Pacquiao-Khan: The most important fight in boxing

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Manny Pacquiao - Amir KhanIt is difficult to gauge exactly how much interest there is in a welterweight matchup between Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Amir Khan. The anticipation for that fight could be viewed in a number of ways, all with varying percentages leading in different directions.

The argument that Khan spent so much time trying to secure a date with Floyd Mayweather Jr. – a fight that eluded him for two straight years – hinders his appeal because fans want him to fight tough opponents for the sake of challenging competition. There were already plenty of fans who felt that Khan did not deserve a match with Floyd, and since then he has done nothing to sway their opinions. It would appear that Khan is chasing after the biggest payday possible in an effort to cash out on his status in boxing, and by not taking a seemingly difficult challenge with a truly tough opponent, one without a financially lucrative allure, fans are left to believe that he may be scared of losing before receiving a big name.

Right now, Khan maintains all of the magnetisms that he had years ago, with the exception of his losses. But his loss to Danny Garcia is several years forgotten – although not in the eyes’ of critical fans – and promoters can use his recent win streak as a justification for setting him up in a big fight. He has the commercial appeal, at least more than other young welterweights, and he is undoubtedly a skilled fighter.

With everything considered, has he earned a fight with Pacquiao? The argument has more to do with tearing down the list of other possible opponents and less to do with his actual welterweight resume. Since moving up from junior welterweight, Khan has failed to captivate. He has a decent win against Devon Alexander, and I believe that his Chris Algieri win will look more impressive after Algieri solidifies his status as a genuine welterweight.

There is a certain ambiance with Khan’s style, and he produces exciting fights. However, he hasn’t done anything as a welterweight to garner a premier fight with one of the last major draws left in the division, and only if you consider his time at junior welterweight does his name being mentioned alongside Mayweather and Pacquiao make sense.

That said, boxing needs this fight more than it knows. I’d venture to suggest that boxing needs this fight more than any other fight right now. True, there are much more compelling fights and potentially more exciting by comparison to Khan-Pacquiao, but that is precisely why it is more important.

Right now, there is a strong division between Al Haymon fighters and those represented by Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions. To be fair, the division has almost always existed but it is only now fully realized with Haymon venturing off on his own with the “PBC” series. The division has gotten so intense that even fighters competing on the “PBC” series without ties to Haymon have gotten snubbed.

The separation doesn’t end there, either. Haymon is not doing business with Roc Nation Sports ever since they announced their commitment to the sport last year. The beef between Haymon and Jay-Z, Roc Nation Sports Founder, dates back even further than Haymon’s beef with Oscar De La Hoya and Bob Arum.

There have been no crossover fights between PBC fighters and that of any other promotional company with outside ties to other networks not under the PBC landscape.

The one instance of Arum and Haymon working together since the start of PBC was the long-awaited matchup between Mayweather and Pacquiao back in May, but Floyd was never a PBC fighter. You could also make the argument that those negotiations only furthered the dividing lines between Top Rank and Haymon Boxing because the result of those successful negotiations and fight promotion was a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed by Arum against Haymon.

We all worry about fights not being made in boxing, specifically between fighters represented by rival promoters and/or networks. It seemed like Mayweather-Pacquiao was at the very least a guarantee that these essential non-competitor figures in boxing would not allow their differences to get in the way of making the best fights in the sport. But that was at the highest level with a lot of money at stake, and it was not the kind of fight that would tend to the concerns of fights being made at every level.

In boxing, a fight can be big without being big. There is a notion that exists in boxing that doesn’t exist in any other sport, at least not to the magnitude it does in boxing, and that is the separation between hardcore fans and casual fans. A fight can be big to a hardcore fan (i.e. Vasyl Lomachenko- Guillermo Rigondeaux) and still go completely under the radar within the commercial realm. Often times, these fights won’t get put on because the commercial interest does not allow for enough money to be generated securing the kind of purses that both men would want.

A fight like Mayweather-Pacquiao does nothing to build confidence in fans that the best fights, regardless of commercial appeal, will go unhindered.

Pacquiao-Khan, on the other hand, offers a precedent for future matchups and gives fighters at every level in every division hope. There is no huge demand for this fight, although, admittedly, there is probably more commercial appeal in this fight than there would be for any fight involving Thurman, Porter, or Brook.

Pacquiao-Khan is not another big fight; it isn’t the next big fight and no one considers it a must-see fight. Instead, each fighter represents a remainder based on circumstance. For Pacquiao, there are very few options within the Top Rank stable, and none that make sense if he is going to fight in the next six months. There aren’t many more when you consider Top Rank and Golden Boy are working well with each other (for now).

For Khan, Pacquiao is a hospitable second-place prize. He was unable to get Mayweather, and will never get him if Floyd is to be believed in his currently retired status, so getting Pacquiao is really his next best option.

Pacquiao is fortunate to have a disgruntled fighter in the PBC stable that reeks of desperation. There were even rumors that Khan was considering leaving Haymon as a result of his last missed Mayweather opportunity. That gives Arum the want and opportunity to pursue Khan.

Khan can place himself in a realistic position to fight Pacquiao because he can take advantage of the fact that Pacquiao was the loser in the epic “fight of the century.” Pacquiao wants to come back strong to prove a point and doing it against a fighter with an appealing reputation for that of a dangerous challenger with a perceivably weak chin.

Arum can take advantage of a fighter’s family that has always had a propensity for getting a little too involved and negotiations can take place with other key players within Team Khan that aren’t Haymon.

Pacquiao-Khan offers hope to all of Boxing’s most important people.

First, the fighters themselves will have the precedent they need to pressure Haymon into cross stable fights. When Jermall Charlo runs the gauntlet of PBC junior middleweights, and he wants a shot at Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, he can ask Haymon ‘why Khan and not me’ should he need a reference point.

If at the end of this mini middleweight tournament, Gennady Golovkin, or whichever fighter prevails, will be the biggest star in the division. Peter Quillin, or whoever wins the Quillin-Danny Jacobs fight, will have nowhere to turn but outside of the PBC circles.

All of these fighters and future matchups that have not quite yet developed will look to Pacquiao-Khan – a fight without any real demand other than the necessity of each other. Bottom line, this fight will prove that Haymon, despite his ability to make believers out of almost anyone, has to take a backseat to whatever the fighter wants. For years, fighters have come on Tha Boxing Voice radio show and said that Haymon can get anything done, but with this fight we’ll have an instance of Haymon getting done what the fighters demand.

The fans benefit because it means hope for even the most pedestrian matchups. If a fight with little demand and one that was never on anyone’s radar can be made then, it gives hope to the actual showdowns that manifest into a fan-mandated matchup.