Boxing

"Elite" Boxers Cross Over To MMA

By Aaron Gorvine - Although Eastside Boxing is primarily a website devoted to the sweet science of pugilism, there is now a need to occasionally report on the interconnectedness of boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA). Any boxing news outlet must now at least make mention of an emerging scenario in the sport; elite boxers crossing over and challenging fighters in MMA contests.

It’s nothing new for lesser boxers to engage in K1, UFC or some of the smaller organizations as a way to make use of their limited skills. In the past, most of the boxers that fought in MMA organizations were either mediocre amateurs, third-rate pros, or just so far removed from their prime that they may as well have been fossilized..

But more recently, the growing popularity and tantalizing prize money of MMA has begun to whet the appetites of a very few elite boxers, and although no boxer in the prime of their career has yet made the jump, it is only a matter of time before this occurs.

Two well-known boxers that are currently making waves are Ricardo Mayorga and James Toney.

There are reports that James Toney may soon be fighting UFC legend Randy Couture. It can be argued that James Toney is well past his sell by date, but he was actively boxing in the upper echelon of heavyweights within the last three or four years. This is a big difference from someone like Ray Mercer who was inactive for quite some time before taking up MMA (and losing his first fight to Kimbo Slice via submission—he since went on to score a stunning knockout of former UFC champ Tim Sylvia).

Ricardo Mayorga is an even bigger story. As recently as 2008 he was in a competitive fight with Shane Mosley who is slotted #3 in Ring Magazine’s current pound for pound rankings. Mayorga will be fighting Din Thomas (an MMA veteran) on May 15th of this year.

Both Ricardo Mayorga and James Toney point to a growing trend of boxers who may look to reap profits in MMA, a relatively fledgling sport that has not always had the caliber of pro athlete that boxing and other traditional sports have enjoyed.

There is a great deal of controversy and even animosity between fans of both boxing and MMA as to which is the “real” fighting art and who is the better caliber of athlete. On forums and websites, any discussions of boxing vs. MMA typically devolves into angry comments from “purist” fans that spew venomous and derogatory comments at one another and the athletes in question.

Many fans seem to feel that it would be better for each camp to simply keep to themselves and leave the other alone.

However, as both sports continue to evolve, it is likely that boxers will continue to move over to MMA and then back again to boxing. Their success or lack of success in these endeavors will become important in the fans’ perceptions of their abilities and how the fighting arts stack up against one another. It simply can’t be avoided.

My own personal opinion is that boxers at the elite level of the sport are some of the most exquisite athletes in the world and that very few mixed martial artists have reached the level of mastery in their chosen profession that the top ranked boxers have attained. Due to the low-level of financial compensation and media recognition that MMA had in the past, the most talented fighters tended to be drawn towards boxing first and foremost. But that scenario is changing and will not likely be the case in the next three to five years.

It will be very exciting for the fans if more elite boxers step up to the plate and make the switch, even if just for a fight or two. If the most athletic boxers like Floyd Mayweather or Andre Ward turned their attention to MMA, my belief is that within a few months or a year of learning to defend takedowns, practicing the “scrambles” that arise on the ground and avoiding leg and head kicks—their superior striking and athleticism would be something to behold in MMA. Pure strikers like Manny Pacquiao or Shane Mosley have never been seen in the world of mixed martial arts, and it remains to be seen what someone at that level could do to the competition.

Although it is my belief that one day this kind of cross over will occur, I might be wrong and the fans never get to see a true pound for pound boxer take on the best the UFC has to offer.

Regardless, this love-hate relationship between boxing and MMA will continue as long as both sports exist, like angry Siamese twins forever trying to untangle themselves from one another.

Article posted on 25.04.2010



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