What Boxing Needs To Learn From MMA
By B.L. Morgan: As I was checking the listings for upcoming Fathom Events showing at our local theater and realized no Boxing is listed for at least the next few months and figured I will probably spring for 2, $15.00 tickets to see Lesner vs. Vasquez for the UFC World Heavyweight Championship it suddenly dawned on me that my favorite combat sport, The Sport of Boxing is in some serious trouble and that most of the problems are self-made.
Article posted on 15.10.2010
First of all, I should mention that I have a lifelong emotional connection to Boxing.
My Father was an amateur Boxer out of St. Louis. He passed his love for the sport as well as the high moral code of the Manly Art of Self Defense on to me.
The Moral Code of a Prizefighter as I understood it on those days was as follows: You only use your skills outside of a Boxing Ring to defend someone who is in danger. Like if you saw a woman being assaulted. Youíd beat the crap out of the guy doing it. Itís a straight forward moral code that mirrors Spider-Manís, ďWith Great Power comes Great Responsibility.Ē
I fought as an amateur myself during my years in the Air Force and followed the moral code.
I grew up watching Ali, Frazier, Foreman and Norton. Later I learned to respect the lighter divisions when Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran battled it out. During this same period my favorite fighter to watch was Alexis Arguello. Look up a few of his title defenses on YouTube if youíve never seen him. Youíll find out why.
In those days MMA didnít exist. PKA had just started and as far as I know itís now history. Muay Thai was a rarity on American TV.
It was a different time.
It was a different world.
Most people trusted the President of the United States in those days. A guy like Nixon was considered an anomaly because he was proven to be dishonest. Today most people consider most politicians dishonest.
No one ever dreamed that somebody would be crazy enough to fly a plane into the side of a building in New York City. Al Qaeda was only something you expected to hear when someone was in the middle of a sentence and sneezed.
The world has changed.
Stephen King would say, ďThe world has moved on.Ē
Letís fast forward to 1995: Me and my wife Judi are watching a UFC Match where Tank Abbott and Oleg Taktarov are locked in a ground duel and we canít stop ourselves from laughing.
My step kids are asking us what is so funny.
Iím laughing too hard to be able to explain that in the world we grew up in two guys laying on top of each other, rubbing their chests and crotches together just doesnít look like serious combat. To use the clichť, It was just a little too close for comfort, for the two of us.
Letís fast forward again, all the way up to 2010: Both me and my wife are much more sophisticated and more knowledgeable about the ever evolving World of Combat Sports. I have come to appreciate MMA as an art form of its own. I donít have laughing fits very often when watching MMA matches. It does happen, but not as often.
Boxing is and will always remain my favorite Combat Sport to watch. I like the cleanness of a standing contest of will and skill where punches are the main legal method of winning. But Boxing is rapidly losing its share of the Combat Sport Entertainment dollar to MMA.
There are reasons why.
As I said before, the world has changed. In the real world the rule is adapt or die. Boxing will need to change or it will continue to shrink and could someday be like PKA or Muay Thai, just a fringe sport with a few hard-core fans and no mainstream appeal.
These are my suggestions as to what needs to change and I want to stress, not how to make the changes happen.
1. Judging: Boxing should rightfully hang its head in shame when it comes to the credibility of its decisions. Rarely a month goes by when the judgesí scorecards doesnít make you scratch your head and ask, ďWhat the hell were they watching anyway?Ē
I have some suggestions (radical ones) that might fix the judging problem and one suggestion that would for certain fix it in championship matches.
First of all make judges accountable for turning in bad cards. I donít know about you but if I screw up my job repeatedly I would rightfully be fired. Get rid of judges that repeatedly turn in bad scorecards. Sleeping on the job should not be tolerated. There are more than enough people who would be happy to step into those positions and do an honest, competent job. Youíre reading one of them right now.
The next few suggestions classify as the radical ones, but something drastic does need to be done.
Change the structure of a Boxing Match according to the ranking of the fight. My suggestions are as follows:
3, fifteen minute rounds for a World Championship Fight.
3, twelve or ten minute rounds for a Regional Championship or Contender Fight.
3, eight or six minute rounds for lower ranked fighters.
The idea is that stamina is going to come into play more often with the longer rounds and fewer bouts will be decided by decision. Also, itís much harder to justify bad addition with a three round fight. If you canít count to three maybe you shouldnít have a job in professional sports in any capacity.
If you donít agree with the change in the length and number of rounds then there is a final solution to cure bad decisions in Championship Fights: Go back to using Finish Fights for World Championship Bouts.
A Finish Fight is exactly what it sounds like. The fighters keep going until one of them cannot continue. Brutal Ö yes, but Finish Fights do away with the possibility of bad judges decisions by taking it out of their hands.
2. Adjust the rules to make matches more entertaining:
See above for making rounds longer with shorter number of rounds. A guy is going to fight different if he knows he had eleven minutes to his next rest period. Iím guessing thereís going to be a whole lot less screwing around.
Which brings me to the next rule change suggested: Donít allow clinching at all and penalize overly defensive fighters. Watch a replay of Mosley vs. Mora to see exactly what Iím talking about. One wanted to fight. The other didnít. We ended up with a draw. The result was ridiculous. If the referee had started taking points from Mora early in the fight for being totally defensive then a fight would have developed. As it sits now, we have a fight that everybody complained about.
If you donít want to fight you should not be getting paid to entertain by fighting. Itís as plain as that.
Boxing is an entertainment sport. Itís not Golf.
3. Lower the pay scale at the same time as giving performance bonuses:
I just looked up the pay scale for the last UFC Heavyweight Championship Title Fight. I found listed: Brock Lesner $475,000.00, Shane Carwin $40,000.00.
To me this sounds about right. Maybe Carwin should have made more. He sure put out a hell of an effort even though he lost.
Both guys are making a good wage for doing what they love. These kinds of wages also keep them hungry to get the performance bonuses that the UFC hands out for Knockout of the Night and Submission of the Night.
Boxing should pay the guys who are entertaining more than the guys who are boring. Do I need to name the Klitschko brothers? Both of these guys are talented enough so that they do not need to fight as cautious as they do. If it dramatically affected their pay checks I bet youíd see these guys get aggressive in a hurry. Either that or theyíd retire.
To illustrate the problem with high paychecks for athletes, I Google searched Boxers Paychecks. I was given the info (common knowledge by now) that Oscar De La Hoya was paid at least $25,000,000.00 to fight Floyd Mayweather and Money made over $10,000,000.00.
Paychecks like these have helped create the situation we have with a fighter like Mayweather who tells the sport and fans who made him wealthy to kiss his ass at the same time as taking years to negotiate fights. If they were making a whole lot less money we would see these fighters in action a lot more than we do. For the top fighters to make huge paychecks is bad for the sport of Boxing because the top stars will not fight as often.
I will state right now that Manny Pacquiao is an exception to that rule and quite a few others. I get the feeling heíd fight for free a lot of the time. The boy just wants to fight.
4. Open more income sources:
Here we come to the reason why I was moved to write this article. Pacquiao vs. Margarito is not being shown at Fathom Events at our local movie theater. It would be more economical for me and my wife to watch it there rather than getting the pay per view. I am no longer the kind of guy who has over a crowd of people to watch pay-per-views. Itís usually me and my wife. So itís the difference between paying $30.00 for two tickets to see the fights on a high definition movie theater screen or a minimum of $54.95 to watch it at home.
We will probably give Pacman vs. Plasterfists a pass because of that.
Itís a basic business concept that you sell your product in as many different ways as possible. Iím an author. I just signed a contract with a publisher who is going to bring my books out in audio, print, eBook and in all the new eBook readers. It was a no brainer when that deal was offered to me. You sell your product in as many different ways as you can. If you donít you are missing sales.
I see recent UFC matches on Spike network weekly. Itís a sure bet Spike isnít allowed to show those matches for free.
I only see recent Boxing matches that were originally Pay-Per-Views once or twice on HBO or Showtime. And fights that were originally shown on HBO or Showtime only might end up on ESPN Classic a few years later but as far as recent matches I canít find them.
HBO and Showtime are pay cable channels. They have a smaller audience than basic cable channels or even network channels. Fewer people get to see those matches than the audience that see MMA matches being shown on Spike.
Whoever owns the rights to the recent Boxing matches is really missing the boat by not shopping them around to a lot of basic cable and network TV stations.
You donít create or keep a fan base by withholding your entertainment product.
5. The top fighters need to be forced to fight each other:
This is one of the things that the Big Wigs in MMA are at least attempting to make happen. The UFC has most of the top fighters in MMA. A distant second to them is Strikeforce. Right now if a fighter in MMA wants to be considered the best in his sport he needs to get in the UFC.
Dana White does force his top fighters to face each other.
Iím not so sure the top promoters in Boxing want their top fighters to fight other promotersí top fighters. What has been happening with the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather non-fight is disgraceful. To tell you the truth I donít care who is at fault in that mess. For the #1 and #2 Rated Pound for Pound Boxers to be in the same weight division and not fight is extremely bad for the sport. It creates the impression that somebody does not have the courage to back up their claims of being the best in the world.
The old saying, ďPut up or shut up,Ē fits here perfectly and I really wish it didnít.
Summarizing all this up, what can Boxing learn from MMA to keep and expand its audience?
First and foremost never forget that Combat Sports are Entertainment.
Itís not just about getting the win that determines who the star is and who sells the most tickets. When I refer to selling tickets Iím talking about Pay-Per-View buys also.
The guy who is the most entertaining sells the most tickets. Entertainment value is what is most important. Do anything and everything to make Boxing matches more fun to watch. Remember Arturo Gatti? He sure wasnít the most talented Boxer of his day but from 2001-2006 every single one of his fights were must-see TV Events.
Boxing badly needs another Arturo Gatti right now.
Enhance the Event!
Make a Pay-Per-View a night for the buyers to remember. In the old days Boxing Commentators announced the celebrities at ringside. HBO and Showtime doesnít do that for Boxing. The UFC shows the celebrities in the audience. Doing that gives the event the air of historic importance.
Encourage and even arrange big ring entrances. When I mentioned I was doing this article my wife immediately told me to mention The Prince Naseem Hamed. Judi doesnít know a hill of beans about Boxing but she sure remembers the Prince. The boy was kind of crazy with all his posturing and his ring entrances were wild. We need more of that in Boxing.
Big theatrics sell!
Most Big MMA Events have the fighters coming out looking like a cross between a Gladiator and The Terminator. Boxing should do things like that.
In closing Iím just going to say that these suggestions would make Boxing more entertaining and would draw more fans. Times have changed since I was a kid who fell in love with The Manly Art of Self Defense. Boxing as a sport and as a form of entertainment needs to change also.
The way of the world is out with the old and in with the new, unless the old learns how to adapt and make itself new again. I expect there will be a great many number of Boxing Fans who are going to disagree with these suggestions and thatís fine with me.
I come from the old school America and will defend your right to disagree with me.
But there is one undisputable truth: Boxing needs to dramatically change to continue to be the Worldís most Popular Combat Sport.
B.L. Morgan is the author of the John Dark Books; Blood and Rain, Blood for The Masses, Blood on Celluloid and Blood and Bones. He is also the author of Night Knuckles and You Play, You Pay. All these books except Blood and Bones & You Play, You Pay will soon be available through Speaking Volumes. Blood and Bones & You Play, You Pay currently are available through StoneGarden.net Publishing.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
previous article: King Arthur and Carl Froch continue war of words on neutral ground
next article: Hopkins vs. Pascal to be shown on Showtime non-PPV on December 18th