Boxing and the new age of Mixed Martial Arts

There was a time when we referred to the World Heavyweight Champion of boxing as the baddest man on the planet. The days when Mike Tyson ruled the roost knocking out all comers in brutal fashion. We relish in fights like the Thrilla in Manila with Ali and Frazier, and watching Marvellous Marvin Hagler go up against Tommy “Hitman” Hearns in probably one of the most exciting fights ever in the history of boxing.

Kickboxers had to take a backstage even back then. We had many great kickboxing champions like Benny “The Jet” Urquidez , Joe Lewis, Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Dennis Alexio (ironically best known for his role in the 1988 movie “Bloodsport” with Van Damme rather than his real prowress in the ring). Many B-grade boxers made the jump to kickboxing and found success. In fact, Zab Judah’s father ,Yoel Judah was a boxer turned kickboxer and enjoyed moderate success after leaving professional boxing.

In 1993, a relatively unknown man standing at 6 foot 1 and weighing just at 176 pounds appeared in the first sanctioned Mixed Martial Arts(MMA) event in the United States. He beat all comers from karate, taekwondo, Judo, Kung Fu, wrestling and boxing. He took professional boxer Art Jimmerson down and Jimmerson tapped out on the ground before making a hasty return to professional boxing. This man would forever change the moniker “baddest man on the planet”. His name was Royce Gracie and he introduced the art of grappling/groundfighting and Brazilian Jujitsu to the world. That shattered the image of Master Miyagi and many masters who were allegedly practicing an art which was all too deadly. They didn’t stand a chance in the MMA cage.

Photos: Kavaliauskas KOs Zewski & Gonzalez defeats Marriaga

Since then the scene of Mixed Martial Arts has since evolved- fighters have begun cross training in Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, wrestling and Brazilian Jujitsu. mixed martial artists have to be adept in all ranges of combat. And a new era of fighters emerged- many kickboxers made the transition to MMA such as Jose Aldo, Anderson Silva, Chuck “The Iceman” Lidell, Mikro Crocop and Allistair Overeem to name a few. Many mixed martial artists crossed over to train in boxing notably Anderson Silva and George St Pierre with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. The former even has expressed interest in facing Roy Jones Jr in a boxing rules match. In fact Roy Jones Jr was at ringside for UFC 162 and met with UFC boss Dana White expressing interest in facing Anderson “The Spider” Silva until the huge upset which saw “The Spider” knocked out by wrestler Chris Weidman after a prolonged bout of showboating.

Couple that with the diminishing presence of heavyweight boxing post Tyson and Holyfield- many fans have since gravitated towards Mixed Martial Arts. Some boxers have attempted to cross over to MMA. James Toney made an embarrassing debut against Randy “The Natural Couture”. His fight was against Hall of Famer and former UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight Champion, Randy Couture at UFC 118 on August 28.Couture scored a takedown against Toney within 25 seconds into the bout and at 3:19, Couture submitted Toney.Toney was sunsequently released from his contract with the UFC.

Ricardo Mayorga was scheduled to make his debut 15 May 2010 against UFC veteran Din Thomas in the Shine Fights: Worlds Collide: Mayorga vs. Thomas card.Don King however filed for an injunction the week of the fight thereby prevent him from participating, citing Mayorga’s exclusive contract with Don King Promotions (DKP).

Shine Fights stated that Mayorga’s contract with DKP was for boxing, and as such did not apply to mixed martial arts. Judge Marc Gold granted the injunction just several hours before the fight.Later on the same day, Shine Fights officials conceded defeat in the matter and Mayorga was pulled off the card.

However, quite recently Mayorga made his MMA debut in a controversial fashion. Mayorga faced Wesley Tiffer on May 3, 2013. Mayorga was kept on the ground but was able to survive round 1. Tiffer continued to keep Mayorga on the ground after a successful takedown until a controversial illegal knee by Mayorga to Tiffer’s spine where Tiffer was heard screaming after the blow. Mayorga won via TKO after Tiffer didn’t answer the bell on round 3. On May 10, 2013 the Nicaraguan Mixed Martial Arts Commission declared the fight as No Contest for the illegal knee, and suspended Mayorga for 3 months for being 20 pounds over the contracted weight limit of 165-lbs.

Which brings us back to the question, who is the “baddest man on the planet”? MMA fighter Shonie Carter called out Floyd Mayweather Junior after the latter’s disparaging remarks on MMA calling it a sport for beer drinkers and failed fighters who can’t box. Carter pulled no punches and said “Mayweather is a big dog.That’s boxing. But MMA fighters are wolfs. You take the baddest dogs and put them against the baddest wolfs and they will be killed.”

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Jon “ Bones” Jones has also insinuated that MMA fighters are superior to boxers. Jones quoted ,”To be honest with you, if it was all hands, it would probably be a pretty competitive match. But that’s not fighting, either. You can’t be at the bar and be like, alright, no kicking, no taking me down, don’t stretch my shirt out. It’s not like that. What I do, I consider it to be the true art of fighting. To do everything. Fighting Floyd Mayweather wouldn’t even be right. Nobody would want to see that. James Toney did it about two years ago. He lost in the first round. Don’t mess with an MMA fighter. You don’t want to do that. It’s a bad look.”

In conclusion, it is common belief that the cross over and cross-training of athletes between boxing and MMA will continue to occur and only time will tell who is really the “baddest man on the planet”.