That may seem like an odd question to most people, but if you’re an MMAfan you’ve likely heard that notion floated as a fact rather than a question. Boxing is old, slow, boring and all but dead. It’s being replaced by mixed martial arts as the big fight sport in town.
Now, you can point to lots of things that make convincing, if purely anecdotal, evidence. Boxing isn’t carried on the networks like it was in bygone years, it doesn’t have any new huge stars that are the household names of past generations of boxers and the day after water cooler talk about boxing is diminishing while the day after water cooler talk about MMA is on the rise. The people in the press and on the web that are pro MMA also push the idea that boxing is now seen as a very limited form of fighting sport with no where near the appeal of MMA’s fast and furious action.
Well to them I say, and I do say this as a huge MMA fan, bullshit.
Boxing is every bit the entertaining fighting sport that MMA is. Does the limitations of “just punching” mean that there’s less action? Maybe. But the restrictions on what you can do often means that you have to fight smarter to be a top fighter. Boxing is like a chess match of sorts. You have to go in with a game plan and you have to have a strategy that allows you to impose your game plan over your opponent’s.
The pro-MMA critics of boxing make the same mistake that the pro-boxing critics of MMA make. Many boxing fans disparage MMA because the fighters often go to the ground and then just “role around” for minutes at a time. They just, say the boxing fans, flail about while kicking and hitting at each other. The problem with that criticism is that it shows a complete lack of what is going on when you have two fighters who are well schooled in amateur wrestling and Brazilian Jujitsu. If you understand those two things and have any basic knowledge of them; you’re looking at two fighters who are making move after counter move after move like a very physical chess game. Two top tier fighters are working a mental game that’s every bit as difficult, if not more so, than the physical game.
It’s much the same with good boxers. Two good fighters can put on a boxing match that’s every bit the metaphorical “clinic” that fans refer to good matches as. Good boxing is a science. A good boxer is as much brain and strategy as brawn.
Even the often thuggish “Iron” Mike Tyson proves that rule rather than disproves it. Tyson was a beast in the ring when he had the proper trainers, managers and team around him. Once he lost the right people and began to become surrounded by the wrong people his fighting style changed. Tyson rarely had to depend on strategy in the ring because of his power, but there were a few fights where he displayed actual advanced knowledge of the sweet science. Once he lost the people that pushed him to be a fighter rather than just a brutish thug who depended on rushing in and overpowering his adversary he began a massive downhill slide as a fighter. Even after all of his problems he should have been a better fighter when he returned to boxing. Instead he was often beaten by boxers his age range or slightly older who were fighting smarter fights than him. When he started fighting based on power he broke and, occasionally, broke down in the ring. He became a “fighter” who cried to his corner men in the Lennox Lewis fight that “I can’t beat him” in between rounds.
If more fighters get into boxing and become smart boxers; we have a recipe for great fights. And we’re seeing some really good up and comers out there now. Manny Pacquiao is a good example. He just destroyed odds on favorite Oscar De La Hoya a little while back. Good fight to check out if you can find it.
But I’m sure you’re ready to say that most of what I’m saying is opinion and not hard facts. Well, I’ve got some hard facts for you. As of this writing a boxing card is the biggest sports related PPV of 2008.
Top 10 North American PPV buy rates, 2008
1. Boxing:Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao, Dec. 6, 1,250,000
2. UFC:Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture, Nov. 15, 1,010,000
3. Wrestling:WrestleMania, Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Paul “Big Show” Wight, March 30, 670,000
4. UFC:Georges St. Pierre vs. Jon Fitch/Lesnar vs. Heath Herring, Aug. 9, 625,000
5. UFC:Lesnar vs. Frank Mir, Feb. 2, 600,000
6. UFC: Quinton Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin, July 5, 540,000
7. UFC: St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra, April 19, 530,000
8. Boxing: Felix Trinidad vs. Roy Jones Jr., Jan. 19, 500,000
9. UFC:Chuck Liddell vs. Rashad Evans, Sept. 6, 480,000
10. UFC:B.J. Penn vs. Sean Sherk/Tito Ortiz vs. Lyoto Machida, May 24, 475,000
And, as you can see, the #3 PPV card had a little drawing power help in the form of boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Boxing isn’t dead. Boxing isn’t slow and boring. Boxing is just getting the short end of the promotional stick right now and it’s getting unfairly criticised by a bunch of know nothing MMA fans in the exact same way that a bunch of the old guard fans of boxing are flinging their uninformed criticisms at MMA. Boxing is still an art form when done right and it’s a solid part of MMA’s standup game. To denigrate it just because you’re “an MMA fan” or just to try and convince yourself or others that your favorite fight game is the greatest thing since sliced bread doesn’t make you an MMA fan. What it makes you is an uninformed idiot talking out of your backside.
And, again, I say this as a huge MMA fan.
See you at the fights.