Sports

Boxing, mixed martial arts could enjoy a big 2015

Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, if it happens, would be boxing's big event in 2015

This year wasn't an extraordinary one for boxing and mixed martial arts fans, but the combat sports do have some momentum going into 2015.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has called out Manny Pacquiao (albeit with a repeat of conditions) to finally meet in the ring. This after Pacquiao called out Mayweather after a beatdown of Chris Algieri in late November.

The UFC has a busy slate of big fights to start the year. They include Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier on Jan. 3 for the light-heavyweight title, middleweights Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz on Jan. 31, and a doubleheader of title fights Feb. 28 at Staples Center — middleweights Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort, and the women's bantamweight bout between Ronda Rousey and No. 1 contender Cat Zingano.

The key to Mayweather-Pacquiao getting made could be the involvement of CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, whose Showtime division has paid Mayweather $30 million-plus purses for four fights and can request a greater return on his investment.

So will Mayweather-Pacquiao happen?

Some say no, but the odds are tilting in favor of the fight taking place.

Mayweather owes Showtime two more fights and is legally empowered to continue to ignore Pacquiao by taking his route of selecting fighters tied to his manager-promoter, Al Haymon, and Showtime, with Amir Khan the current front-runner in that field.

But Mayweather has spoken several times of his passion for the sport.

For boxing's sake Mayweather should take the Pacquiao fight, because he'll be favored to win and because Pacquiao will apparently accept a 60/40 purse split in Mayweather's favor.

If the fight doesn't happen, though, let history record the blame is on Mayweather.

What else can boxing offer besides Pacquiao-Mayweather?

Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin is an entertaining knockout machine. But challenging him for fighter of the year are Nebraska's undefeated lightweight Terence Crawford, a disciplined fighter who beat Cuba's Yuriorkis Gamboa and Wild Card Boxing Club product Ray Beltran, and light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, who hopefully retired Bernard Hopkins last month with a lopsided victory.

There's also an intriguing heavyweight title fight for the first time in years Jan. 17 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas between World Boxing Council champion Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder, who has won his 32 fights by knockout.

If Pacquiao-Mayweather talks fall apart, what will be the biggest pay-per-view bout?

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez against Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas, with Cinco de Mayo weekend being the target date.

What should Haymon do to drum up fan interest?

How about staging a round-robin of fights among Khan, Marcos Maidana, Adrien Broner and Lucas Matthysse? And matching super bantamweights Leo Santa Cruz with Abner Mares at StubHub Center?

Is anyone close to beating Rousey?

The Zingano test Feb. 28 is legitimate. She's a skilled overall fighter who will test Rousey as stiffly as Miesha Tate did in their rematch.

Former kickboxer Holly Holm could also provide an end-of-2015 challenge to Rousey, whose best action in 2014 was breaking a man's arm in an "Expendables 3" fight scene.

Who will be the UFC's most frequent fighters?

Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis could fight four times in 2015; Irishman Conor McGregor, a featherweight, is a quote machine who can sell out European arenas, and former WWE performer Phil Brooks ("C.M. Punk") could become really popular if matched correctly by UFC matchmaker Joe Silva.

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