The weekend bout between Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm turned out to be another marquee fight in mixed martial arts (MMA), giving boxing another black eye. So make that 3-0 in favor of MMA in producing marquee fights at the championship level this year.
Prior to the fight for the Universal Fighting Championship world bantamweight championship, Rousey won four fights within the first round over significant opposition, that it would be hard to imagine when her “reign of terror” will end. But Holm stopped Rousey in the second round that broke the hearts of many fight fans. That was without doubt a big upset.
Let’s face it – Rousey is not only loved or watched because of her dominance in the ring: she has a lot of fans also because she is has looks (don’t debate that). And a loss where she was also beaten badly to the face toward the end of the fight was horrific to those who have loved Rousey.
But that is definitely not the end of Rousey.
So it’s 3-0 for MMA over boxing and I wonder if the boxing world is aware of this.
If you look at the roster of top-level fighters in MMA and boxing today, there are more top-level boxers today. The reason for this is there are 17 weight divisions in boxing and there are at least three top fighters from each division, not even counting Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. So boxing has at least 51 top-level fighters.
So what has been bugging boxing at this point? The answer is simple: marquee bouts are not being made the way they were one, two or three decades ago. Two to three decades ago, the existence of two dominant world boxing organizations, the World Boxing Council (WBC) and the World Boxing Association (WBA), resulted in the boxing world wanting only one real champion per division. In other words, the “this world isn’t big enough for the two of us” thinking prevailed in the minds of the boxers who held either the WBC or WBA championship.
But with the proliferation of “alphabet soup” boxing organizations, it is harder to make marquee fights today because there are “paper champions” who simply want to show to the world that they have a title belt. And if there are marquee match ups in boxing, they are often made too late.
I mentioned in my earlier columns that the championship bouts between Canelo Alvarez vs Miguel Cotto at middleweight and Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury can get boxing out of the morass it is in now. But Alvarez vs Cotto or Klitschko vs Fury are not even the most compelling bouts boxing can produce now. If boxers, boxing managers and promoters were more bold today, the Alvarez vs Cotto and Klitschko vs Cotto would have taken place more than a year ago.
There are even more compelling bouts that can be made like Alvarez vs Gennady Golokvin, the undefeated knockout artist from Kazakhstan who holds more title belts at middleweight than Cotto. Or even Alvarez vs Keith Thurman, who is also an undefeated knockout artist. And at heavyweight, Deontay Wilder, also an undefeated knockout artist, is more deserving to take on any of the Klitschko brothers.
There are rumors Alvarez vs Golovkin will likely take place if the Mexican wins over Cotto, and Wilder vs Wladimir Klitschko if the Ukrainian registers a victory over Fury.
But for the rest of the year, boxing fans will have to satisfy themselves with the outcome of Alvarez vs Cotto and Klitschko vs Fury. And if those turn out to be thrilling fights, or Cotto stopping Alvarez and Fury dethroning Klitschko also by stoppage, then boxing will get a score of two. MMA, however, still has the edge at 3-2 when it comes to producing marquee bouts.
Let’s not talk about Pacquiao-Mayweather being one of the marquee bouts this year based on outcome. That supposed megabout turned out to be a major disappointment! So why bother about a rematch between the two?
In my column next week, I will discuss why a rematch between Mayweather and Pacquiao is not the bout that can take boxing out of the doldrums.