Commentary: UFC (Not Boxing) Will Flourish From Marquee Match-Up [VIDEO]
No one disputes that a match between boxing’s two best pound-for-pound fighters will shatter PPV buyrate records. Not sports entertainment impresario, Vince McMahon. Not boxing promoters, Oscar De La Hoya or Don King. Not UFC President, Dana White, or anyone else doing business in the pay-per-view industry. So it’s a difficult thing to say – especially being a huge boxing fan – but a Manny Pacquaio-Floyd Mayweather mega-bout won’t save the sport from possible extinction.
Both Pacman and Money are charismatic fighters, with extremely loyal fan-bases who eagerly dig into their pockets to watch them compete. Both also have a history of attracting mainstream attention from casual fans who just like to watch grown men beat each other up (Mayweather’s match-up against De La Hoya in 2007 set boxing’s record for most PPV buys, with 2.4 households, and Pacquiao set a boxing attendance in 2010, putting 50, 994 butts to watch him pick Joshua Clottey apart at Cowboy Stadium).
“That’s the fight I want to see and it’s just not happening,” said Dana White on “The Scott Van Pelt Show,” back in July of last year. “These guys are being offered crazy amounts of money and the fight just can’t be made.” [SEE VIDEO BELOW FEATURING WHITE’S COMMENTARY ON THE PROPOSED FIGHT]
UFC also has a huge “must see” dream match on the horizon featuring MMA’s two best pound-for-pound fighters, that has both the hardcore and the casual fan in a frenzy.
Georges St-Pierre – known to his fans by only three letters, “GSP” – has lorded over UFC’s welterweight division and is riding a seven-match win streak – defeating the likes of Josh Koscheck (twice), Matt Hughes, and B.J. Penn – since losing to 11-1 underdog, Matt Serra, back in 2007.
Brazil’s Anderson “The Spider” Silva, owns UFC’s longest winning streak (a UFC-record 13 matches), that started back in 2006, after dismantling Chris Leben 49 seconds into Round 1, in his UFC debut at Ultimate Fight Night 5.
In his second match with the company, “The Spider” literally smashed Rich Franklin’s face in with a series of knees and kicks (Ace needed reconstructive surgery after the bout) – to capture the UFC middleweight crown. Since capturing the title, Silva has successfully defended the belt successfully eight times (also a UFC record), and defeated Dan Henderson to unify the UFC middleweight crown with the PRIDE welterweight title, after Zuffa LLC bought the company.
Much like their pugilistic counterparts, Silva and GSP are at the top of their game, having vanquished every foe put in front of them. Both mega-matches, in theory, could set their respective sports up for long-term PPV popularity with solid undercards, featuring up and coming talent. But the commonality ends there. The big difference between the two mega-bouts is that UFC can answer the following question a heck of a lot better than boxing: What’s next?
UFC is becoming the “gold standard” in MMA since its purchase of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and Strikeforce. Those purchases have given White such an abundance of talent – with telegenic personalities – that he doesn’t even have to give the masses the GSP-Silva dream match.
“It’s still a big fantasy fight,” said White, back in March of this year. “There are still things that need to happen in the meantime before we sit down and discuss where this fight would be, what weight it would be at, how it would work. It’s all just fantasy yet. I literally have not talked to Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva about this fight.”
Among the things that “need to happen” are for GSP to beat the always-underestimated, Jake Shields – the former Elite XC welterweight and former Strikeforce middleweight title-holder – during this weekend’s UFC 128 pay-per-view event; and for “The Spider” to defeat Yushin Okami – the last man to own a victory over Silva – at UFC 134, to be held in Rio De Janeiro, later this year (UFC’s first trip to Brazil since 1998).
And while White could use a GSP-Silva mega-match to corner and solidify the MMA market, he may not be in a huge hurry to give the fans the dream fight they want. UFC’s rich roster depth gives matchmakers plenty of options to keep both champions busy for a while longer (Nick Diaz versus GSP? A Chael Sonnen-Silva rematch?).
What about boxing, you ask? What do they have to build on after a Pacman-Mayweather mega-match?
Not much, actually. The boxing heavyweight division – ruled by the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir (IBF, WBO, and Ring Magazine heavyweight champion) and Vitali (WBC heavyweight champion) – is so uninteresting that most cable companies won’t even carry their fights in the United States (HBO – who previously had a TV deal with the Klitschko brother – hasn’t televised a heavyweight title bout featuring either world heavyweight champion since Wladimir fought Hasim Rahman back in 2008).
And while names like Sergio Martinez, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Nonito Donaire may ring out for hardcore boxing fans, the casual fight fan couldn’t pick these guys out of a police line-up. There is no depth in the boxing industry – at least not like in the heydays of Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns, Ray Leonard, and Marvin Hagler.
Add a lack of quality television presence on top of the numerous problems that have plagued the sport (decades of Mafia involvement, crooked promoters, shady boxing organizations, high-end talent avoiding facing one another), and maybe fans are asking too much from “Pacman” and “Money,” hoping their star-power could save “the sweet science” from fading into obscurity.
“I came from boxing and if it wasn’t for boxing I wouldn’t be here with you right now,” said White, when discussing a possible Pacquaio-Mayweather match, with Scott Van Pelt. “My honest opinion of boxing, is that boxing will go away. It will eventually go away … Once everything went to a pay model, boxing stopped giving you good fights for free. As soon as that ended, your market starts to shrink when you’re only on pay-per-view.”