The competition between MMA/UFC and boxing has been a talking point among many over the last few years. Boxing may be the oldest form of combat known to man. Its existence dates back to ancient civilisations before the birth of Christ. Boxing was definitely most popular from the 50s through to the 90s when we seen champions like Foreman, Ali, Frazier, Hearns, Leonard, Holyfield, Tyson and Roy Jones. The World Heavyweight champion in these times was almost considered royalty. These days the sport has changed and has lost a lot of significance in the public eye. The UFC started out as a hardcore, bare-knuckle, blood sport which was not allowed to show on TV due to the graphic nature of the bouts. Since those early days they have cleaned up the sport by introducing gloves and a number of rules which has seen it accepted by TV networks and the sport has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Since the rapid growth of the UFC people have begun to make claims that boxing is dead. I like many, have grown a fondness for the UFC but I am a hardcore boxing fan and although it could do with changes and improvements for a revamp, it is far from ‘dead’.
I think the UFC is a great organisation for MMA to have. One organisation with a roster of fighters and a clear champion in each division. A significant reason why boxing is not as respected as it used to be is for one simple reason… There are too many titles in world boxing. There was a time when only one or two titles existed within each weight division which meant winning it really meant something. Now there are WBC, WBA, IBF, IBO, WBO, WBF title belts that a fighter can win. Not to mention Super champions, Interim champions, Silver champions, Oriental champions and all the rest. There are literally too many titles to name. I think boxing needs to go back to having just two governing bodies with only two titles in each division. This means that to become champion or remain champion you have to fight the best. This guarantees better fights which results in more fans. I also know fighters with different promotional companies often have problems agreeing on deals, well this way they will not have an alternative. If you want your fighter to have a chance at becoming champion, they will have to fight. This is the major area boxing needs to consider changing if they wish to gain back the public’s interest and respect.
It seems like every time I turn on my TV, there is a UFC related program on. It may be TUF series replays, UFC unleashed or just replays of old fight cards, but this means the sport is getting seen by millions of people every day. Another thing is sometimes having Live UFC events on free TV channels. What a great thing this is for fans of the sport, this is a huge reason for the UFC’s success. Not everybody wants to or can afford to pay $30-$50 for a PPV event. Especially if events are week in week out. This is a vital area where boxing needs take note and improve. There are great boxing matchups almost every week but often they aren’t seen due to events not being broadcast or venues not willing to pay the amount it takes to show the event on PPV. Saul Alvarez v Austin Trout, two undefeated world champions, this fight was not shown at a single venue in my city. I however payed $30 for the event, it was a fantastic fight, just too bad not many people would of seen this apart from diehard fans. I know it obviously takes a great deal too secure TV deals and rights, but if boxing can improve its broadcasting efforts I think it’s a huge step to increasing the public’s awareness and gaining back a fan base.
I love what the UFC have done with The Ultimate Fighter series. This gives great exposure to up and coming fighters and gives people a great insight into a fighter’s life. When seeing a fighter’s behaviour behind the scenes and their backstory and motives for fighting, it allows people to create a connection and it builds a fan base for that fighter. If the fighter then makes the UFC, there’s a fan base that follows his journey. I also think it’s good how TUF gets two current fighters to train the opposing teams and eventually fight each other after the season ends. This gives exposure and hype to the final event consequently resulting in more viewers and fans tuning in. Boxing briefly done a series like this when they had The Contender but this only ran for 4 seasons, plus an Australian series and UK vs US challenge while TUF is about to begin its 18th season. Bring back The Contender but take a page out of TUFs book and have a similar layout.
I enjoy the hype before any fight night but have tuned in to many MMA events with huge lead up and hype surrounding the bout only for it to end in the first minute. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in boxing, but it’s rare. If you ask people what their favourite aspect of MMA is, I’m positive majority will say striking. Everybody loves to see guys standing toe to toe throwing leather because they want to see a knockout. I can appreciate the skill of wrestling and Jiu Jitsu, these guys are great athletes, but not many people would say they enjoy watching two guys laying on top of each other for 5 minutes. There is a reason the ref stands the guys back up, because that’s what people want to see. MMA fighters are superb athletes with a wide range of skills but I think a bout can often be determined on brute force because of the small gloves and wrestling. There is a reason boxing is called ‘The Sweet Science’, that’s because you have often have to outthink your opponent to get a victory.
With fewer titles and most importantly the right marketing and broadcasting coverage the potential for boxing to regain that public image it did during those years between the 50s to 90s would be a certainty in my opinion. Boxing will always be number one for me and I think others would join me in this belief if changes were made. Whether or not they happen, believe me, boxing is not dead.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com