If you can, pretend for a moment that the first MMA show that was thrown together as a whim back in 1993 never happened and MMA didn't take off years later and isn't the surging sport that it is today. That's right, imagine there's no MMA at this time and then ask yourself if you would care about professional boxing any more than you do now. I'll bet the answer is no.
If you're a real boxing fan, MMA hasn't effected your interest in boxing one iota. If you're fed up and disenchanted with boxing, it's not because you're watching MMA or watched Silva versus Belfort this past Saturday night. And it's a waste of time debating who wins between an upper-tier boxer and MMA fighter. But in case anyone wants to know where I stand - here goes....In the Octagon an MMA fighter will beat a boxer eight out of 10 times, in the ring, the boxer will win 10 out of 10 times. And please, don't wander off and think about who wins in a street fight. Both boxing and MMA are combat sports with many rules, unlike street fighting. There are a plethora of Krav Maga tactics that are forbidden in the ring and Octagon that are legal in the street.
The reason(s) for boxing's decline in popularity, especially in the United States, has been chronicled at length by others. It's grating to hear and read MMA get credited with being a big reason as to why boxing has dropped down lower on the sports food chain. Blaming MMA or anything else but boxing as to why it's in the current state it's in is short sighted, and that's being nice. If you want to blame MMA, you can blame it for perhaps being a big part of the reason why professional boxing may never rebound, but that's it.
The biggest problem with boxing is those who run it only care about making money and could care less about the sports' future once they've sucked every penny they can from it. The viewing public has been conditioned to only care about the mega fights and superstars. And sadly, that's all most fans care about. Also, the best fights are seldom made and in almost every main event fight there's an A-fighter and a B-fighter. Which usually translates into a lopsided decision with no drama or a one or two round blowout. In addition to that, Olympic boxing is a joke. Not only is it not televised, but the computerized scoring is a disaster. With no network fights, fans not only don't see the top amateurs win their medals, they don't get a chance to take an interest in them as they move up the ranks as a pro. Remember when we used to care?
Yes, the interest in boxing has declined. With the sport getting so little exposure it's hard to see where the next generation of outstanding fighters is going to come from. Even the high profile fights that everybody sees are seldom dramatic or memorable. Bad matchmaking, too many hands in the till, too many undeserving PPV fights, fighters getting ripped off, the lack of exposure having killed the interest, just about all the great trainers are dead, these bullet points only touch the surface on why boxing, not MMA or the NFL, have the sweet science on the ropes.
The talent pool for the next generation of upper-tier fighters has shrunk dramatically in the United States, as opposed to in the world of MMA, where every high school and college wrestler who is considered a tough guy by his peers is a potential MMA champ. The money in MMA at the top isn't nearly as good as it is in boxing. And strength and toughness will over-compensate for skill in the Octagon more so than in the ring. Tapping out isn't nearly as embarrassing as getting stopped. Add to that MMA is actually less dangerous and safer than boxing, something all MMA participants will admit, it's hard to see where the next Sugar Ray Leonard or Mike Tyson is going to come from.
The bottom line is, boxing has been its own worst enemy for a long time. Anyone who thinks MMA has dealt boxing a serious body blow is misinformed. It's those who control boxing who are to blame, and they'll be in power until they die. And by then it may be too late to bring it back anywhere close to where it was less than 10 or 12 years ago.
Maybe one day the money will be as good in MMA as it is/was in boxing, and if that happens, that sport will be on the same path as boxing has been on. Like all sports, boxing and MMA are businesses first in the eyes of those who wield the power and make the fights, and the fighters are just lions being led by the rats. Just ask Bernard Hopkins and Randy Couture. However, at this time boxing's decline in popularity has nothing to do with anything outside of boxing. I don't know a single person who is disenchanted with boxing who has turned to MMA, and that's not a shot at MMA, it's just the way it is.
Boxing only needs to look itself in the mirror to find the blame for its all-time low regarding the public's consciousness, or should I say those who govern it need to look in the mirror. And they know it but just don't care because they're making a fortune and getting over on the fighters and fans.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com