The Soapbox - Latest Edition
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Sept 29, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
OK, it’s time for another edition of “The Soapbox” and today’s submission came from a reader who just had to comment on an article ( I wrote over the summer after watching a UFC card that was televised by FOX (Hey, there was no major boxing on that weekend - or during the whole month of August for that matter). The premise of my article was that there were certain elements of UFC/MMA that boxing should perhaps replicate. This particular reader seems to be well-versed in both the “Sweet Science” and mixed martial arts and he brought up some very salient points while bursting the bubble on some common myths that exist between the fan-bases...

Hi, Steve. I know it’s been a week but I still feel the need to comment on your UFC article. And I am DEFINITELY a paying boxing fan. I live in NorCal and I’ve been to [Marco Antonio] Barrera-[Erik] Morales I, Barrera-Junior Jones II, [David] Tua-[Ike] Ibeabuchi, [Evander] Holyfield-[John] Ruiz II, [Floyd] Mayweather-Jesus Chavez (got there early to see [Manny] Pacquiao-[Agapito] Sanchez on the undercard), Pacquiao-Morales, Barrera-[Juan Manuel] Marquez II, [Miguel] Cotto-[Antonio] Margarito, [Andre] Ward-[Mikkel] Kessler, Ward-[Allan] Green, [James] Kirkland-[Joel] Julio and more. I was at [Robert] Guerrero-[Selcuk] Aydin; I will be at Ward-[Chad] Dawson even though I’m almost positive it will be a lousy fight and the following weekend, I’ll be at [Julio Cesar] Chavez [Jr.]-[Sergio] Martinez. I paid for each and every one of my tickets (where do all those comps come from anyway?). Okay, maybe that list was unnecessary but I had to establish my street cred.

I’m also an MMA fan and have followed the UFC since the first one in ’93. I used to buy UFC PPVs on a regular basis but after a long string of disappointments (not to mention all the trash-talking Dana White does about boxing), I refuse to give any more money to the UFC. I still follow it and I’d like to dispute some of the memes that UFC/MMA fans have established that unfortunately boxing fans are starting to believe.

1. In the UFC, the Best Always Fight the Best. 

This is the biggest and most egregious myth of the UFC. What the UFC is great at is making you THINK that every fighter on their roster is great and exciting. In boxing, if a match-up is considered non-competitive by fans and media, it generally gets less hype. Whatever network airs it will treat it as a “showcase” for one particular fighter. In the UFC, if a fight is considered non-competitive, the hype machine goes into overdrive. One glaring example was a fight a year or two ago between Georges St. Pierre and a challenger named Dan Hardy. When the fight was signed, everyone who followed MMA knew that Hardy had no chance. However, the UFC produced a three-part “24/7”-style countdown show called “UFC Primetime” to promote the fight (it was comparable to HBO doing a “24/7” for Martinez-[Matthew] Macklin). They constantly showed clips of Hardy knocking out his opponents (which turned out to be the SAME opponent shown from different angles), showed him going to Asia to train with Shaolin monks, showed him training with the last guy to beat GSP and showed him talking A LOT of trash. They ALMOST got me to order it. The result? GSP completely dominated Hardy, holding him on the mat for five rounds in a dull fight that featured no significant damage to either guy. In other words, just what the knowledgeable were expecting. I could name many other examples but that leads to the next myth...

2. UFC PPV Cards are Always Loaded

The UFC has more absolutely awful cards than good ones but no one ever seems to blame the organization because the UFC hypes EVERY PPV like it’s the FREAKING MOON LANDING. Every PPV gets a countdown show (some get “UFC Primetime”) and every countdown show features that no-talent d-bag Joe Rogan screaming at the top of his lungs about what a “sick” card it is and how EVERY fight is going to be spectacular. Seriously, totally predictable stinkers like [Randy] Couture-[Mark] Coleman, [Frank] Mir-[Mirko] “Cro Cop” [Filipovic] and [B.J.] Penn-[Jon] Fitch were given countdown shows. And no matter how putrid the PPVs turn out, the commentators will NEVER admit it. Just last night, after the boring [Benson] Henderson-[Frankie] Edgar main event slap-and-grab-fest was over, Rogan was gushing about what a “great, great fight” it was. Unfortunately, this kind of talk sinks in to the brains of that 18-25 [year-old] demographic that they covet so much. If a fight or card is TRULY atrocious, Dana White will admit it afterward but there is no Larry Merchant in the UFC to voice what the viewers are thinking when a show sucks. In the UFC, just like WWE, it’s the job of the commentators to convince you what you’re seeing - or going to see - is fantastic.

3. In the UFC, There is Only One Champion/Belt per Weight Class

There are currently eight weight classes in the UFC. Two of them are headed by “interim” champions: Carlos Condit and Renan Barao. When the “real” champions fight them, they will be promoted as “unification” fights. Fight posters will be printed with both combatants holding belts. They did it with [Brock] Lesnar-Mir II and Lesnar-[Shane] Carwin.

4. Records Don’t Matter in the UFC

This is where you’re mistaken, Steve. In the UFC, records only don’t matter when they happen to be terrible or unimpressive. It won’t get emphasized or even mentioned. If a man has an impressive record, you’d better believe they’ll mention it - CONSTANTLY. A few weeks ago, they went on and on about how Barao was undefeated in 30 fights. One of those fights was a draw but they didn’t note that because - guess what - being undefeated MATTERS. Frankie Edgar was hyped as being undefeated in four years. If it didn’t matter, why mention it at all? When a guy’s record is ugly, as so many of them are, the UFC and its fans just downplay it by saying it’s because “In the UFC, the Best Always Fight the Best.” You see - one myth feeds another.

I’m sorry, I know this was long, but it NEEDED to be said. I’m seeing more boxing fans and writers buying into this crap and I don’t want to see you do it too. You could probably do a whole new article on this. Thanks for reading. 

Jim, thank you for writing in; this was certainly eye-opening in many ways. Consider me educated. Perhaps I bought into a lot of the narratives that are now routinely thrown out by the casual fans and the general media. But the point you bring up really shows that the UFC does a much better job in terms of marketing its product than boxing (I don’t think you’d argue that, right?) and it’s the advantage of having one autonomous body/organization basically run the sport. Also, a major difference that has been pointed out to me by people in the boxing business is that much more of the money goes to the performers, which is in contrast to the UFC (which again is an company that basically has a monopoly over the MMA business and pays its combatants much less than boxing at the world-class level) so the organizers have much more in terms of resources to actually market and promote their product.

As for how the media covers the two sports, yeah, no argument here. You have a dictator in Dana White, who absolutely bullies the media and those who don’t comply, gets their credentials lifted and ripped away from them. There isn’t much respect for the First Amendment over there (and let’s be honest; that isn’t just exclusive to MMA as our own Gabe Montoya can attest, as he’s been banned by Golden Boy Promotions). But Jim, you are absolutely right; a provocateur like Merchant simply would not be tolerated by the UFC.

But the general point is that the business of boxing and the fans need to move on from the fixation of win-loss records and mythical pound-for-pound lists and really shift the focus to making the best fights. And by “best fights,” I don’t mean pitting two guys who are both undefeated in 50 combined fights or are ranked as the best two fighters in a given division. Honestly, that doesn’t always equate to the best fight.  Just think about it; were Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward the two best junior welterweights when they waged their classic rivalry? No, but their respective styles and temperaments made for the best bouts. I see way too many times where TV executives and fans believe that because two fighters have unbeaten marks and are ranked as the top two boxers by The Ring magazine (or some other publication), it’s automatically assumed that this formula makes for a great fight or an anticipated event.

There was a rather infamous promotion at the Silverdome not too long ago that disproves that notion. Records and ratings don’t make memorable fights. Fighters who are willing to take risks and are matched correctly do. Sorry, I’m not of that philosophy that says after a stinker of a fight, “Well, that was boring but golly gee, The Ring magazine had both of these guys in their top three, so it had to happen.” Eh, as a boxing fan, I watch fights for the entertainment value. If that doesn’t make me a purist, well, I can live with that.

Honestly, Jim, I still stand by my belief that the MMA/UFC is much less reliant on creating built-up and undefeated records (although you pointed out that they certainly care also about a glossy ledger) than the boxing industry. And I think UFC fans are much more forgiving of losses and putting past fights behind them than boxing fans and media (who have been conditioned to think a certain way). I read all the time about boxers supposedly not deserving of a particular fight because of some knockout loss they suffered years ago (by the way, what is the statue of limitations on that?). Or how about the fact some fighter lost as a six-round prelim boxer and suffered early defeats before he was even eligible to buy malt liquor at the corner store?

I remember the uproar when Orlando Salido beat Juan Manuel Lopez the first time because Bob Arum had supposedly ruined “JuanMa’s” showdown with Yuriorkis Gamboa. Yeah, so instead of celebrating what was a great fight (and eventually a solid rivalry that delivered a memorable rematch about a year later), we had fans lamenting the fact that Lopez had suffered his first loss - thus taking the shine off that hypothetical fight with Gamboa. Excuse me but why would a single loss ruin your appetite for any particular fight, other than the fact someone lost? (And by the way, if Lopez was the fighter you thought he was, he should’ve defeated Salido - but he didn’t) Did the fact that Ray Leonard lost before his historic bout with Thomas Hearns in 1981 take away from that clash? And to me, the reaction to “JuanMa’s” loss showed that there is an overemphasis on undefeated records in boxing and what constituted a big fight to too many followers of this sport is having a pair of fighters with a “0” on the right-hand side of their records.

And not for nothing but for all the talent of Gamboa, has he actually ever really been in a truly memorable and/or exciting fight? And going by the recent track record, are we sure that he would even reach an agreement that could satisfy his financial demands? Personally, I’m glad I got to see Salido (who, by the way, has a whopping 11 career losses) and Lopez swap leather and give everyone two great nights of boxing that won’t soon be forgotten.

But Jim, many of the things you pointed out were illuminating. Thanks for reading and writing in.

More of Steve's recent work below his contact info...
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