Last Saturday was not a great day for boxing. There is, and probably always will be, something special about heavyweight fights at the highest level. But when Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye stepped into the ring, it was an absolute dud.
The thing is, it was also pretty easy to see coming. Wladimir's style has never been known for being exciting and anyone who watched Haye fight Nikolai Valuev had a good feel for what he did against much bigger men. The years of trash talk and hype promised more than what we got, but the history of both men should have prepared us for exactly what went down.
But reactions like those of Josh Nason, who wrote a piece that ran here on Bloody Elbow, baffle me. I could sit and argue the use of "finishes" as some sort of measure of fight "worth" or I could point at rising cruiserweight contender Ola Afolabi's crushing KO on the Klitschko/Haye undercard as the best KO of that day. But my stance has never been to participate in this phony "war" between MMA and boxing.
And this isn't a shot at Josh, it's more that his article summed up a lot of the thoughts from people that I just can't wrap my head around. Stuff like this:
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.
We should all be smart enough to not lump all of a sport in with an individual contest. After UFC 130, it would have been dumb to wonder if MMA cares about fans or lacks passion simply because Quinton Jackson and Matt Hamill plodded their way through three rounds. An event is not the sport.
It has become so cliche to fall back on the "I haven't cared about boxing since Gatti/Ward" line. Over the years since that trilogy the sport has seen the emergence of guys like Sergio Martinez, Manny Pacquiao's ascent to the top of the combat sports world, the first three fights between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez, Bernard Hopkins becoming the oldest man to win a major world title and too many great fights to really count.
Boxing is also seeing the rise of many new, young stars who will answer the "who is going to take over after Mayweather and Pacquiao retire?" question.
Brandon Rios is all action from bell to bell. He steps into the ring ready to throw hands. His fight with Miguel Acosta in February of this year was everything that boxing can be at its best. This Saturday night he meets Urbano Antillon on Showtime to defend his WBA World Lightweight Championship. If Rios' reputation for action fights wasn't enough, Antillon is far from a slouch in that same department. In 2010, his war with Humberto Soto won fight of the year at Bad Left Hook.
And if you need some bad blood to get you interested, here's Rios talking about the fight:
Can you describe the personality clash between you and Antillon?
"We were supposed to fight a year ago and unfortunately I got cut in sparring. He was running around saying I didn't want to fight him and that I was chicken. He was just running his mouth and after awhile he just started to get to me. And then when this fight started he was doing it again, just running his mouth and talking all kinds of smack. At the press conference he mentioned my wife. Fighters shouldn't bring families into it.
These two men are going to go to battle on a night unopposed by MMA. If you have the slightest interest in boxing, you owe it to yourself to watch this fight rather than passing judgement on the entire sport based on a predictably bad heavyweight fight. Well over a million homes will be tuned in to watch this tremendous fight, you really should join in.
It's easy to fall back on uninformed statements and cliches. In the end, if you don't like boxing, don't watch boxing. You don't need to pretend that a single fight carried the weight of the entire sport on its shoulders when there are much better fights happening constantly around the world.
I'll turn to Anthony Pace's closing to his excellent fanshot on the boxing/MMA situation for the final words:
I'm not telling you need to be a boxing fan. I'm just telling you that if you think boxing hasn't been good since Tyson or De La Hoya, you just don't what you're talking about. This "war" is a fiction I don't really understand. I love MMA for the diversity of skills on display, the "anything can happen" aspect. But I also love boxing for the drama inherent to the sport, drama that will never go away. One doesn't need to crowd the other out, and if you think so, you deserve to be rabbit punched by the Executioner.
For more on the fight between Rios and Antillon, check out Bad Left Hook's event coverage page.