The fact that boxing is losing steam quickly while mixed martial arts (specifically the UFC) is gaining popularity by the day has less to do with the specifics of each sport and more to do with the promotional models.
The UFC has successfully marketed itself as a brand that is synonymous with the sport, while at the same time building individual athletes into legitimate superstars. This combination of brand recognition and larger-than-life personalities has transformed MMA from barn-yard brawl into pay-per-view spectacle.
Boxing, as we all know, has long been infected by promoters who care more about their short-term bottom line than the long-term growth of the sport. At the same time, the sport of boxing is still able to put together one or two fights a year that are not only worth watching but are true spectacles comparable to the must-see events of any contemporary sport.
The Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton fight that took place tonight was marketed as one of those fights — and rightfully so. Pacquiao was appropriately billed as the best pound-for-pound puncher in existence while Hatton was pegged as a tough-as-nails Brit who was nearly impossible to beat — and with a 45-1 record coming into the fight, few would argue with that assessment. Now that the dust has settled, one thing is for certain: Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest boxers to have ever put on a pair of gloves.
In less than two rounds, the Phillipino superstar made Manchester’s best look like he had entered a profession in which he had no place being. The bout was expected to be a competetive one that would ultimately end in a Pacquiao victory either by decision or late in the fight, but few expected a second round knockout of arguably the greatest British boxer of all time. Then again, in accordance with his complete dominance of Oscar De La Hoya this past December, it seems Manny Pacquiao tends to put on performances that differ from what the majority expects.
To put it in perspective for those of you MMA hardcores that become confused when someone speaks of boxing, this fight was similar to the Georges St. Pierre vs. BJ Penn fight earlier this year. That is, similarly hyped with a 24/7 show and, realistically, just as important for its sport — but minus the post-fight greasing nonsense.
If Floyd “Money” Mayweather is able to best the highly ranked Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18th, there is no doubt that his next opponent will be Pacquiao. While the UFC has fights like Lesnar vs. Mir, Griffin vs. Silva, and Couture vs. Nogueira on its slate for the remainder of this year, it would be nearly impossible for the MMA powerhouse to put on a bout as large-in-scale as Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. Fans of mixed martial arts be aware: while our sport might be winning the “war” on a consistent basis, boxing is still alive and well. The big fights might be few and far between but when they do come about they are well worth it. Instead of trying to articulate — between beers — why “human cockfighting” is better than the “sweet science,” you should spend your time focusing your eyes on athletes like Manny Pacquiao. After all, no matter what rules, brand names, and glove sizes you apply to it, fighting is fighting.