Foyd Mayweather shifted beautifully, slipping a picture perfect counter left to the sensitive spot on Ricky Hatton’s jaw line. Just like that, the one major blip on boxing’s radar screen was over. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it until the sport changes my mind on a consistent basis: boxing is dying, sadly traveling to its grave while the MMA world continues to explode.
Was the Hatton-Mayweather fight a solid spectacle of combat sports? Absolutely, but while boxing relished its biggest night since De La Hoya fought Mayweather – the sport’s biggest night in years – this night could do little to catapult the sport to the level it used to enjoy. If not for HBO and its production of the phenomenal series 24/7, boxing may have already become an afterthought.
Let them relish this one night. Let the boxing world have one majestic evening, because little did they know within their heralded evening, they painted the exact picture they’ve feared; MMA is simply a better sport at this point. This match was considered a solid fight, but in reality, referee Joe Cortez landed his hands more than the fighters did.
I don’t want to just throw the claim out there. Let’s break down the argument point by point:
1. THE FIGHTERS –
Compare fighters in MMA and boxing. Boxing has shown that it’s a limited art. I’m not taking anything away from Mayweather and his pugilistic ability, but is there a true fan of combat sports who could possibly argue that Sean Sherk or even Urijah Faber wouldn’t dispose of Mayweather in violent fashion in, oh, I don’t know, about thirty seconds or so?
I remember once getting a call from one of Evander Holyfield’s people. He had been presented with an offer to fight “El Guapo” Bas Rutten. The fee was pretty decent, in the millions. Since he didn’t know much about our sport, Holyfield’s friend and business associate asked what I thought of the matchup.
“Do you like Evander?” I asked.
“What do you mean,” he replied.
“Do you care for him, as a person, as a friend, do you care for him?”
“Of course I do,” he replied.
“Ok, then if you care for him, is the fee you’re talking about worth seeing him go into a ring and let a man hit him in the leg with a crow bar over and over and over and over again?”
“That’s crazy,” replied Holyfield’s guy.
“Yup, no doubt. But Bas Rutten will walk into that ring and unleash kick after kick that will feel to Evander like somebody is hitting him with a crowbar. Your guy will get seriously damaged, because after Bas goes to work on that leg, Evander will be taken down. Bas will try either to choke him or snap a limb. Sound like that’s worth the money?”
“But what if Evander hits him?”
“What if he doesn’t? It’s a different range, different sport. Evander has a certain range as a boxer that’s really set to defend against punches and launch punches during a long period, like a marathon. This sport is a sprint. I give it less than a minute. If you care for him, you won’t want to watch it.”
Even the best boxer must know that if he squared off with even an above average but well-rounded mixed martial artist, the sweet science’s champ would end up looking like a bloody experiment gone wrong. We watch combat sports to find out who is the baddest man on the planet. That man cannot come from the world of boxing.
2. THE UNDERCARDS –
Boxing’s undercard is an annoyance, nothing more than a delay for the big fight. MMA fans tune in for the entire night. Has any boxing fan ever watched a full undercard? Does anyone bother with the featured undercard bout, even if it’s a title tilt? Quick, name one fight on the Mayweather-Hatton undercard.
New fans of MMA routinely tell me the thing they love about the sport is the fact that they get engaged by the entire night. The undercards are often as exciting and as highly anticipated as the main event. Plus, as one fight ends, two more fighters are quickly ushered into the cage. In boxing, there’s often a sixty to ninety minute delay from undercard to headline. How in the world can anyone with a hint of ADD sit in his seat for ninety minutes, only to have to sit through another hour of guys jabbing, jabbing, jabbing. They shouldn’t sell beer and programs at boxing matches, they should sell Ritalin.
3. THE NATURE OF THE ATHLETES –
Mr. John Q fan sitting home can relate a heck of a lot more easily to a mixed martial artist than he can a boxer. Over the years, how many of us have gotten sick and tired of hearing stories how boxing got some punk, some violent criminal, off the streets? How about all those pugilistic wonders that were spawned in prison? There are too many stories of bad guys suddenly not considered bad because they can fight.
The opposite can be generally said for those in MMA. First off, many of the high-level
MMA fighters have gone to college, often having wrestled at a major university. Our lessons have not come free, or even cheap. Our champions have college degrees in education and accounting, whereas boxing champs have masters’ degrees from the school of hard knocks.
4. EXCITEMENT FACTOR –
How many people sit tight, grab a couple of beers and plop down on the couch with a slew of friends screaming along to the New York Marathon? Oh yeah, there’s nothing like that excitement. Boxing is a controlled marathon, a sport that relies upon pace, often slow. Seriously, at times it has all the excitement of a marathon, albeit with some referee who makes it even slower. MMA? It’s like one awesomely fun violent sprint. Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis with weapons. What’s better than that?
Do I give the boxing world kudos for the way they built up Mayweather-Hatton? Absolutely! Do I admire the boxing ability of both combatants? No doubt! But boxing has become like the Olympics – every few years, we tune in to see a true spectacle. MMA? We tune in every month!