Boxing’s slow, sad slip into obscurity
I’m going through a messy divorce. We loved each other dearly; perhaps I was blind to any faults. Yet now I find myself cheating with my love’s worst enemy, that bubbly young one that all the boys like. I am of course talking about boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
Where has boxing gone wrong?
I am only in my mid-twenties, but I somehow feel that I was growing up in a time when boxing was teetering on the edge of the abyss. The last death throes of an incredibly popular and exciting sport.
I was raised in the pugilistic arts in the heavyweight division by guys like Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis and to a lesser extent, David ‘Tuaman’ Tua.
Their physical form, power, fitness and sheer hatred for each other made it entertaining and unpredictable.
The first thing that began killing my attraction to boxing was the insane number of ‘world champion’ available. I don’t want to see someone with three world titles. This is not the WWE.
I want to see them hold the World Title. The only one in existence, that states here is the world’s finest fighter in this weight division.
Currently you can be champion in the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO or The Ring. I have no issue with fighters choosing to fight in either or all of these organisations, but there should only be one belt, held by one guy.
It is a serious case of flooding the market. How am I, the casual observer, supposed to know which belts are legitimate and which ones are for pretenders?
The second death stroke is the reluctance of well known champions to fight anyone of significance. Australian boxing provides a perfect example of this.
Danny Green was afraid to lose his belt, and his pay days, so he fought an old man, a man with a serious neurological disorder and someone just out of retirement.
When he finally showed some balls to fight a boxer who had some skills but had fallen into American boxing obscurity, Danny was soundly beaten.
Boxing needs another Thrilla in Manila or Rumble in the Jungle. Sure, these fights contained one of the greatest entertainers of all time, but what made these fights was that the boxers had guts. They fought the best regularly. In the case of the Thrilla in Manilla they just plain hated each other.
They were willing to risk their belt, record, and even their lives just to settle a score.
It makes the current Mayweather v Pacquiao shambles incredibly painful. There is no doubt that these are the best pound-for-pound fighters of my generation. But Mayweather does not want to lose his undefeated record.
He isn’t willing to risk it all and I have stopped caring whether or not it happens, which is heartbreaking.
This is where MMA caught my eye, the beginning of the affair. The most attractive aspect of the MMA was the fact that the organisation pitted the best fighters against each other regularly.
It was constantly one versus two, not champion versus some guy who learnt to box three weeks ago.
This created a level of intensity and legitimacy to the wins and showed how freakishly skilful Chuck Lidell and Randy Couture were. Chuck Lidell has a career record of 21-8. These are figures that would kill a boxer’s career.
Randy was only slightly better at 30-11, however he ended as the champion a total of five times in two weight divisions. They had a lot of losses in their career because they were continually fighting the best contenders.
The second is the pre-fight. All too often in boxing these days the fighters act like inarticulate Muhammad Alis. They try to hype the fight by bitch-slapping each other at the weigh in and making derogatory comments about the other’s mother.
MMA fighters often make semi-intelligent remarks about the other’s technique and style, and states how he is going to beat him up. It is a scene safe for mothers and shows a level of intelligence.
MMA offers a level of variety that boxing can not achieve. While boxing is the sweet science it revolves mainly around head and abdomen.
There are so many ways that a MMA fighter can end a fight, through knockouts, grappling, submission, ground and pounds, kicking, and the list goes on.
It is this variety and spontaneity of attack which keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting to see when that pivotal moment will come.
Lastly, attention span. In the modern era when everything is high paced and a million miles an hour, our attention spans appear to have been whittled down. A twelve round fight will take a minimum of 36 minutes, MMA just 15.
This all means more fighters, more often, over a shorter period of time. It appeals to the younger generation.
It is a shame, I loved boxing. I did not want it to end this way; but sadly, boxing it’s not me. It’s you.