More than 100 years of boxing’s great modern history has led us to this point, where the world wants to see a boxer go up against a UFC fighter. Casual fans see this as the only intriguing “boxing” matchup after what I’ll admit was an abysmal year for the sport. Big box office attraction Canelo Alvarez, for example, went up against Amir Khan and Liam Smith — two fights that showed no interest from the public.
But when I started hearing guys like Colin Cowherd go on his radio show, the Herd, and proclaimed boxing is dead, I stopped to question that. The first thing that comes to my mind is the question: Has boxing really fallen from its prominence? Or are people just jumping to mixed martial arts because it’s the hottest thing right now?
I do not want to believe that after 100 years, the only thing spectators care about is seeing two opponents violently knocking each other out. If there is no blood or someone laying on the mat after a fight, the match is quickly taglined with the word “boring.” No one really cares about actually sitting down and appreciating a methodical approach.
Boxing’s popularity now has to constantly be compared to that of MMA and judged on whether it can generate the same buzz on social media. Accordingly, the sport of boxing has returned back to cable and network television for the first time in decades. Promoters are bringing back the necessary attention by reaching out to casual viewers in an accessible way.
The Adrien Broner versus Adrian Granados matchup did just that this past Saturday by bringing us the first boxing event ever to be livestreamed on Twitter. Premier Boxing Champions is the televised boxing series that brought us that fight and will also have the highly anticipated fight between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia in March on CBS.
The UFC can make you believe that it gives the fans what they want, and, to an extent, that’s true. But there is a beauty in making fans wait. A unification welterweight title match such as the one between Thurman and Garcia has drawing power for big ratings, a huge payday for the fighters and, most importantly, the buildup for a potential fight of the year candidacy.
A battle of undefeated fighters where gameplans will try to be executed and defense is actually going to be displayed (yeah, that’s right, I said defense) is something that’s rarely seen in other sports. And for those reasons alone, boxing is once again engraving itself back into popular American culture.
I’d much rather see an Andre Ward get knocked down in the second round and fight his way back to beat Sergey Kovalev than see all this time wasted on a Ronda Rousey so-called return and see her lose in 48 seconds. Where’s the fun in sitting down and having the match end before you can even focus on the screen? If you like quick excitement, well, I guess you’re in the right place. But I don’t believe UFC has the rich history to be able to continue that onslaught.
Boxing has always been a part of our human history and has continued to exist regardless of what “dark times” it faces today in mainstream media. Boxing is not a company you can institutionalize, it can never be sold or owned (like UFC) — it’s part of human nature. Hot trends will come and go, but when everything cools down, I’ll be happy to stick around and gladly say that I have always been a true boxing fan.