If there was ever a day that illustrated the vast chasm between MMA and boxing, it was Saturday, July 2nd. If this was a war, boxing would have waved the white flag. Over. Done. Kaput.
These days, I consider myself a "pink hat" boxing fan at best, a term i first heard used by hardcore Boston Red Sox fans to describe the influx of mainstream fans after 2004. I won't order pay-per-views (PPV) but I do watch selected HBO/Showtime replays of fights with names I'm familiar with.
Back in the last boom period of the heavyweight division (Tyson, Bowe, Lewis, Holyfield, Moorer, Foreman and even that dastardly Golota) and when Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya ruled the combat sports world, I was hooked. Now, I couldn't care less other than results or opining at how dumb it is that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio haven't yet fought.
But a fight Saturday did peak my interest thanks to a viral clip of promotional trash talk that felt a little different. Wladimir Klitschko (owner of some collection of heavyweight titles) and David Haye (also a titleholder, I guess) seemed to really not like each other. Haye was promising to knock out Klitschko among other things and the Ukranian actually looked genuinely angry at Haye's taunts.
When I saw the fight was on pay cable and after reading about the hype on the interwebs, I decided to order HBO and rearranged my Saturday to check it out. For the first time in years, I (and many others) were genuinely excited to see a heavyweight boxing match -- even one held in a monsoon in Hamburg, Germany. A great fight between two champions that hate each other and not on PPV? Sign me up.
Then, the fight happened. My excitement dwindled with each passing round. Haye seemed content to play defense and flop on the canvas at the slightest bit of contact, looking to the referee for help. Klitschko never carried over the outside the ring anger and plodded his way through another dull unanimous decision victory -- not exactly what I was looking for in a heavyweight title fight.
It got so bad that HBO announcers Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant (the same duo I watched more than 20 years ago) were chastising Haye throughout the fight for not engaging. Overall, it was dreadful. When the people that are supposed to be keeping you interested turn on the fight after a few rounds, that's bad news.
A few minutes after the "fight" concluded, the prelims for UFC 132 started on Facebook, led off by two newcomers named Jeff Hougland and Donny Walker. In front of a light crowd (seemingly now a tradition for UFC events in Las Vegas), Hougland and Walker went 15 strong and spirited minutes in an effort to get noticed and secure employment.
Of course they have to fight hard, you say. They're not guaranteed deals! That's the thing: everyone from the curtain-jerkers to the stars on UFC 132 fought hard, contributing to one of the best events in recent history.
At one point, there were three straight KOs and four straight finishes. Five of the evening's 11 fights ended in the first round, much to the delight of the Las Vegas audience and those watching 'round the world. Guys were getting after it and the end result mattered. Tito Ortiz saved his career. Chris Leben may have ended Wanderlei Silva's. Carlos Condit likely earned a title shot. (And that was just three of the fights on the main card.)
And then, there was the main event -- a 135-pound title scrap between two rivals (Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber) that was as heated as Mayweather and Pacquaio promised to be but with a twist: they actually fought.
For five rounds, Cruz and Faber did what champions do: try and win. Both men emptied their gas tank and tried, which at the end of the day is all we really ask for as fight fans. If the guys/girls in the cage aren't going to give it their all, why should the paying consumer care?
On the flip side, I read that Klitschko and Haye was a title unification bout but let's be real: the titles in boxing are meaningless. As Haye avoided being hit and Klitschko threw some half-hearted punches, I asked myself what they were fighting for (in reality, just money) and if they already earned that before they even stepped in the ring, what's the motivation to do the same as Cruz and Faber did?
Among a myriad of issues, that is ultimately the problem with boxing. Their stars simply don't give a shit. Haye had been pining for a shot at either Klitschko brother for years, even making up shirts of him holding both Klitschko brothers' severed heads. He then gets his shot and lays a giant stinky egg in Germany. What the h? Does boxing want fans? Where's the passion? I don't get it.
You don't need to me to sit here and tell you that MMA surpassed boxing years ago, but here's what you need to remember any time these charlatans attempt to sell you a boxing fight that "matters": July 2, 2011 -- a day when two sets of fighters with blood feuds went to war with one set actually remembering what they were supposed to do.
More UFC 132 coverage from BE after the jump.
- Post-Fight Recap and Analysis - Mike Fagan
- The Day MMA Won The Combat Sports War - Josh Nason
- Why the Bantamweight Division Needs Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber 3 - Fraser Coffeen
- Bloody Elbow Radio UFC 132 Review
- Dominick Cruz Defeats Urijah Faber By Decision - Josh Nason
- Post-Fight Press Conference Video
- Chris Leben Knocks Out Wanderlei Silva In 27 Seconds - Josh Nason
- Tito Ortiz Fends Off Retirement - Matt Bishop
- Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader Fight Video Highlights - ESPN
- Tito Ortiz Submits Ryan Bader In The First Round - Josh Nason
- Dennis Siver Defeats Matt Wiman By Close Decision - Josh Nason
- Carlos Condit Knocks Out Dong Hyun Kim In The First Round - Josh Nason
- Melvin Guillard Knocks Out Shane Roller In First Round - Josh Nason
- Rafael dos Anjos Knocks Out George Sotiropoulos In 59 Seconds - Josh Nason
- Brian Bowles Defeats Takeya Mizugaki by Unanimous Decision - Leland Roling
- Anthony Njokuani Dominates Andre Winner - Leland Roling
- Aaron Simpson Puts Brad Tavares Through the Grinder - Leland Roling
- Jeff Hougland Showcases Diverse Skills, Decisions Donny Walker - Leland Roling