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Boxing & MMA Usually Don’t Mix

BY David A. Avila ON December 21, 2008
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Brazil’s Vitor Belfort wants to make it clear his fight with feared mixed martial arts star Matt Lindland will be a dogfight, but if he ever gets in the ring with Roy Jones Jr… boy oh boy will he give him a whipping.

“I’m willing to box two rounds with Roy Jones Jr. and if there isn’t a winner, then we’ll take off the boxing gloves and put on the MMA gloves and fight two rounds in my style,” said Belfort. “We’d make a lot of money.”

Belfort is one of a couple dozen MMA fighters set to meet on the Affliction fight card on Jan. 24, 2009 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The fight card is sponsored by Golden Boy Promotions.

You heard that right. The boxing company founded by Oscar De La Hoya is taking a dip into MMA. But that’s not the worst of it. They are hosting the MMA card on the exact same day boxing world champion Antonio Margarito fights Sugar Shane Mosley 50 miles away in Los Angeles.

It’s a strange brew.

Boxing and MMA don’t have the exact same type of fans. Not exactly. As a journalist covering both sports I’ve seen that fans of MMA usually don’t like boxing and vice versa. But there is a fan segment that follow both sports. Let’s say if there are 18,000 going to the MMA fight in Anaheim, about 4,000 of those follow boxing too.

When you ask representatives of Golden Boy why they are hosting both cards on the same day, they kindly defer to another topic.

Lately, Golden Boy has been making some bad decisions. We’ll see how this latest plan works out.

Early in 2008, the company garnered a contract with Morongo Casino to host fight cards there on Friday and show them on Telefutura. It was a seemingly good idea but it just never worked out. The biggest reason it did not work out was the lack of local talent placed on the fight cards.

The Morongo ballroom only sits about 800 people but the Golden Boy shows only sold out the place once. In that instance they had local female fighter Kaliesha West of Moreno Valley on the show. She was never invited on another fight card and Golden Boy never sold out another show. Instead they put dozens of fighters from Puerto Rico, Mexico and other parts of the country.

Another reason it didn’t do well was the fights began at 4:15 p.m. to accommodate Telefutura’s time frame. That hurt attendance. But in the one instance that the local fighter was on the card the place still sold out, early or not.

Meanwhile, about 40 minutes away, numerous fight cards featuring local talent in Ontario were selling out. On at least three occasions this happened. One executive at Morongo lost his job over the relationship and now Golden Boy is out of the contract.

Perhaps it was because of promotional agreements to meet the contractual requirements with the fighters that there were so many out of state fighters on the fight card. But GBP could have placed at least one local fighter on its cards to bring in fans. On most occasions the place was far from selling out.

Now, we have the boxing company hosting a boxing and MMA fight card simultaneously. It spells trouble with a capital T.

Why am I talking about this?

It’s simple. I like boxing and don’t want to see it damaged further. With MMA and boxing cards going on at the same time you can believe the MMA show will sell out because Anaheim is MMA country. They love MMA in Orange County. However, the boxing card is going to suffer unless Mexican fight fans cross the border to support their fighter Antonio Margarito.

Another weakness is the rest of the fight card at Staples Center. Who the heck is fighting on the card?

With one month left there should be at least three good fights advertised on the card to entice fans. Margarito and Mosley alone will not be enough. Trust me. These are bad times economically and people want to spend money on a good fight card, not a horrible card like that on Dec. 6, when aside from De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao there was not much else. Last weekend, a fight card at Hollywood Park Casino had better fights than the Las Vegas under card of several weeks ago.

Now if Golden Boy Promotions truly wants to mix boxing with MMA then it should make the match between Vitor Belfort and Roy Jones Jr.

“It would be great,” said Belfort who has trained in boxing for more than eight years. “People would love it.”

Hmmm.

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