x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pacquiao-Mayweather spells a new dawn for boxing

A fight as exciting and unpredictable as Pacquiao versus Mayweather deserves to be staged in a special location.

Manny Pacquiao's prospective fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr could help restore professional boxing's credibility.
Manny Pacquiao's prospective fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr could help restore professional boxing's credibility.

I have not been this excited in mid-December since 1987, when the prospect of a Sony Walkman from Father Christmas flushed my cheeks. Nowadays - thanks to some hard-living and the need to climb stairs at least twice a day - my cheeks are permanently red, whether I am excited or not. So you will just have to take my word for it: I am really excited about the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.

I know you believe me, because you are excited too. Like me, you know it is a once-in-a-generation thing for two such magnificent fighters to hit their prime at the same time. Like me, you cannot honestly predict who would win - Pac Man's devastating precision or Pretty Boy's silky defence. Like me, you cannot resist the potential personality clash between the quiet nobility of Manny Pacquiao and the brash swagger of Floyd Mayweather Jr.

One man raised in poverty who plans to use his boxing fame to enter politics and make a difference. The other a brat from a sporting dynasty, whose alternative nickname of Money signals his cruder ambitions. Like me, you know this could be the fight to restore professional boxing's credibility - or at least start the process of rehabilitation - after years of division, decline and a heavyweight scene dominated by plodding Neanderthals.

The fight, which looks likely to take place in March, is guaranteed to be special. However, if the promoters want to make it extra special they should think outside the box when it comes to the venue. The box, in this case, meaning the USA. Ask any number of casual boxing fans about the most important fights ever and the majority will fire back two automatic responses: The Thrilla in Manila, and the Rumble in the Jungle.

In reality, there have been far more important fights than those two, nearly all of them on American soil. Jack Johnson versus Jim Jeffries (Reno, Nevada, 1910), for example, struck a blow for racial equality. Joe Louis against Max Schmeling (New York, 1936 and 1938) represented the clash between democracy and fascism. Both were more important than George Foreman-Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa or Ali-Joe Frazier in Manila.

So why do the latter pair enjoy legendary status? The colour television images of Ali's exploits help, as does the fact they happened within living memory for millions. Plus, we all like a catchy rhyme. But what also made them so special was their exotic location. Oppressive heat, dubious characters providing the cash, wild and delirious locals: this was nothing like Las Vegas. OK, maybe it was a bit like old Vegas, but these bouts had an other-worldly flavour which lingers to this day.

Pacquiao-Mayweather spells a new dawn for boxing, so they should look East. Mumbai, Beijing, Hong Kong or Bangkok could all put on a great show. Yes, the USA TV audience provide the biggest purse but surely the emerging powers of the East could come close. And surely Americans would still pay to watch it anyway. Choosing between the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the New Orleans Superdome or the new Dallas Cowboys stadium - the three current favourites - is like choosing between different versions of apple crumble and vanilla ice cream. All nice and safe, but a little bit dull. After all, who wants crumble and vanilla... when you can have a rumble and a thrilla?

The BBC have announced that Tony Adams, a former footballer, is to become editor of their flagship radio show the Today programme. The show is famous for expertly trapping oily politicians in webs of their own deceit, so Adams is the perfect man for the job - providing he is allowed to trap the politicians by elbowing them, jumping on them, pulling their shirt or tricking them into stepping one yard in front of him before frantically waving at the linesman. To be fair, he will only be "guest editing" one show over the festive break, when there are no politicians around to harangue. Instead, Adams has an interview with Joey Barton, the wayward footballer who has a proven track record for being a big hit over Christmas. He will also be chatting to Alan Davies, an unfunny comedian and Arsenal fan who presumably ensures the "Highbury library" atmosphere at Emirates Stadium is maintained, by telling his jokes throughout the match. Seriously, Adams is a decent man with a lively mind, and this will work well as a one-off gimmick. However, it is symptomatic of a wider problem: what do we do with our ex-footballers? They can't all work as commentators or pundits, and the traditional post-football career options of running a pub or selling insurance are now considered too lowly. The only answer is to follow the BBC's example and give them all the top jobs, irrespective of qualifications. I would like to see other major organisations follow suit and start handing out the plum roles. Let's not rest until Graham Le Saux is head of Microsoft, Robbie Fowler bosses General Motors and Paul Gascoigne is appointed chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Well, he couldn't do any worse than the last one. Will Batchelor is a writer, broadcaster and self-confessed cynical sports fan sports@thenational.ae