I love boxing, L-O-V-E it. At it’s best, there simply isn’t a sport that compares to the violent beauty of the sweet science. Don’t believe me? Watch this:
That said, after this weekend’s egregious (rigged?) split decision in Pacquiao vs. Bradley, I think it’s time to declare boxing dead. It’s simply not that compelling anymore. There are really only two “must-see” fighters in the sport: Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr — if you’re really stretching things I guess you could add Miguel Cotto and maybe Amir Khan to the list, but have you ever heard anyone say, “Can’t go out tonight, Miguel Cotto is fighting…” ? A fight between the two may be able to revive the sport, but don’t hold your breath for that to happen. Even if the two fighters’ promoters (Top Rank for Pac-Man, Golden Boy for Money) could come to an understanding (unlikely), Pacquiao still has to have a rematch with Bradley before any fight with Mayweather. Furthermore, since Bradley did “officially” beat Pacquiao, Mayweather has a convenient excuse to continue dodging the one man on earth who has a shot at blemishing his record.
Still, if you enjoy a little sanctioned violence (you know you do) there’s no need to despair, there’s another combat sport out there which actually well-run and features compelling cards on a regular basis. Here’s a few reasons that you might want to consider just ditching boxing for mixed martial arts:
1. A wealth of compelling fighters
Unlike boxing, MMA is stocked with compelling and dominating fighters in nearly every weight class. Middleweight Anderson Silva is the current pound for pound king and the Bantamweight, Featherweight, Welterweight, and Light Heavyweight weight classes have their own dominant champs in Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo, Georges St. Pierre, and Jon Jones, respectively. Also unlike boxing, which has had its Heavyweight division dominated for the past half-decade by the thoroughly uncompelling (if underrated) Wladimir Klitschko, UFC’s heavyweight division is very much up for grabs with the likes of Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem looking to challenge current champ Junior Dos Santos, not to mention the possibility of a healthy Shane Carwin creating an extra bit of havoc. Boxing simply can’t compete.
2. A better promotion system
The fact that we haven’t seen a Pacquiao – Mayweather matchup is a real indictment of boxing’s promotion system.No such problems exist in MMA, where the vast majority of the best fighters are under the UFC promotion. I’m far from Dana White’s biggest fan — his personal feud with Fedor Emilianenko denied us the chance to see perhaps the greatest martial artist ever take on the best available competition — but there’s no denying that he’s done an excellent job turning UFC from a sideshow curiosity into a legitimate major sport. Consider this example of how much more efficient UFC’s structure is: when Bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz tore his ACL in training for his UFC 149 title defense against top contender Urijah Faber the promotion responded quickly by setting an interim title fight between Faber and the weight class’ next best fighter: 28-1 Renan Barao. In boxing, when we don’t get Mayweather v Pacquiao we get stuck with Pacquiao v Bradley and disappointment all around.
3. A simplified weight class structure
An underrated aspect of boxing’s decline has been the addition of the incremental Super- and Junior- weight class designations. While it’s cool to see a guy like Manny Pacquiao constantly change his weight to pick up titles in a host of classes, it would be nice to see him him defend those titles more often. MMA’s simpler weight classes creates more intrigue within the divisions. Familiarity breeds contempt among fighters and MMA has more legitimate rivalries — like Faber and Cruz in the Bantamweight division and Jon Jones and everyone else at 205 lbs — than boxing, where the two biggest “rivals” have never actually fought each other. Furthermore, not having the incremental weight classes creates more intrigue when fighters jump up a class. If and when Jones makes his much-anticipated jump to heavyweight, he’ll be going from 205 lbs to 265 lbs, kind of a big deal.
4. More exciting fights
This one is a bit of a double-edged sword. The grappling aspect of MMA can sometimes turn fights into a soul sucking grind of two sweaty dudes rolling around on the ground. Still, there’s a nuance to wrestling, take-down defense, submissions, and jiu-jitsu that fight fans can grow to appreciate.
Mixed Martial Arts’ lighter gloves and more varied strikes lead to more knockouts, both often and early. While this makes the classic boxing wars of days past (Ward v Gatti, Ali v Frasier) nigh impossible, it does add more unpredictability to the sport. Stuff like this is pretty damn cool (I apologize for the poor video quality):
Additionally, the increased frequency of knockouts (I’ll include submissions here) takes power out of the hands of the scorekeepers which, as we learned from Pacquiao-Bradley, is a good thing.
5. Better fight cards
This might be UFC’s single greatest advantage over boxing. Consider the upcoming UFC 149 which was originally set to feature title defenses from both Cruz and Aldo. Unfortunately, both fighters were injured in training, making the card less compelling, bu the point stands. When was the last time a boxing card featured two of the sport”s five best pound for pound fighters in two separate fights?
For my money there’s still nothing that compares to a great boxing match. For all it’s excitement, MMA can’t match the awesomeness of an all out boxing war. Still, if I’m getting pay-per-view, I’d much rather shell out for a UFC card. That way, I know that I’ll see some intriguing fighters and see some good fights with outcomes that make sense. I wish I could say the same for boxing.