Boxing, MMA and the Space In-between
Ron Yacovetti – Correspondent/Writer for ProElite.com
UFC President Dana White is doing it.
HBO Boxing commentator Jim Lampley is doing it.
But why? Why are so many people pitting Boxing and MMA against one-another as if there is a competition between the two for survival? It’s like comparing Baseball and Basketball because they both involve a ball, scoring and uniforms. It’s an unfair contrast to do regarding two mutually exclusive sports.
I understand that both MMA and Boxing are both about fighting, but each has a different set of rules and tactics for engagement. It really is easy to be a fan of both sports without choosing one over the other, as a favorite.
I put together a comprehensive breakdown of why people compare them, why it’s unjustified and why they are undeniably two different sports.
FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONFUSION
One of the main reasons I’ve found, that Boxing and MMA get weighed against one-another is because of their shared attributes; punching, ring ropes (when a cage is not in use), and the use of a referee. But that’s where the similarities end. Even similarities such as striking (in MMA) or punching (in boxing) are not necessarily executed with the same technique. Mixed Martial Artists need to be wary of take downs, elbows and kicks where boxers’ only concern is their opponent’s hands.
Yet because both involve punching/striking, different strategies and techniques often go unnoticed by casual observers. And in some cases, even the pros miss this point, Mr. Lampley.
WHO’S DRAWING THE UNFOUNDED COMPARISONS?
In my experience, just like any collective body of people who unite behind a cause, it’s the hardcore fans that look to the other sport as inferior or unworthy. It’s as if they are emotionally defending their turf from a hostile takeover. They react as if the growth of the other means the death of the sport they love. That scenario is simply not realistic or remotely close to taking place. Neither MMA nor Boxing will be going anywhere, so let’s put that myth to rest, shall we?
Boxing is dead…over-with…gone the way of the saber-tooth tiger.
I have come to find that for hardliner MMA fans and those not privy to the world of boxing, the gradual extinction of boxing has already begun. But why? Why do people think a sport that has lasted so long and can still afford to pay fighters like Oscar De La Hoya $25 million per fight, is fading out?
To me, the answer is two-fold.
First of all, so many guys like De La Hoya and Mayweather have been taking on opponents in boxing matches, making boat-loads of money and doing the least amount of work to get the job done. Boxing’s work ethic is dying, not the sport.
It’s also a socio-economic issue, in large part. In the glory days of Boxing men fought to survive, to pave a better path in life and because they loved it. There is no bigger difference in today’s boxer than that. And ironically, the very same level of compensation that MMA fighters want and also deserve is partly to blame for it.
It tests my dedication as a fan to see boxers transform into not much more than highly paid athletes. Did you get that? Athletes. The fighter or brawler characterization is not always the case anymore. So many of us who embraces the sport are continually subjected to higher priced pay-per-views where they witness a series of performances that are less confrontational than ‘Dancing with the Stars’. The boxers seem quite content to make the money and run. That just stinks. I keep hoping that a majority of boxer’s will rediscover their hunger.
Second, for the general public, the ambassador for the sport of boxing has always been the Heavyweights. I cannot stress this point enough. I continually notice that people on all levels of fandom, love the big boys going toe to toe, and in today’s boxing scene that division is all but dried up. The athletes who would likely dominate heavyweight boxing have most often taken up higher paying, less risky sports like baseball, basketball and even football. Just ask heavyweight-boxing legend, Ken Norton whose son made a name for himself playing for the NFL’s 49’ers and Cowboys.
Add the fact that the best boxers are coming from Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa - not from America. These warriors are holding and furiously defending their titles, often in nations outside of the U.S. And quite frankly American’s tend to lose interest when the heavyweight kingpin’s name sounds something like Klitschko.
There is a ton of top notch talent south of 200 lbs. in boxing. Trust me. Just start watching them and join the rest of us as we wait for the next great American heavyweight that can capture our attention like Mike Tyson.
MMA IS BRUTAL AND NOT A SPORT AT ALL
Here we go again. I could not disagree with this statement more. MMA is as much a sport as any other you see on TV. And if bowling qualifies, then this is a moot point. The best thing a top level bowler can do is knock down all 10 pins…I’ve done that. Best thing a top level MMA fighter can do is knock down Chuck Liddell…I’m afraid to even dream it!
I simply do not find MMA to be a street fight or animalistic activity. It involves more art forms and combat techniques than one can often wrap their head around. In today’s MMA arena, you cannot enter the cage or ring armed with only one style or discipline. It’s MIXED Martial Arts people. That means a compilation of fighting styles to account for all potential aspects of hand to hand combat. That sure does seem a lot more evolved and intelligent than primitive, to me. If bowling is a sport, MMA is an uber-sport.
THE NEGATIVE HALO EFFECT
Once something is branded as bad, it sure is difficult to shake off.
The first thing you learn about MMA is where and how it began. The Mixed Martial Arts world began as an underground scene that was no holds barred and far more extreme than its current incarnation. In a mainstream sense, it was almost as if it were the beta version tested on the general populace; a version that stumbled like Windows Vista. And yes, I am speaking from experience.
However, we owe a lot to the Beta MMA. The old school fights caught the attention of the public, which caught the eye of the government. It was way back in the 90’s, but when the public cried “ouch” and out spoken legislators joined the parade, the Beta MMA all but died in a pile of lost fortunes. Rising from the twisted metal is the MMA of today. A sport that is more professional, has a rule book and standards that are enforced by sanctioned athletic commissions
Plus, given the level of camaraderie I have witnessed amongst the fighters in MMA, I find it ironic to say it’s so brutal or cruel. Where are these people when hockey players start throwing hands? And that’s within a sport where fighting goes on just for the entertainment value. It’s not even part of the game’s strategy!
Show the fighters a little respect all of you MMA critics…and at least address that whole hockey issue first.
BUILDING ACTION OR ICONS
Another key difference between Boxing and MMA is the focal point. This is a very unique difference to me, in that it really takes two completely distinctive approaches to developing a fighter’s career.
In professional boxing it seems future champions are sought out early on and then gradually brought along throughout their careers. They take on “C” and “B” level opponents as they amass undefeated records. This usually lasts until they are anywhere from 18-0 to 28-0. Then they go after the elite fighters and title belts within their division, creating a major build up and expectation of star quality, having gone so long without a loss. It sure gets me sucked into a guy’s career when I know he’s unbeaten.
In MMA fighters just fight, period. They pursue title belts in the various organizations but oftentimes you will see a fighter who has less than 15 pro fights with top level opponents already logged into their resume. There’s no waiting too long and being nurtured ad-nauseam. These guys and gals prepare, train hard and then go after anyone, anywhere, anytime. It drives me nuts that this aspect has diminished so much in boxing. Many professional boxers approach their careers like an internship at Smith Barney, where profiteering is the primary goal, not fighting. Back in the day, that was hardly the case.
The ramifications of this difference are unique in that they both enhance and hinder these sports.
In Boxing, you get the invulnerable aura of a Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr. or George Foreman where the expectation to win is almost a given. And when they eventually lose, it’s front page headlines. It took 11 years for Roy Jones Jr. to be defeated and it shocked the entire fight community as much as it shocked me.
As exciting as this sounds, those stand out stars are far and few between and it leaves fans having to watch so many mediocre fighters take their time on the road to nowhere, fighting nobody. Guys like Roy Jones are incredibly gifted athletes that sustain unblemished records because they are that much better than the rest of the field.
Luckily, MMA has yet to get lost in the minutia of time released career development. That’s certainly a good thing as far as I am concerned. But…here’s the dark cloud to that silver lining…
Throughout the entire MMA fight world, there are almost no undefeated, top level warriors who are reigning for extended periods of time, compiling a following that transcends the sport’s hardcore base. To me, that’s not so good. There’s a reason they call Oscar De La Hoya the ‘Golden Boy’. That man gets people who miss most weekly fight cards, to buy costly seats and head to Las Vegas to be a part of an event where he is performing. MMA needs more of those figures. It will help fuel the sport’s growth. And the talent in MMA is nowhere near lacking for talent that can do it. It’s just a different fight game and remaining undefeated for prolonged time periods is very difficult and not commonplace.
THEY ARE TWO DIFFERENT SPORTS
In most cases when an athlete from one of these two sports, goes to fight in the other, they do not excel. We’ve seen it for years in boxing when kick boxers migrated over to boxing and in the long run, do not size up.
The bottom line is they are not the same sport. This may change when more fighters study a variety of different disciplines and learn to separate the differences when they fight. But until such a change occurs, there will only be a handful of combatants who seem capable of succeeding in boxing and MMA. Gifted warriors like Jeremy “Half-man, Half-Amazing’ Williams and Erin Toughill are two of a few.
Only by cross-pollinating the sports can we usher can we justify the boxing and MMA fighters and their matches.
WHY COMPLAIN AT ALL?
I am as happy as can be as a fan of all fight sports. Think about it…
If you like combat sports, we are living in the most exciting time. Thanks to cable outlets such as SPIKE TV, HBO, SHOWTIME, ESPN, FOX SPORTS, ION TV, HDNET and others, you can see fights from all over the world, Live or On Demand, 24/7.
And adding even more excitement to it all is the emergence of internet outlets like PROELITE.COM, an online MMA community that actually streams live fight cards from around the globe. Incredibly, this site delivers LIVE MMA fight action directly to fans’ computers.
So, stop your complaining, your comparing, and your debating! Instead of dissing one or the other, shut your mouth and give both sports a fighting chance to reveal themselves as worthy of your attention. If you take the time to learn their differences and similarities, odds are that you will come to love both sports like the brothers that they are.
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