Take That MMA!

27.07.08 – By Chris Acosta: It wasn’t that long ago when I could ask someone, “Did you watch that fight last night?” and they would know what I was talking about. But those days are gone. Now, I get en excited look of acknowledgment followed by the names of UFC fighters I don’t know. “Yeah!” They say. “Did you see that knee to the stomach?” Since Andrew Golota isn’t as active these days, I can only assume they aren’t talking about boxing..

Thanks in part to a generation stricken with a major deficit in attention span and lured in by flash television advertising that would give the most hardened of ocean mariners motion sickness, today’s sports fan crave all things extreme. I have truly come to hate that word: “extreme”. It’s on potato chip packages, sports drinks, video games and just about anything that marketing reps know will sell to America’s naïve youth. And the sad thing is that people are buying it up in droves. The Olympics were apparently not difficult enough so The X-Games were born and the alternative culture adopted at as their own. I could never ride a skateboard but I’d rather take a shot at that big ramp than run 26.2 miles in 100 degree heat.

It’s not enough for someone to start the morning with coffee; I see people all the time chugging cans of Red Bull and similar energy drinks so that they can stay alert while running consecutive red lights on the way to work. And we wonder why our kids are so screw up.

“No.” I say sternly. “I meant the boxing match: Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto.

The person shakes their head and then goes on about the UFC fight I could care less about and around we go.

Before last Saturday’s fight, I told everyone within earshot that this would be the fight of the year and that it would prove that boxing at its best, is ultimate fighting. Of course no one listened and when I went to the internet this morning, the MSN homepage didn’t even post the result on it’s sports headlines, instead deciding that Brett Favre and signing up for Fox Fantasy Football were more noteworthy. At that point, I wanted to punch someone, namely, a UFC reporter while he chugged his Red Bull.

But violence doesn’t solve anything. Or does it?

This society of ours loves violence and MMA events prove it. Forget that they often resemble a pair of drunkards just after last call at the local bar; people want blood and MMA does offer that; in buckets.

Now before I get too emotional, I have to admit that my knowledge of MMA is limited. There are ground moves which are probably more sophisticated than they appear and obviously fighting of any kind requires a toughness and resolve which most of us would never dare tempt. If I need to vent, then I should turn the blame to our own sport and its absolute incompetence in the wake of the changing times. Some say that boxing will never lose its fan base but as someone who is witnessing his boxing buddies slowly defecting to mixed martial arts, I am not too sure.

But that’s not to say that we can’t hope that those who have the power to change things for the better won’t pull their heads out of their, you –know-what’s and see this problem for what it is. MMA does its business to for its fans; boxing for itself and that is why so many folks are crossing over. And who could blame them? Hopefully, someone who matters will read this and maybe, just maybe, take some of this to heart because the outlook for boxing isn’t as safe as we’d like to think. Here goes.

Attention all former boxers, ten years removed from their primes: STOP TRYING YOUR HANDS AT MMA! There’s nothing worse than fueling the argument that MMA fighters are superior to boxers. Ray Mercer was the highest profile ex-boxer to give it a go and he was choked out by Kimbo Slice in less than a minute. Almost instantaneously, You Tube and sports blogs on the internet were littered with proclamations that if a novice like Kimbo could handle a boxer, imagine what a seasoned pro would do? No one mentioned that Mercer was fat and hadn’t been competitive in a boxing ring for seven years. And no one offered up what might have happened had Ken Shamrock given boxing a go. All that mattered was that it turned out exactly like MMA wanted it to. So please all former boxers, do the sport that did you favor a favor and stop embarrassing boxing by association.

Twin Billing on all PPV events.

I don’t mind paying 50 bucks for something like Margarito –Cotto but it would feel even better if there was another bout on the card where two name fighters were featured. I consider myself a pretty hardcore fan and even I didn’t know most of the fighters on the under card. Thankfully, the preliminaries were entertaining but I still wondered if a matchmaking approach to filling an under card might be a lot better. Let’s try this: you give two undefeated fighters their big chance to prove themselves on the big stage so that they don’t wait around to do it for a title (when people still don’t know them). They could prove their worth BEFORE they get to co-host on PPV. While MMA is giving its fans the best on a consistent basis, boxing (Bob Arum in particular) is doing everything in his power to spread his card thin thereby saving his moneymakers for separate events. This is good for him but screws all of us out of our own money.

Building Fighters. It cannot be stressed enough how important network TV is in making an athletes face recognizable. The UFC has done a wonderful job of bringing character to its franchise, something boxing used to do before it fell victim to opportunism. In a perfect world, boxing would give fighters on their way up a chance to go from network TV to ESPN and then cable based on their ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR. If they could prove themselves by taking these steps, then they would be rewarded with a PPV appearance. It might sound stupid because a winner isn’t always exciting but times have changes people and it’s time for those paycheck to be earned the honest way.

Less Business is Good Business. This goes out to Bernard Hopkins, Oscar De La Hoya and the countless other fighters who want to impress us with their business prowess. Listen guys: WE DON”T CARE!!! If a boxer wants to start their own promotional company or whatever, then they should do so after they retire because business ventures suddenly give them a sense that there’s too much to lose and less incentive to take risks. This is terrible for the sport and they should know better. Back in the day, fighters were hungry and they had to fight often and for much less money, something I must admit is being lived out by another fight sport.

Now for some that are less structure oriented and more to do with the sport itself.

Here’s to hoping that Chris Arreola wins the heavyweight title. Now this is just my opinion but a heavyweight of Mexican decent would be HUGE. Not to mention that Arreola is fun to watch and looks mean. The Hispanic market is perhaps boxings’ largest and most loyal and having a titleholder in the glamour division would bring boxing back to the mainstream.

More fighters from the Philippines. Manny Pacquiao opened the door and we are just beginning to see the start of what could be a great rivalry between Mexican and Filipino fighters. The Filipino contingent is also wildly enthusiastic which always gives a big fight the kind of buzz the sports thrives on. Forget Manny and Oscar, I’d rather watch Pacquiao and England’s Ricky Hatton do it at MSG or preferably somewhere that can hold a million people. Their styles would mesh violently and give those MMA sadists something to smile about.

Rooting for Kelly Pavlik. Pavlik is Caucasian which never hurts (though less relevant today as it would have been twenty years ago) and he can bomb with the best of them. And you can’t have Pavlik without the 5,000 or so fans that always come out for his fights. And while we’re here, let’s hope that he gets rid of Hopkins once and for all. I love you Bernard but if you are going to do just enough to get by, just say bye- bye.

A Margarito-Cotto rematch.

You can bet that the press will be all over it should they do it again. The word is out and expectations will be high. And if it happens, wouldn’t it be a beauty to have something like the fourth Israel Vasquez- Rafael Marquez as the co-feature? I know it would never happen and some might say that Vasquez and Marquez deserve top billing and they do. But more people would see them duke it out on such a huge show than their first three episodes combined.

The lightweights and welterweights. The saving graces of boxing just can’t seem to do any wrong and both divisions are deep enough to give us double-headers for the next five years. Hopefully Amir Khan can make some noise in both of these divisions.

There are many more fighters out there who are capable; given the right opponent. If by some cosmic alignment we could match them up and market them accordingly, boxing could revive its sagging fan base if that is indeed happening. Otherwise, the future remains uncertain and I won’t have to feel uncertainty when asking someone if they saw “that fight”.

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