Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mixed Martial Arts Vs Boxing - Is MMA UFC Fighting Boxing's Successor

"Boxing's dead."

"Boxing's not what it used to be."

"There are no good fighters out there today."

These are just a few of the comments thrown around by fans of the sport of kings waiting patiently for a breath of life into the flailing lungs of boxing.

In spite of a virtual plethora of organizations boasting their own version of a world title, most people would fail to name even one of the men who stake claim to a form of the fragmented heavyweight championship. WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, IBO (quite possibly, another organization surfaced as this article was being written), does it matter anymore?

Yet with at least five world heavyweight belts, can the casual observer name even one champion? If so, rest assured that person is in a rare group. Try naming two, three, or four. I'll bet that my eight year old niece would have a better chance at naming all four Beatles.

Raised on boxing, I was lucky enough to see many of the sport's greatest warriors, some in their prime. I sat transfixed in front of an enormous television that was set inside of a wooden cabinet. There were two round knobs to change the channels on the right side of the monstrosity, one for the UHF channels which regularly broadcast static.

Somewhere within the channel selection of 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13, I witnessed Ali win his title back from Leon Spinks; Sugar Ray Leonard win the welterweight championship from Wilfred Benitez; Alexis Arguello fall to Aaron Pryor two times - I watched a few cartoons back then too.

As I grew into adulthood, the archaic television was upgraded to one with a remote control and the addition of a cable box. Between closed circuit TV and cable, my boxing fix was satisfied with wars from some of the greatest fighters to ever lace up gloves. Duran beat Leonard. Leonard beat Hagler. Hagler beat Hearns. Hearns beat Duran. These men all fought each other, and were so dominant that they only need to be referred by their last names to be recognized.

Is it really necessary to say "Mike" when speaking of Tyson? Nuff said.

Iron Mike was boxing's last personality that can be recalled by the average person or casual fan. Sure there was Holyfield, Big George Foreman, and Lennox Lewis - all great champions, two of who bested Tyson. Still, most people remember Iron Mike.

Tyson fights transcended the sport of boxing. They weren't fights; they were grand spectacles: events of their own. It didn't matter who the opponent was. Mike could have been pit against the Pope, Elvis, or even God; and it still would have been called "The Tyson Fight."

Today's boxing PPV numbers pale in comparison to the consistent record breaking cards that Tyson pulled even when his career was on the decline. Delahoya and Mayweather drew a record PPV number for their recent bout, but it was not without spending an enormous amount of money on promotion. Commercials, print media ads, and - for the first time in boxing history - an entire cable reality TV series was filmed to hype the fight. Deduct those extra expenses and see if Iron Mike isn't still boxing's PPV king.

Tyson fights needed no hype, just a date and a time. People tuned in just to see if someone could last at least two minutes with the champ. Round two of a Tyson fight was rarer than an honest politician. Once, PPV providers had to promise a three round guarantee or the fee was reduced.

With the absence of Tyson, many boxing fans have found solace in a newer combat sport: MMA (mixed martial arts).

MMA combines one dimensional combat sports, like boxing and wrestling, and packages them together, extending the competitor's arsenals. MMA bouts are a much truer representation of a real fight because the fighters are not limited to simply punching (above the waist) or kicking. Even when they engage wrestling skills, the objective is not to pin the opponent, but to win the fight by submission or stoppage. A judge's decision is rendered if the time limit expires in the bout.

Rules are incorporated to ensure safety and eliminate the barbaric brutality of a street fight. Biting and poking in the eyes are two examples of banned offensive tactics.

Mixed Martial Artists are fighters. In comparison, boxers have been called fighters, but the claim is somewhat of a misnomer. Real fights incorporate any offensive strategy that can win the fight, not merely punching.

Though many boxers have had success in street fights, many factors - outside of being a great fighter - come into play to account for the success. A boxer trains to punch faster, harder, and more accurately. They also exercise to have great stamina. When pitting an in shape athlete against an average person who is not training, the stamina factor alone will sway the fight in favor of the athlete. Coupled with boxing skills, you have a no contest in favor of the boxer.

Have a wrestler face that same boxer in a street fight, and the results are likely to be far different.

An MMA fighter, theoretically, should be victorious over both due to training equally in all areas of fighting. The MMA fighter strives to become well rounded in punching, kicking, wrestling, and submissions. They train their hands, not for a boxing match, but for a real fight where they may be taken down to the ground. Boxers don't train to defend against kicks or takedowns.

A perfect example was when former street fighter, Kimbo Slice, destroyed former world heavyweight boxing and Olympic gold medalist, Ray Mercer in under two minutes in Slice's debut MMA bout. Mercer racked up knockout victories over the likes of Tommy Morrison and had two very controversial losses to Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. Many feel Mercer was robbed in these bouts, and even Lewis is rumored to have conceded that to be true.

Still, the former champ's great boxing skills were relegated to nothing when a street fighter turned mixed martial artist took him down to the mat and pounded him before submitting him with a guillotine choke.

Yet, even as MMA seems to be the evolution of boxing, it could stand to learn a thing or two from the successful sport. Many people may not know that Wladimir Klitschko holds three of the alphabet soup of heavyweight boxing titles, but he still earned more money in his unification bout with Sultan Ibragimov than every MMA fighter on the last UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) card combined.

Felix Trinidad came out of retirement to lose to Roy Jones Jr. and can boast that he also earned more for the losing effort than most MMA fighters, even champions, have earned in their entire career.

For MMA to evolve as a sport, it will have to incorporate what boxing has incorporated. The PPV numbers have already eclipsed boxing's, now it's time to reward the competitors whose fighting careers will certainly be short ones.

Elite XC is an MMA company with a Showtime television deal. The company is run by Gary Shaw who still promotes boxing events. Maybe Shaw is the man who will bring MMA into the spotlight that has embraced boxing during the golden years and still seems to even today.

Only time will tell.

Ray Mardo owns Ultimate Fighting Championship.com and various websites that earn revenue through pay per click, adsense, and selling products. Many of his MMA articles are posted at http://www.ultimatefightingchampionship.com

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