBC lightweight champ Antonio DeMarco and is already producing solid TV ratings.
Broner has it all and, when he eventually moves up to the jam-packed junior welterweight division, he'll have plenty of quality opposition upon which to build his name. A recently developed friendship with Mayweather will only help "The Problem" with his mainstream exposure, especially because that friendship could lead to undercard slots on Mayweather events. For Broner, it's going to come down to the consistency of his ring work and whether he can take a punch from a true junior welterweight. If he passes the ring test, expect big things.
"El Canelo" has a potential fan base of about 200 million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans wanting to believe in him and, honestly, is already a superstar in his native Mexico. The 22-year-old WBC junior middleweight champ has all the tools to get to the top and sell lots and lots of pay-per-views.
The biggest advantage Alvarez may have is that he's likely to actually get in the ring with Floyd Mayweather by year's end. A win over Mayweather, or even a competitive loss, will push his star to the next level. He also has a May 4 date to worry about and the growing complaints of fans who feel that the young champion is being coddled and protected by Golden Boy. Still, chances are fairly solid that Alvarez becomes a true superstar by mid-2014.
Donaire had a stellar year in 2012 and was named the Yahoo! Sports Fighter of the Year. The talented and charismatic 30-year-old "Filipino Flash" has plenty of career ahead of him and several big fight possibilities in the 122-126 lbs. range. As a three-division world champ with several HBO TV dates already under his belt, Donaire also has a head start over the other fighters on this list.
It's hardly a secret that Top Rank has been trying to groom Donaire as an heir to the massive Pacquiao Empire. The only thing lacking, however, is a handful of legacy-defining fights to send him to that next level of stardom. As of right now, though, those fights seem out of reach as neither Donaire nor his team have pushed for the bouts. Superstardom is within his grasp, but the only path to that end goes through fighters such as Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Kazakhstan's middleweight battler is already regarded as one of the best offensive fighters in the game and is also in possession of a paper middleweight belt. Few doubt his ability to step up, but as of now he has yet to face an elite-level 160 lbs. fighter.
The hardest part for Golovkin will be in luring an elite middleweight into a bout. Right now, there's too much risk and too little reward in facing him and that means that the fights he needs will be out of his reach for quite awhile. Golovkin may be able to beat Sergio Martinez, Daniel Geale, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Peter Quillin en route to superstar status. Whether he can get a bout with any of them, though, is another thing altogether.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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