Outside the U.S. the sport's future has never been in doubt: Pacquiao is an icon in his home country while the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers, who currently rule the heavyweight division, thrill audiences of more than 50,000 in German stadiums. As the amount of international attention and investment in boxing increases, it can only mean good things for the sport domestically. Already we're seeing U.S. fighters head abroad to search of big paydays; with the advent of Internet video, watching a fight in Tokyo is as easy as catching the latest episode of 30 Rock.
4. The Latino Fanbase While the absence of an American heavyweight contender to succeed Tyson has sapped much of the sport's mainstream appeal stateside, Mexico remains a hotbed of the sport and home to some of its most beloved champions. Ditto for Puerto Rico and Cuba, albeit on a smaller scale (of course the latter produces amateur champions who must defect to fight professionally similar to baseball). Fighters like Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Miguel Cotto, and Juan Manuel Marquez helped maintain the sport through one of its darker decades and remain viable as box office draws. A new generation featuring the likes of Brandon Rios, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Saul Alvarez, and Robert Guerrero, many of whom speak English and were raised in the U.S., appear poised to succeed them. With Latinos now making up more than 16 percent of the U.S. population it's getting harder to dismiss their twin passions, soccer and boxing, as merely niche sports.
3. The Internet At once a blessing and a curse for the traditional media, the Internet is a boon for the fighting world and those that follow it. While traditional U.S. boxing publications have been on the decline for decades (only The Ring remains standing in print, and even that is owned by promoter Oscar De La Hoya), the Web has spawned a variety of sites that cover the fight game from every angle. They range from hard-hitting investigative reporting to sites essentially devoted to airing the venom between supporters of Pacquiao and his rival for the sport's top honor, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
While the uneven quality of reporting on the fight game is a challenge that must be navigated, the Web has stepped admirably to fill the gap in coverage left by newspapers barely able to cover their local sports teams. It has also given fight fans access to a wealth of footage of untelevised undercards, obscure prospects from the far reaches of the globe, championship fights from yesteryear, and all of the other underground content necessary to drive any Internet subculture. It's never been easier for a casual fan to catch up on the career of a fighter that intrigues them or simply spend the day watching highlight reel knockouts.
2. Good Prospects, Great Fights The most basic element for any sport's revival is a compelling cast of characters and a high level of competition, both of which appear to be coming together in not one but several weight classes at the moment. Starting with welterweight, which boasts Pacquiao, Mosely, Mayweather, and Victor Ortiz, the sport's middle and lower weight classes offer an embarrassment of riches. A number of contenders have emerged one weight class below at 140 lbs. including the brash Brooklyn native Zab Judah, who recently returned to championship form, and charismatic Brit Amir Khan. Lightweight features Marquez, Rios, Guerrero, and Humberto Soto, while bantamweight includes a number of talents including Filipino American Nonito Donaire, who has shown flashes of the kind of thunderous power that propelled Pacquiao through the weight classes.