How To Save Boxing

Over the last few years boxing has been in a battle for fans with the growing number of Mixed Martial arts fight leagues, most notably UFC and now that they hold the rights to Kimbo Slice, EXC (not to mention they house my favorite fighter, Gina Carano). As the fan base for MMA continues to grow and primetime networks decide to air their fights, many pugilists worry that the attention will have a negative affect on the classic combat sport. However, boxing has responded in the last few years, trying to increase its popularity by putting big names into the ring against each other: De La Hoya and Mayweather, Taylor and Pavlik, Mosley and Cotto and Hopkins and Calzaghe. While some of the fights, such as Jermaine Taylor and Kelly Pavlik, have entertained audiences and produced memorable evenings of both vicious tenacity and precision skill, others have simply proven to fans why some of boxing’s “big names” are not anybody worth getting excited over.


Now this is not to say that boxing is doomed. The Sweet Science has the blend of power, speed and educated preparation that cannot even be matched by a UFC fight. Boxing is less about brawling then it is about systematically breaking your opponent down until he cannot continue. The boxer has to plan his fight to go 12 rounds. He needs to know what to do to hurt his opponent in ways, big or small, that will make him increasingly less effective as the fight wears on. When the late rounds come, the body punches have slowed down the shifty fighter, or the change in styles has confused the big puncher and thrown him off balance.


While there is no doubt skill and entertainment in watching two men pummel each other using their preferred mode of martial arts, it doesn’t hold the same type of draw for me. I watch MMA because there is action almost every second. The men and women that fight MMA have to learn countless different styles and be competent both on their feet and on their backs. However, the fights are not meant to last long. The strategy is more geared towards defeating your opponent in an instant and not dismantling him over time. This difference is one of the reasons why I think it is likely that both sports will be able to thrive simultaneously.


There is something almost intoxicating in watching two men navigate the narrow openings in a fight that tests not only strength and speed, but mental fortitude, dedication, adaptability and intelligence. It is the way that nature has always been: I have my tactics, you have yours and in order to survive somebody is going to have to not only impose their will, but take what is being thrown at them and learn from it.


But in order for Boxing to become a force again, a few changes need to be made. The most obvious being to get rid of all of the meaningless alphabet titles that it gives to its “champions.” Having four title-holders in one division kills the competitiveness of the bouts and making it almost impossible to create any real rivalries. Champions can duck the most imposing fighters because they have to fight “mandatory challengers” like Pavlik’s recent fight with severely over-matched Gary Lockett.


However, possibly the most important thing that boxing can do to save itself is to not simply bank on the “big names” of a previous time. It must create new big names. Boxing needs to focus on the talented fighters in their twenties that combine both the skill and intelligence of old school boxing, with the ferociousness and toughness of the new generation of fighting. There are plenty of guys capable of carrying that burden. Kelly Pavlik has proven that he can deliver more that his fair share of punishment and Miguel Cotto might be the most complete fighter for the new generation. But there are additional young fighters that not enough casual observes know about. Andre Berto. Edison Miranda. Lamont Peterson. Samuel Peter. Juan Manuel Lopez. Paul Williams. David Haye. Chad Dawson. Juan Diaz. These are fighters who would draw in new fans on fresh faces alone. However, they all are skilled fighters who can change the course of a bout miraculously in one instant. Watch Paul Williams destroy Carlos Quintana and you know what I mean. Or Juan Manuel Lopez knock out one of the toughest fighters around in Daniel Ponce de Leon. Or even watch Edison Miranda knock David Banks through the ropes in a knockout of the year candidate. These fighters are boxers to the core, but they pack the ferocity and aggressiveness that has driven MMA to such heights. When these names are brought to the public, and then faced against each other, boxing will rear its head again and prove to be the supreme example of combative entertainment.

 –     –     –     –     –     –     –    –     –     –     –     –     – Edison Miranda

Authors Note: Edison Miranda can be seen this Saturday on Showtime, while Andre Berto can be seen this Saturday on HBO.




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