Opinion: Boxing vs. MMA, the Battle Rages On
By Jesse Heitz
Lately, not only the MMA and boxing worlds, but the sports media world itself, has been inundated with never-ending banter about which combat sport is superior. We’ve seen boxers call out mixed martial artists and vice versa. I have read multiple stories that follow this theme over the last few weeks, and felt that it was time to comment on the situation in depth.
Over the last few years we’ve seen a veritable mixed-bag with regards to the overall outcome of the boxer vs. MMA fighter, when featured inside of a cage. A few years ago, we saw one of the all-time great mixed martial artists in Randy “The Natural” Couture, utterly embarrass former boxing great James Toney. Yet, we’ve also seen a less than prime Roy Mercer put down a less than stellar former UFC Heavyweight Champion in Tim Sylvia.
However, we still have a rampant debate, instigated by members of the media and further fueled by prominent fighters from both sports. More recently undefeated heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury (21-0), has issued a direct challenge via The Daily Star to current UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, stating,
“I have challenged him before and would consider taking him on in a one-fight deal. I would beat him and then return to boxing. I’m definitely interested but the money would have to be right. I am 100-percent up for a fight with him. I’ve challenged him to a fight three times but he’s a little boy who doesn’t want to fight and has said ‘No’ to the fight live on television.”
Some MMA writers have scribed scathing articles on how all of the pervasive boxing vs. MMA talk is simply absurd, that there’s little point in entertaining such fantasy matchups between sports. I’m of a different opinion. Certainly, there are fighters on both sides that are merely angling for one last payday before the sun finally sets on their careers. But let’s face it, these challenges stem from the mentality of a fighter, the over-whelming desire to prove one’s mettle inside of a cage or ring. This inter-sport rivalry was the impetus for the development of MMA. Now that MMA has truly showcased well-rounded fighters, it’s only natural for MMA fans to be intrigued by the stylistic competition that boxing can offer. After all, it’s in our sporting DNA.
Since the establishment of MMA as an organized sport we’ve seen a rivalry between kickboxing and MMA. We’ve seen some of the best kick boxers in the world such as Jerome Le Banner try his hand at MMA and find little success. Likewise, we’ve witnessed MMA fighters like Don Frye take on Le Banner in a kick boxing match only to be floored early. We’ve seen kick boxers like Mark Hunt and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic become stars in MMA, while MMA fighters such as Semmy Schilt and Alistair Overeem have become world champions in kick boxing. I would imagine boxing will be no different.
I do agree this discourse not be a debate worthy of serious engagement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the issue should be void of any discussion altogether. MMA fandom has always been and will always be firmly entrenched in a mindset that ponders the “what if” questions of combat sports. I find no problem with that reality, as it not only gives the sport increased publicity, but it also gives writers such as myself plenty of fodder for our tireless ranting and raving.