Has MMA Put Boxing Down For The Count?

The passing of former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier on Nov. 7 brought to light another passing: That of professional boxing itself.

Although boxing fans do get some must-see bouts, they are too few and much too far between for anyone but extremely hard-core fans to care about or notice.

And much to the chagrin of people who grew up watching the likes of heavyweights such as Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, all of the hotter fights seem to be among welterweights: Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez, who on Nov. 12 fought for the third time; and Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Victor Ortiz in September.

A long-discussed bout between Pacquiao and Mayweather may be the only fight on the horizon that could attract casual and even non-boxing fight fans, and that may or may not happen in 2012.

Meanwhile, Mixed Martial Arts has captured the enthusiastic demographic that long belonged to boxing. On Nov. 12, Fox aired the first showing of an MMA card under its new seven-year deal with Ultimate Fighting Championship, which has been valued at upward of $100 million. It attracted 5.7 million viewers and a 3.1 rating, according to Fox.

Industry analysts said that among men 18-34, the UFC event on Fox out-rated every college football game this season other than LSU-Alabama and was on-par with many post-season MLB games.

In addition, according to UFC, the Fox event also attracted a strong showing among two other demographics: women ages 18-34 and men 30-50.

"When you look at the key demographic for MMA, 18-34 year-old males, when was the last time they saw a great heavyweight boxing match? For most, not in their lifetime," said Bryan Johnston, CMO for UFC. "We present great heavyweight matches on a regular basis."

Adam Geiser, who for a decade was the head of marketing and then president for Everlast, the iconic company that has been associated with boxing since 1910, pinpointed a key problem he sees with boxing. "It does not have an organized body," said Geiser. "It does not have a UFC, a Dana White [UFC president]. Somebody who oversees the sport and reins it in so it is unified and definitive in who is champ, designates what the most important bouts should be, makes sure things that have hurt and are hurting the sport either stop or are being prevented."

For the record, Vitali Klitschko earned the WBC super-heavyweight title in September by defeating Tomasz Adamek. His twin brother, Wladmir Klitschko, holds the WBC and IBF heavyweight titles. Whether or not they and other current boxers of note can build and expand the sport's current fan base remains to be seen.

"The sport is definitely missing a personality," said Geiser, who is evp-sales and business for Mission Athletecare. "Floyd Mayweather is one of the best boxers of his generation. Manny Pacquiao is phenomenal. But at the end of the day, when you talk about MMA, you're talking about UFC. You're not talking about Randy Couture, 'Rampage' Jackson, Jon Jones. You talk about UFC because it's a product."

According to UFC's Johnston, "People misinterpret that we don't like boxing. We embrace boxing. Boxing is part of MMA. But do we have a sport that attracts 18-34-year old males, who [years ago] would have followed boxing but are now passionate about MMA and want to embrace MMA for many years to come? Yes."


According to UFC, gets more than seven million unique visitors per month, has more than six million fans on Facebook and more than 300,000 followers on Twitter.


"It's about the community, about having a place that fans who follow MMA can call home," said Johnston. "Without that, you quickly become irrelevant."

4 comments about "Has MMA Put Boxing Down For The Count? ".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, November 22, 2011 at 11:10 a.m.

    Heavyweight was never the drawing card that made boxing a sport people followed. It was always about the personalities. Despite some of the people you named, it was people like Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, and those people, who fought exciting fights, and who drew great crowds and media interest. Heavyweight matches were more among lumbering clods who couldn't even move after 5 rounds. Ali and Tyson were the only ones who really were exciting to watch.

    What boxing also used to have was regular media coverage, like every Saturday on NBC. Even if you didn't see champions, you saw rising stars angling their way towards championship fights. You also had the ancient video games at the time that started with boxing. Now, boxing is invisible on regular media and in gaming. Nothing to cheer for, nothing to play, no reason to care.

    The UFC people are also right about unification. Everyone knows there needs to be one champion. No matter the sport. Boxing is a mess right now. Of course, if there were an undisputed champion, there would be no need to fight about it.

  2. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, November 22, 2011 at 11:11 a.m.

    Sorry about the paragraphs thing. I thought I fixed that.

  3. Chuck Lantz from, network, November 22, 2011 at 11:55 a.m.

    For the record, the emphasis on the Heavyweight division in boxing was not always the case. As Jonathan Hutter mentioned in his post, it was always the personalities that mattered, no matter which division they fought in.

    The lack of unification in boxing has been a problem for decades, and now that problem is magnified by the presence and growth of MMA.

    If boxing had cleaned-up their act, MMA would still be a sideshow, since the hard reality is that MMA is more of a brawl than an art.

    Using viewer numbers as the primary yardstick is a mistake, since in the early days of television, roller derby and wrestling often outdrew real sports.

    MMA might be great for energy drink ad buys, but not so great for Rolex.

  4. Chuck Lantz from, network, November 22, 2011 at 11:57 a.m.

    I offer the same apology as Jonathan about the paragraphs. The webmaster here needs to fix that problem.

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