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EA Sports selling out?
Feb 27, 2004 By Orlando Rios, JR.
Over the past couple of years, EA Sports have brought out the best boxing game in the business. The Knockout Kings franchise, which dates as far back as 1998, is undergoing some changes. For one, the boxing game will no longer be called Knockout Kings, but rather Fight Night, and with it, sports a whole set of ideas that hope to please boxing fans, who have longed for a more realistic boxing game than the typical slugfest that was Knockout Kings. Among the new features for Fight Night 2004, include a whole new in-depth career mode, which includes 6 weight classes and allows for a 20 year career with an unlimited amount of fights. The old Knockout Kings version only allowed for a pyramid style boxing career.

Along the way, fighters can move up in weight, gain sponsors, hire a new team, and will have an ample amount of fighters to choose from, as older fighters will retire, and new fighters will come along. Also included is real life facial damage and the new Total Punch and Defense control, which adds to the authenticity of boxing being more of a cat and mouse game than an all out slugfest.

And if that doesn’t sound good enough, Fight Night will also have customized ring entrances, complete with ring walks, ring introductions, and pyrotechnics, and features for the first time all new knockdowns and judging this time is kept by 3 judges, who can be influenced by the crowd. Fight Night has over 32 licensed boxers and the new faces include the likes of Micky Ward, Marco Barrera, Winky Wright, Arturo Gatti, Raphael Marquez, Antonio Tarver, Erik Morales, Ricardo Mayorga, James Toney, Ken Norton, Shane Mosley, Jesse James Leija, Mighty Mike Anchondo and Roy Jones, JR., who sports the cover of Fight Night 2004.

The game also includes familiar faces from previous years such as Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Bernard Hopkins, Sugar Ray Leonard, Felix Trinidad, and Roberto Duran, to name a few. And it all sounds good, but for long time boxing fans, it appears that once again, EA Sports has undermined the boxing game, which begs the question, is EA Sports selling out boxing fans? For one, Fight Night is without Oscar De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, and Floyd Mayweather, JR., all three which have been a staple in the Knockout Kings franchise.

Fight Night is also without the likes of the Klitschko brothers, Kostya Tszyu, Joe Mesi, and Manny Pacquiao and also missing are the likes of Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Julio Cesar Chavez, Zab Judah, Vernon Forrest, and Hector “Macho” Camacho, and about a dozen or so other fighters, most of whom appeared in Knockout Kings 2001, who some would argue, was the best game of the franchise.

Knockout Kings 2001 not only included Chavez, Forrest, Camacho, and Mosley, but also included women fighters like Mia St. John and Christy Martin. So what’s happened since then? 2002 included the Klitschko brothers, but 2003 took them away and threw in the great Rocky Marciano. Although EA Sports might have paid close attention to the likeness of the fighters and their fighting style, but what happened to the authenticity of boxing and ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr.?

Replacing him is Big Tigger, who introduces the fighters the whole time wearing a football jersey? In an interview with, Kudo Tsunoda, the games’ producer, says “We're looking more to companies like Everlast who just launched a new urban clothing line and they're using all of their boxers to promote. We need to update the sport to more of an urban, hip-hop culture in the way it's being presented.” But is boxing today represented as a hip-hop culture sport? Last I checked guys like Erik Morales, Raphael Marquez, and Marco Antonio Barrera don’t enter with hip hop songs. If EA is truly trying to upgrade to the culture today, will Barrera’s entrance include Mariachis in the ring, or his team carrying the Mexican flag in the background? Why does EA Sports pay extra close attention to their other sports franchises but over looks and usually overdoes its boxing series? Every year, the Madden franchise draws more detail into its game, from dread locks and long hair that sticks out of the helmet, to the new revolution type style helmets, and even to the detailed looks of the coaches on the sidelines.

Steve Spurrier is seen in Madden 2004 wearing a cap, which is a trademark of Spurrier. For all the EA Sport Franchises, the game felt as real as it could be, from the pre-game warm ups in Madden, to the realistic fighting in NHL 2004, to the college atmosphere in NCAA 2004, to the realistic car crashes in the NASCAR Thunder series, yet for some reason, EA Sports has always taken the boxing franchise with a grain of salt. Why?

One reason can be that there is no other gaming company out there challenging EA Sports when it comes to boxing, so in a sense, EA Sports controls the boxing video game market, and what they put out, most hardcore boxing fans will get, due to the lack of options. Knockout Kings 2002 also had some voice and commentary by Max Kellerman, but not so for Fight Night, as all the commentary will be done by Big Tigger.

Boxing fans want detail and realism in their boxing game, and wouldn’t at all mind seeing Jimmy Lennon, JR. doing to the ring announcements or having Kellerman or Jim Lampley doing commentary, as long as the game is true to its sport. Now, don’t get me wrong, I probably will buy Fight Night 2004, but I feel, and I’m not alone in this, that EA Sports doesn’t take the boxing franchise as seriously as it does with it’s other sports franchises. Will NBA Live 2004 NBA introduce players while simultaneously releasing birds into the air as in the Fight Night ring entrances?

I don’t mind Big Tigger doing commentary on a fun over the top boxing game where guys do 360s or front flips when getting knocked out, but when it comes to Fight Night, which is the closest thing, other than the real thing, that fans have to boxing, it gets me down a bit thinking of all the great resources that boxing has, and that EA Sports pays little attention to them. Imagine P. Diddy and Nelly doing play by play commentary on Madden 2005 or having Larry Merchant do commentary for NBA Live 2005. Fight Night has a release date of March 23, and will be available for Xbox and PS2, and will also have online capabilities for the PS2.

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