Boxing or MMA?
My favorite fighter of all-time is Mike Tyson. Second place? Bruce Lee. Those who only remember the ear-biting, post-prison, forgotten-fundamentals version of Tyson may not believe it, but once upon a time Mike 100% earned the title “Baddest Man on the Planet.” Young, focused Tyson won fights with his power, speed and technique as much as he did with menacing intimidation. But even while that Tyson seemed unbeatable to me as a kid, I used to wonder how he would have fared with a fast pair of feet coming at him as well as fists.
In recent years, mixed martial arts (MMA) has infringed on the territory once owned exclusively by boxing. In many circles, elite MMA fighters like Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre hold more weight in BMOTP discussions than Manny Pacquiao, Wladimir Klitschko and other boxers.
MMA’s rise is about more than simply putting a better product on the mat. Boxing’s broken infrastructure, reputation for corruption, overflow of increasingly meaningless championship belts, lack of big fights on free TV, and — in the United States, at least — dwindling number of recognizable stars has hurt the sport’s popularity. Meanwhile, top MMA outlets like Ultimate Fighting Championship and Strikeforce are thriving thanks to good free TV fights in between pay-per-views, successful video games and TV shows, and a tigher business model that has put MMA in position to eventually eclipse boxing as our favorite brutal pastime.
But is MMA really the better product? Personally, I’m a boxing guy. I grew up on Tyson, Roy Jones Jr., Riddick Bowe, Oscar De La Hoya, Julio Cesar Chavez, Michael Carbajal, Pernell Whitaker and Evander Hoylfield. I would still pay money to watch Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Just this past weekend I watched a couple hours of Boxeo Azteca on one of the Spanish channels even though I had no idea what anybody was saying. I think boxers are among the best and toughest athletes in the world. I’ve watched my share of MMA and it’s cool, but the strategy and faster pace are just two of the reasons boxing holds more appeal.
Which sport do you prefer?