When Victor Ortiz’s head slammed to the canvas on Saturday night, the fate of boxing didn’t fall with him. Thank God we’re not having that argument anymore.

The boxing world is four years removed from “the fight to save boxing” and luckily the Sweet Science has found two polarizing figures to keep it from becoming the Sweet Theory — for now. The facts remain that there are very few true boxing fans today and that the sport has done everything it can (post-Mike Tyson) to ensure this. Yet for whatever reason, we’ve been delivered Pacquiao and Mayweather.

Boxing as our parents and grandparents knew it is functionally dead. Long gone are the days of heavyweight champions of the 20th century. The marketability of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman has been replaced by the living, breathing, embodiments of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, the Klitschko brothers.

Never before in the history of modern sports have two athletes at the top of their respective game been so unlikeable but non-polarizing.

Even the genre of boxing movies is struggling. Long gone are the days of Rocky and Raging Bull; they’ve been replaced by fighting robots. Not to say that the recent crop of movies has not been enjoyable, but how many people knew who Micky Ward was before they saw The Fighter? If I told you that he was involved in an intense series of fights with the late Arturo Gatti, two of which were named the fight of the year in their respective years, would you have already had that stored away in the back of your memory? Or would you ask, “who in the world is Gatti?”

The point is that our current generation has lost touch with the world of boxing, for better or for worse.

Mayweather and Pacquiao have the potential to act as saviors for their dying sport. The fact is, anytime they fight, the arenas are full and the pay-per-view statistics are overwhelming. They are still capable of capturing the nation’s attention. Whether it’s Pacquiao ending Ricky Hatton’s promising career with a brutal blow to the face or Mayweather making quick work of Ortiz after a flurry of unsportsmanlike conduct, they captivate the imagination.

If the two ever fought, it truly would be the “fight to save boxing,” but unfortunately the styles of the two in the ring carry over to the real world. The brash, loudmouth Mayweather continues to sully Pacquiao’s name in the press, claiming Manny is afraid to fight him. Pacquiao, on the other hand, maintains that Floyd is full of lies and artfully dodges any sort of criticism leveled at him.

The refreshing thing about the duo is that every boxing fan belongs to one side or another. The two couldn’t be any more different, and as a result they have two separate fan bases. Even ringside announcers cannot help themselves, as Larry Merchant at the ripe age of 80 threatened Mayweather, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your [expletive].”

It’s the rise in popularity of these two polarizing figures that will lead any resurgence in boxing. The sport will never return to prominence with unknowns stealing title belts twice per year, but it requires the continued popularity of two headliners. For the first time in what seems like ages, two boxers are able to captivate headlines, appear in commercials and hold press conferences worth watching. At some point, Mayweather and Pacquiao have to fight to save their sport, inside and outside the ring.

When that day comes though, my money — as a boxing fan who wasn’t scared away when he watched Tyson bite off Evander Holyfield’s ear at the tender age of 6 — is on Floyd “Money” Mayweather, whose struggle through life parallels the sport he’s putting on his back.

Corey Blaine is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. The Bleacher Seats appears every Friday.

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