Boxing has taken a backseat to the UFC in terms of popularity for the past few years.
It was bound to happen, though. Even before the UFC and other mixed martial arts promotions burst onto people’s TV screens, boxing’s popularity was slowly waning. When MMA offered an alternative to boxing fans growing tired of the sport, boxing floundered even further into irrelevancy. Boxing, for whatever reason, lost its luster among combat sport fans.
Another blow was dealt when UFC promoter Dana White recently announced that the UFC would occasionally air fights on Fox on Saturday nights. Before the '80s, whenever there was a big fight in boxing it was always on TV in a prime-time slot on a major network.
As stated in the paragraph above, the UFC is holding title bouts that are available on Pay-Per-View (PPV) and on regular TV. Even though this concept seems quite simple it has never been done before.
The UFC could become even more popular because of this; airing the occasional title fight on regular TV will give a chance for new fans to become enamored with MMA while still allowing the UFC to offer PPVs to fans that have been following them for years.
Meanwhile anyone interested in seeing Manny Pacquiao in action has to see him on PPV. Pacquiao fights about two to three times a year. Maybe if one of those fights were broadcasted on a major TV network, that could entice viewers to buy other PPVs that Pacquiao headlines.
This is why the UFC has become so successful; they gain new fans by airing fights on regular TV once in a while. This then causes those fans to buy PPVs. The UFC’s plan is simple but very effective.
One other thing that boxing is lacking right now is star power. Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman—these men were international superstars back in seventies. Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes and Sugar Ray Leonard were the most dominant boxers of the '80s and early '90s.
Millions of people watched these men fight each other and their battles were legendary. In Ali’s, Foreman’s and Tyson’s cases their fame has transcended boxing and they have become American Icons.
Tyson became infamous for all the wrong reasons; his stints in prison and other struggles are well-documented. Foreman has made more money off of the George Foreman Grill than he did when he was boxing. Ali became the biggest icon of them all because of his charisma and his ability to dominate his opponents throughout the '60s and '70s.
As of right now the two most well-known boxers in the world are Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Floyd Mayweather has gained notoriety for his being undefeated and for his arrogance, while Pacquiao has crossed over in mainstream popular culture, appearing in commercials and late-night talk shows.
The UFC, however, has multiple stars that they can market to the masses. Junior Dos Santos, George St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, Cain Velasquez, Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones can be marketed to different demographics all over the world.
Right now the only thing that is keeping people’s interest in boxing alive is the possibility of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao facing off in the boxing match of the century.
Unfortunately the two men have not reached an agreement to fight each other. If Mayweather and Pacquiao don’t agree to fight each other soon while interest is still high, interest in the fight may begin to wane. If that happens then boxing will have missed the perfect chance to become mainstream once again.
Until then the UFC will continue to gain momentum and dominate the combat sport world.