The vaulted ceilings and marble columns of New York's Cipriani’s were bathed in soft blue and red spotlights. Along the side walls of the magnificent room were two open bars, the bottles lined up like rows of soldiers, and the glassware sparkling under the arc lights. Tuxedoed waiters and waitresses carried trays of canapés while a giant TV toward the back of the room played an endless loop of high-resolution images.

“I can’t believe this. It’s like the Academy Awards,’’ said one wide-eyed guest.

More like the cocktail hour at the wedding of Don Corleone’s daughter. But the truth was even stranger than that.

The formal affair was thrown in honor of Showtime Sports announcing its 2018 boxing schedule—or more accurately, for just the first six months of 2018—an ambitious slate of 10 shows featuring a dozen world title fights spread across a half-dozen locations. Not bad for a sport perpetually on the respirator, ravaged by a cascade of woes ranging from an aging fanbase, a dearth of compelling performers, and a formidable young challenger called mixed martial arts.

But like a lot of popular narratives, this one turns out to be not entirely true. For one thing, boxing’s fanbase is getting younger, not older. For another, the fight game has seen an influx of young talent that gave boxing a much needed shot in the arm in 2017. Talk to the right people, and they'll tell you that the young interloper called MMA-slash-UFC may have peaked.

While the Showtime announcement wasn't headline news around the sports world, the shockwaves were felt across the small landscape of combat sports. Most especially 2,000 miles away in Las Vegas. That’s where the Ultimate Fighting Championship is housed, from which president Dana White has been predicting the death of boxing at the hands of mixed martial arts for the better part of a decade.

"My honest opinion of boxing is that boxing will go away," White said in 2010. "I don't wish it any ill will. It's not because the sport isn’t good or anything like that, it's just that it's so fragmented, and so many bad things have happened. Nobody is going to stick their hand in their own pocket and spend their own money to save the sport of boxing, nobody is going to do it."

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