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Top 10 Boxing Stories of the Decade

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather dominated the headlines this past decade. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

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The teens were an overall good decade for boxing, as there were outstanding fights, major events and significant advances in the business side of the sport that helped solidify its future.

The big names of the decade were the same, largely, as they were in the first decade of the century, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao once again dominating the headlines (and the earnings). 

But boxing wasn’t all about Floyd and Senator Manny. Here are my Top 10 boxing stories of the decade from 2010-19:

1. Floyd Mayweather decisions Manny Pacquiao in best-selling PPV ever

At the end of the previous decade, the two welterweights were regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and they first seriously discussed fighting in 2009.

They didn’t meet, though, until May 2, 2015, finally putting an end to the annoying question, “Do you think Floyd and Manny will ever fight?” That question caused boxing journalists to have nightmares.

The bout became known as “The Money Fight,” because Mayweather made more than $200 million and Pacquiao earned in excess of $100 million. Mayweather won a clear unanimous decision in a fight that wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been several years earlier.

It sold 4.6 million on pay-per-view and generated a $72.2 million gate.

2. HBO exits boxing after 45 years

After being the lifeblood of boxing since the early 1980s, HBO called it quits in 2018 and gave up on boxing broadcasting. Its first boxing broadcast, in 1973, was a heavyweight title fight between Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

It televised bouts involving most of the greatest stars of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. But it was losing the battle for the top fights near the end and wasn’t getting the interest from its subscribers it once did.

3. Floyd Mayweather signs with Showtime in 2013

Mayweather rocked the sport in 2013 and probably hastened HBO’s departure when he left the network after 15 years and signed a deal with rival Showtime.

With Showtime, Mayweather broke the pay-per-view sales record twice and exceeded two million sales in a bout three times.

4. Legendary heavyweights Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier die

The rivalry between Ali and Frazier defined a generation. They were two of the greatest heavyweights who ever lived, and among the most popular. Their March 8, 1971, bout is still regarded by many boxing historians as the most significant bout int eh sport’s history.

They fought three times, with Frazier winning the first when both were undefeated and had a claim to the heavyweight title. Ali won the last two, including the memorable ‘Thrilla in Manila’ in 1975.

Frazier died of liver cancer on Nov. 7, 2011, at 67. Ali died on June 3, 2016, of septic shock at 74.

5. Boxing returns to network TV

Boxing was a staple on network television in the 1950s and 1960s, but scandal, the development of cable and the emergence of other sports pushed it off the networks in large part.

But since 2015, there has been regular coverage of boxing on free, over-the-air television in the U.S., a significant accomplishment in helping to drive interest in the sport. It first came to NBC and is now with Fox, though there were also fights on CBS this decade.

6. Al Haymon creates the Premier Boxing Champions

Al Haymon was known as one of the top boxing managers when in 2015, he created the PBC. It used many of the elite fighters that Haymon had signed and created a major entity putting on shows.

Haymon also opened his wallet and paid larger than customary purses, helping improve boxers’ financial situation.

7. Boxing goes digital

In 2018, streaming came to boxing, with DAZN and ESPN+ becoming part of the sport’s lexicon. DAZN had an outlandish budget and signed Canelo Alvarez to a record $365 million contract, one of the richest ever given to a pro athlete.

It meant that the biggest star in the sport would no longer compete on either network or cable television.

DAZN faced competition in the streaming space from ESPN, which went all in with stream as per the company’s management at Disney. ESPN+ debuted and became a must-have destination for fight fans in short order.

8. Floyd Mayweather fights Conor McGregor in boxer vs. MMA fighter bout

This might have been the first fight made via social media. Mayweather was already retired but regarded as among the greatest fighters of all-time when UFC champion Conor McGregor began campaigning for a fight against him.

At first, both sides laughed it off, but the media and fans took it seriously and soon the fight became a reality. There was an elaborate pre-fight media tour that went from Los Angeles to Toronto to New York to London.

The fight did 4.3 million on pay-per-view and generated a $55.4 million gate.

9. Emergence of fresh blood at heavyweight

The Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, dominated the early part of the decade. Vitali Klitschko retired after injuries kept him from competing and he became mayor of Kiev, Ukraine. Wladimir Klitschko was racking up title defenses until he was beaten by Tyson Fury, and then in a compelling battle with Anthony Joshua.

Fury and Joshua fueled huge interest in the United Kingdom, but Deontay Wilder emerged in the U.S. to win the WBC title and earn recognition as one of the hardest punchers in the sport’s history.

And then Andy Ruiz Jr. scored a massive June 1 upset of Joshua to become the first boxer of Mexican descent to hold a piece of the heavyweight title. The decade ended with the heavyweights in a great place.

10. Oscar De La Hoya goes in and out of rehab multiple times

De La Hoya is one of the leading figures in the sport’s recent history and was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014 in his first year of eligibility.

But he was plagued by addiction issues and went into rehabilitation multiple times, missing a huge Canelo Alvarez fight as well as a Bernard Hopkins bout when Hopkins became the oldest man in boxing history to win a world title.