Last month’s Middleweight clash between Gabriel Rosado and Brian Vera may have been overlooked by the majority of fans, but its significance to the future of boxing should not be, as it heralded the arrival into the mainstream of BKB, Big Knockout Boxing. The bout took place not in a traditional boxing ring but in ‘The Pit’, a 17 foot diameter circular arena without any ropes or cage favored by other contact sports. With Championship fights taking place over seven, two minute rounds and under a new rules system designed to encourage more action and excitement, the main event did not disappoint. Rosado put on a magnificent display of controlled aggression eventually knocking out Vera with seconds to go at the end of the sixth round.
With the sport still in its infancy, Big Knockout Boxing will undoubtedly have many detractors quick to brand it as simplistic violence for uneducated boxing fans. Purists will decry it as a blasphemy against traditional boxing as it negates many of the defensive skills of their idols. But boxing fans should not overlook the interest BKB promises to bring to a sport that has seen better days. Whilst I understand the feelings many have about traditional notions of the ‘Sweet science’, fans have grown frustrated at being asked to pay top dollar to watch boring fights and have expressed a desire for change. Change that forces fighters to engage more and not simply run or hold. Change that encourages fighters to win decisively by knockout rather than relying on the judges’ scorecards. And change that will provide the excitement and drama necessary to attract new fans the sport. Casual fans and TV audiences simply do not want to watch two ‘Scientists’ run, hold or jab their way through twelve rounds of tedium refereed by a United Nations Peace keeper!
The August 16th event sent out a clear message to promoters and the mainstream boxing establishment that it is time to start listening to the fans. While other sports have adapted to move with the times, Boxing has fractured into multiple Championships, rival promotional companies, and competing television networks unwilling to work together for the benefit of the sport. This has contributed to the growth of rival sports such as MMA that have slowly been eroding boxing’s fan base and significance in the media, particularly in the United States. Although many don’t regard these alternatives as a threat to the current health of boxing, the landscape is sure to look less rosy in the not too distant future. After boxing’s biggest stars such as Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Wladamir Klitschko soon retire, their successors will struggle to generate the same level of interest amongst casual sports fans responsible for high PPV numbers and even higher paychecks.
I am not suggesting that ‘The Pit’ will overtake the traditional boxing ring and Marquess of Queensberry rules any time soon. But the fact that a viable alternative is now in place will force promoters to look more closely at their product and ask themselves if they are giving the fans the action and fights they deserve. The rule changes in BKB will appeal to many fans who want to see fighters slug it out at close quarters without rolling around on the floor like a couple of mating tarantulas as they do in MMA. Big Knockout Boxing also makes the possibility of potentially huge crossover fights between elite boxers and UFC stars far more viable as it negates many of the advantages held by either discipline. A Heavyweight bout between Wladimir Klitschko and current UFC Champion Cain Velasquez or even a rematch between James Toney and Randy Couture would both be mouth watering prospects. And if given the choice, who wouldn’t want to see Mayweather vs Maidana 2 take place in ‘The Pit’ rather than a traditional boxing ring? You might assume it would favor the more aggressive style of ‘El Chino’ as he could close down the distance easier and overwhelm Floyd with pressure. On the other hand it could force Mayweather to demonstrate his superior boxing skills and take Marcos out in clinical fashion before he built up any momentum.
Whatever the future holds, the arrival on the scene of BKB is a symptom of the current malaise and fractured landscape of boxing. Many fans are unhappy with the current product on offer and if changes are not forthcoming from within, then they will inevitably come from outside. BKB is an exciting new alternative that I’m sure you will be hearing a lot more about in the months and years ahead.