Boxing at the start of 2017 was on the ropes as far as popularity with fans but three bouts gave an overwhelming decision to the sport’s popularity. The trio of contests were distinct and separate in their approval with crowds.
One was an upset in the winner’s home country that set off a wild celebration. Another was a much-hyped fight between an all time great and a MMA star. The final match was a champion taking on the No. 1 challenger in what could have been the best fight but finished with a controversial ending.
Jeff Horn vs. Manny Pacquiao
It was a real-life Rocky story that came to life when former school teacher Horn won a unanimous decision against the 11-time title holder on July 2. The judges scored it 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113.
Horn fought in his home country of Australia and trained for the fight with crowd noises pumped into the gym at high decibels to get accustomed to the expected frenzy. He used the advantage as motivation and said even when Pacquiao had him on the ropes in the ninth round.
“I’m not a quitter, Australians aren’t quitters to start with,” he said afterwards. “We’ve showed we’re winners.”
So were those that bet on the underdog. He was a plus-475 to win while the champion was a minus-675. They have a rematch clause in the contract so the two may meet again in 2018.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor
They hype that revolved around this bout was exponentially bigger than when the two athletes stepped into the ring on August 26. Months of speculation preceded the fight and there was doubt if it would even happen.
The premise was intriguing though many thought the outcome would be predictable. An MMA fighter challenging one of the all-time greats who was coming out of retirement seemed like a carnival and the Irishman did his best to make sure his outlandish behavior in promoting the event kept it in the media eye.
His antics though began to convince bettors he had a chance to defeat Mayweather. He began as a plus-1,100 to win but on the night of the fight he had been bet down to plus-365. Meanwhile the champ was attracting million-dollar bets.
It took longer than experts predicted but Mayweather stopped the challenger in the 10th round to end his career at 50-0 and pick up a payday of nearly $300 million.
Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez
It was the best of the three contests but the outcome was the worst of the bunch. The two went the distance on September 16 and many had Golovkin narrowly winning, including one of the judges, who scored it 115-113. Another had it even, but the third, Adalaide Byrd said Alvarez won 118-110, resulting in a draw that was booed loudly by the crowd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
It caused Bill Bennett, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission to remove her as a judge.
“I’m not going to put her right back in,” Bennett said. “She’ll still be in the business … but she needs to catch her breath.”
The champion was a minus-145 favorite to win, while Alvarez was a plus-115 for the upset. A rematch is expected next year.