It would be overstating the matter to say boxing’s dead. On life-support? Maybe. In critical condition? Perhaps. But not dead — at least, not yet.
In the brawl for pugilistic supremacy, boxing delivers a once-every-three-years knockout while serving up a boring clutch-and-grab existence of no-names to fill the gaps in between.
At the moment, it’s relishing in one of its infrequent successes — a record pay-per-view draw for its Oscar De La Hoya/Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout.
But, if recent history is any indication, the celebration will be short-lived.
As boxing stands poised to blow a tire on the train track, the locomotive of mixed-martial-arts, in particular the Ultimate Fighting Championship, shows no sign of slowing down.
There is no greater testament to that than the events that have transpired over the past few weeks.
Leading up to the De La Hoya fight, Mayweather said: “(The UFC) ain’t nothing but a fad… These are guys that couldn’t do boxing.”
UFC President Dana White took offence and offered Mayweather a scrap against UFC Lightweight Champ Sean Sherk. Mayweather then changed his tune to say the comment was merely trying to build hype for his fight. Sherk says he’d love to have a go at Mayweather to show boxing’s “one dimensional.”
UFC Light-heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell says the fact mainstream boxing is talking about the UFC shows they’re worried.
“A few years ago, they wouldn’t have even mentioned us. Now they’re taking shots at us to try to sell more pay-per-views. That says a lot about how far we’ve come” said Liddell.
“I’ve got 135-pounders at my house that would drop (Mayweather) on his head and knock him out.”
When asked if he would be excited abou t the opportunity to fight a boxer, Liddell responded: “Not really. To fight someone who has no ground and can’t defend a takedown, that doesn’t really excite me. It wouldn’t be much of a fight.”
Yes, the Mayweather/De La Hoya fight drew a record 2.15 million pay-per-views and boxing fans can be allowed to relish in that for a while. But a typical pay-per-view boxing buy is about 300,000, with the UFC getting about 500,000.
In 2006, the UFC had back-to-back shows that drew 1.4 million subscribers and the Tito Ortiz/Chuck Liddell fight at the end of the year also drew over a million.
Truth is, outside of the Mayweathers and De La Hoyas there are few boxers still fighting that are household names and the seemingly endless list of letter-leagues (WBO, WBC, IBF, ect.) has only added to the fan confusion.
In the end, boxing won’t be able to bob-and-weave its way out of this fight.
Sure, there will always be the purists and the old-timers who will be drawn to the sweet science for her history and a predictable batch of fairweather fans who will take in the blockbusters.
But for most of a new generation of fight fans, boxing seems to have lost its punch.
FIGHT NOTES: • Mixed-martial-arts favourite ref is hitting the small screen. Big John McCarthy has joined The Fight Network as an analyst. The Los Angeles cop and Gracie jiu-jitsu expert, brings with him a well of experience dating back to UFC 2.
• You gotta think the knockout of the year thus far would be worth more than $60,000. But that’s exactly what Gabriel Gonzaga made with his highlight reel disposal of the heavily favoured Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic in the first round. The dummied Croat, who was still trying to pick himself off the mat as Gonzaga was doing the post-fight interview, made $350,000. Hmmm!
• Canada’s top lightweight Sam ‘Hands of Stone’ Stout will take on Spencer ‘The King’ Fisher in a rematch of their UFC 58 bout last March. Stout won that fight on a split decision and Fisher and his been looking for revenge ever since. The fight will be broadcast free on Spike TV June 12.
For the latest news in the mixed-martial arts world, check out The Scrapyard blog on canoe.ca