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5-Step Plan for Boxing to Surpass MMA as Most Popular Combat Sport

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2013

5-Step Plan for Boxing to Surpass MMA as Most Popular Combat Sport

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    The sport of boxing has been criticized for decades.

    Questions about the sport's honesty, legitimacy and appeal have been as prevalent as the names of the great champions that are in the history books.

    Despite all the criticisms and problems within boxing, the sport remains alive and at least moderately healthy.

    However, boxing could be doing better. It struggles in its competition with mixed martial arts for several reasons, and if it wants to win that competition in the short run and get healthier in the long run, boxing can't just continue to go along with business as usual.

    Boxing needs to take steps to recapture its market share and win back the public trust. Boxing will always have its fans, but it needs to do a much better job if it wants to thrive in the current market place and overtake MMA.

Network Television Presence

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    Boxing has not had a regular presence on network television in years.

    However, CBS brought boxing back to network television in December 2012, and ratings for the Leo Santa Cruz-alberto Guevara fight were considered successful (ESPN.com).

    This means that network television is likely to come back and perhaps become a regular feature again.

    This would give boxing a greater presence in the average American home, and make it more popular and give it a better chance in its battle with MMA.

    Bernard Hopkins believes that boxing must have a regular network presence because the pay-per-view fights are not for everyone, and network television fights don't cost the viewer anything to watch.

    "I remember watching boxing on programs like 'Wide World of Sports' when I was growing up," Hopkins told Jim Rome. "That's what the sport needs again."

Peace Among Promoters

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    Boxing needs to find a way for promoters to work with each other so the sport's fans can see the best fights.

    If two rival promoters have the two best fighters in a particular weight class, the fight can be made if the two sides behave with maturity and find a way to work together.

    If one side feels insulted by the other side and there is no dialogue and no attempt to make a fair business deal for both sides, the fight does not get made.

    For much of the last five years, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were the two biggest names in the sport. However, a fight between the two men never happened.

    While there is plenty of blame to go around, a lack of cooperation between promoters is one of the reasons.

    The best fights in MMA get made; boxing needs to make sure the same thing happens as well.

Strong Drug Testing

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    The use of performance-enhancing drugs is a blight on all sports.

    However, it can be deadly in boxing. If a boxer is using illegal performance enhancers over a six-month period and gets in the ring against an opponent who is clean, that opponent may be at risk for his life.

    A baseball player who uses steroids may be able to hit a ball 25 feet further as a result. In boxing, the use of performance enhancers could lead to serious injury or a fatality in the ring (15rounds.com).

    A comprehensive drug and performance-enhancing testing program is needed immediately.

Emphasize the Skill

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    Mixed martial arts fighting takes skill.

    When you look at the best MMA fighters in the world, you are not seeing a fight between a couple of nightclub bouncers. You are looking at athletes with solid skills.

    However, boxers may have have more coordination, timing, speed, quickness and overall athletic ability than any other combat athletes. It takes years for a boxer to develop his skills and reach the top of his game.

    It may not take MMA fighters as much training and ability to reach the top.

    Boxing needs to promote and emphasize how much skill, practice and ability it takes to become a champion. That will help the public become more interested and understand how talented boxers are compared to other athletes.

Centralized Governing Body

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    Boxing has no centralized leadership and that is one of the primary reasons the sport has struggled for so many decades.

    There is no one ruling body. Each state has its own boxing commission with its own standards. Many are similar to one another and they often respect each other's rulings—such as when a fighter gets suspended or loses his license—but boxing lacks a centralized authority.

    The same holds for the many championship-issuing organizations. When you have the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF—along with several others—how is the average boxing fan supposed to know who the true champion of a particular weight class is?

    Boxing needs one centralized commissioner and one champion per weight class. That would give boxing a much better chance to thrive in its competition with MMA.

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