I will be the first to admit, I was stunned when I heard Dana White speaking about a potential fight between Anderson Silva and Roy Jones Jr. when he was a guest on Joe Rogan’s podcast before UFC 157.
“I have to make him [Silva] and f--king Jones happen, man,” he said.
Of course, this made me blink in disbelief. I kept on blinking as Rogan and White talked about the greatness of Silva, how lucky the MMA world would be if he could actually finish his new 10-fight contract and so on.
It’s not that I didn’t think White possessed the same basic DNA as most MMA and boxing fans; I just didn’t think he would be willing to take such a risk.
The idea of Silva wanting to fight Jones to “test himself” seems absurd to me; Jones is many years outside of his prime, and I cannot shake the feeling that should he win, many would try and sell it as an MMA great beating a pound-for-pound boxing legend in the boxing ring.
And that is far from the truth.
Jones was once the greatest fighter in the sport of boxing, but that was many years ago. Silva fighting Jones just seems like bad theater; it’s as if Silva is letting five-plus years of hard defeats and knockouts do the work beforehand.
If Silva really wanted to test himself, there are many other boxers out there who would be able to give him a true test without making it look like they are throwing an MMA fighter to the lions.
But this really isn’t about Silva “testing himself,” it’s about Silva wanting to fight an idol.
And here is the onion; it should not happen under any circumstances because MMA cannot honestly be served in victory or defeat.
Should Silva win a boxing match against Jones, it honestly proves nothing. Over the past eight years, Jones has lost via KO/TKO four times, and he’s taken plenty of hard shots to the head in his other three decision losses. His reflexes are not even a fraction of what they once were, and he is a 44-year-old fighter who has been in the ring 64 times; the math isn’t hard.
Now, should Silva lose (a very real possibility), one of the best MMA fighters of all time will have been defeated by a once-great fighter who is but a shell of his former self—a fact that will be given publicity at nearly every convenient turn for years to come.
And make no mistake about it, this is a very losable fight for Silva. His hands won’t be nearly as fast wearing the bigger gloves, and his hands are going to be all he’s got. Against a man who is still faster than most boxers, who has forgotten more about the sport of boxing than most MMA fighters will ever learn, Silva is probably (and rightfully) an underdog.
It’s ageism at its worst if Silva wins, and it’s a crushing defeat if he loses.
People are going to say that Silva can’t look bad in victory because Jones wants the fight just as bad but that won’t matter when all is said and done. This fight was Silva’s idea, and that is why a victory is going to be seen as a kind of cowardice; there are other fighters out there who haven’t suffered so many hard knockouts, and they would jump at a chance to fight Silva.
Believe it or not, a tougher opponent would make Silva look better even if he lost; it would be seen as an MMA fighter wanting to honestly test himself. That is a much better scenario than Silva trying to claim a meal that has already been chewed up by the fighters who came before him.
There has been a lot made of Silva’s boxing ability in MMA circles due to a video-tapped sparring session in Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym. If Silva really is as great as such a session would lead many to believe, then there is no real reason why he shouldn’t be fighting any of the three men below.
At age 48, no one could say that Silva didn’t have the advantage of youth on his side in a boxing match against Bernard Hopkins.
They could also say he has a significant size advantage as well, and they would be right. And truth be told, Silva would need every advantage he could get against Hopkins, who is one of the craftiest boxers fighting today.
In addition, unlike Jones, Hopkins has never been knocked out so should Silva defeat him, he would be able to hold his head very high indeed.
While Hopkins probably doesn’t have the power to score a knockout, he might be able to garner a TKO which would ensure that Silva came into the bout in the best shape ever, fully aware of the task ahead of him.
But in all probability, Hopkins would handle Silva with ease, making him look like a fish out of water, which is honestly what he would be in a legitimate boxing match. Hopkins would hold just about every advantage one can imagine, and I doubt Silva would even win a single round.
But if Silva really wants a test, Hopkins could give it to him without sending him into a medically mandated retirement, which allows him to go back to fighting in the UFC.
Should Silva somehow win, he looks great because he would have earned a victory over perhaps the greatest Methuselah boxing has ever known. If he loses, then he will have lost against a fighter who is still viable in his sport, and there is no shame in that.
Many MMA fans and pundits do not give James Toney his due, but the man was willing to walk all his talk into the Octagon, and while he came up short against Couture, in a boxing ring he could be far more than Silva could handle.
Silva wouldn’t be outsized, and Toney is 45, so once again, youth would go to “The Spider.”
But Toney would be looking for revenge, and odds are he would be swinging for the knockout; given his defensive abilities and punching power, Silva could spend some time throwing his hands before getting countered for the KO.
The main reason why Toney would be a reasonable choice is that even though he is old for the fight game (and well outside his prime), he hasn’t ever been knocked out like Jones has, so an improbable Silva victory wouldn’t be cheapened.
And should Silva win, argument could even be made that it was as close to an even fight as possible since Silva hasn’t ever really fought in a boxing match of note against anyone good. That is a good thing because anytime an athlete crosses over into another sport, there is going to have to be some spin involved.
But how would Silva do in a boxing ring with a motivated James Toney? Probably not that well.
The defensive style of Toney makes him very hard to hit flush and allows him to land brutally hard counters. A novice like Silva would likely get knocked out by the middle rounds, but at least it would look like the sport of MMA was about the business of fair play; Toney fought in the UFC, and the UFC sent one of their best into the boxing ring to fight Toney.
There is also the fact that in Toney, Silva could test himself against a man Jones bested many years ago. It might not seem so grand in 2014, but for Silva’s first true boxing bout, it’s not bad.
Even though he’s coming off some tough losses (both via TKO), Chad Dawson would be the toughest choice out of the bunch given his youth, skill, speed and power.
Thankfully, Dawson isn’t a KO machine and would be surrendering a significant size advantage against Silva, which could help “The Spider” hang in there for a good number of rounds.
A fight against a man like Dawson yields the biggest risk but the biggest rewards; once again, should Silva somehow win, he looks simply fantastic, no matter how much bigger he is. Should he lose, well Dawson is just one defeat removed from being the WBC light heavyweight champion and thus a loss is honestly expected.
But it would be, by far, the most legitimate challenge for Silva, and in Dawson he would be facing a man who defeated two men who bested Jones: Bernard Hopkins and Antonio Tarver.
If you’re going to go into hostile territory, you might as well go all the way.
If Silva—one of MMA’s greatest fighters ever—climbs into the boxing ring, it shouldn’t be about an MMA fighter looking for an easy victory. That panders to the very thing that so many in the MMA community see as the biggest fault of boxing today—too many good fighters take easy fights instead of risking defeat in order to face better competition.
If Silva really does step into the squared circle, he should do it while representing all that makes MMA great—the willingness to face anyone in honest competition.
Until he is ready to do that, perhaps he should try and find some contentment in being an idol in his own right. As one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, god knows there are plenty who would love to be in his shoes.
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