I realize this could have been put in the sports section, but the article is also about the whole boxing vs. UFC controversy.
In 2008, the UFC finally became PPV's #1 customer, but not by much. Boxing and the WWE are still big cash cows for PPV, but without Pacquiao's fights, the UFC would have blown boxing clear out of the water. Without Pacquiao, boxing is going to lose a large amount of its' appeal with PPV fight viewers because there's nobody near as exciting to watch fight. At least, he never leaves you feeling as if you wasted money, except maybe his fast KO of Hatton.
Brock Lesnar was the most viewed person on PPV last year with 2.2 million buys in his 3 fights (on a side note, the 2nd most viewed MMA fighter of all-time in a 1-year span behind Tito Ortiz in 2006 with 2.25 million buys), with Pacquiao as #2 somewhere in the vicinity of 1.8 million buys. On the flipside, the UFC needs Brock Lesnar to stay on top, to stay on top
Boxing needs Pacquiao to stay to keep up with UFC
The key for UFC to completely overtake boxing may lie in the hands of voters oceans away.
What? You’re probably confused with my title and how UFC is depending on voters from a third-world country to determine it’s dominance over boxing. Let me explain.
As an Examiner for fight sports, I have been following both mixed martial arts and boxing with an equal amount of eagle-eye inspection. With UFC 100 coming up and boxing’s big events falling through because of injuries like Mayweather vs. Marquez and Klitschko vs. Haye, and a slew of good MMA cards already in the bag like UFC’s Ultimate Finale 9, and more sure-hit big cards like the upcoming Carano-Cyborg on Strikeforce and UFC 101 where you will see Anderson Silva square off against Forrest Griffin and BJ Penn versus Kenny Florian and not to mention Affliction’s Fedor Emelianenko-Josh Barnett megafight, it’s safe to say that MMA is spanking boxing right now.
The only real answer boxing has nowadays is the unrivaled popularity of its best fighter Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines. Pacquiao retired boxing’s former cash cow in Oscar De la Hoya last December and destroyed another one of its global icons in Ricky Hatton last May. With boxing’s bigger names such as Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley and Roy Jones Jr. on their last legs and the lack of a clear cut superstar other than Pacquiao, boxing is undoubtedly losing whatever grip it has left in its stake as the premier fight sport. Even the postponed fight between returning former Pound-for-Pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez was said to have been struggling in the box office.
Pacquiao, whether it’s fair or not, is pretty much the only fighter keeping boxing in the headlines lately. His every step is followed with extensive coverage and scrutiny like no other athlete in fight sports. All you need to do is google his name and compare it to whoever you think is the most popular MMA fighter out there whether its Rampage Jackson, Chuck Liddell, GSP, Urijah Faber or whoever you can think of. Pacquiao is definitely the most popular fighter around the world, but with that said, Pacquiao has made it public that he intends to walk away from the sport of boxing in favor of serving his country as a politician.
If and when that happens, what will become then of boxing? Don’t get me wrong, boxing will never die. It’s history is rich enough for it to last another hundred years or two but in terms of providing the biggest spectacles fight fans want to see, there’s nobody in sight that’s primed to takeover as the face of the sport right now while the UFC just keeps on gaining momentum as they develop more and more superstars like Lyoto Machida. Even at the grassroots level, golden gloves boxers are making the jump from the boxing ring to the MMA cages.
I spoke to Indianapolis based MMA fighter Ronez McGrady (picture on the left) who has a record of record of 4-1 and is also a former amateur boxer for three years and now fights in the local mixed martial arts arena under the rapidly increasing number of MMA outfits like Elite Cage Fighting. I asked him what made him jump from boxing to MMA like a lot of other fighters out there. Ronez told me that as mixed martial arts’ popularity grew, he was drawn to the sport by the excitement and variety of skills, disciplines and methods you can use in MMA compared to boxing. He also told me that despite the long history of boxing which gives it the edge in the number of gyms and facilities compared to MMA, there seem to be more local MMA events compared to boxing cards right now.
I guess it all goes back to supply and demand. More interest = more fans = more fighters = more money? Well as for the money, boxing still pays their fighters more money that MMA and with its long history and experience in the game for the most part takes care of its fighters better. As much as Dana White and a lot of these other MMA promoters and CEOs have done for the sport, the big money is still in boxing. That however is for a different article on a different time. White and the UFC has spent a lot of money buying out its’ competition within the fight game like Pride and IFL but right now the best move Dana White can probably make for his sport is to donate millions to Pacquiao's congressional campaign in the Philippines so he could eliminate his competitions’ most lethal weapon.
The last thing boxing needs is to lose its most exciting prize fighter and current cash cow. Somebody needs to tell Golden Boy and all these big companies to start investing more on developing superstars and talents the way Top Rank has been doing. Golden Boy has the inside track as the top promotional company in boxing at the moment because of its relationship with HBO and having signed the bigger names in the sport from the previous years. Those names however are quickly fading like Ricky Hatton, Juan Diaz and a couple of others. Juan Manuel Marquez is also up in the age department and is on the way out together with Mosley and Hopkins. Boxing has made some significant steps in the past couple of years to regain its luster but right now, the best thing that can happen for them may not be even be their call. It may very well be in the hands of voters in a province called Saranggani thousands of miles away in the Philippines.