"Boxing is Bullshit" Or: Why MMA is King of Combat Sports

August 31, 2009

“Boxing is bullshit.”

Paulie Malignaggi, disgust written all over his face, all over his body language, repeated the mantra:

“Boxing is bullshit.”

With those words, Paulie Malignaggi summed up the feelings of so many combat sports fans, and answered exactly why it is that boxing is commonly referred to as a dying sport, especially in terms of comparison with its more dynamic sibling, Mixed Martial Arts.

Malignaggi had fought a close fight against Juan Diaz in Diaz’s hometown of Houston, Texas, one which most observers, including this one, thought he had taken by a round or two.  Unfortunately for Paulie, the only observers that counted, the judges, all saw it the other way, with one judge laughably awarding ten of the twelve rounds to Diaz.

Although Paulie and his supporters were complaining of a robbery, this was too close a fight to fit that description; still, that one judge’s scorecard — ten rounds to two — sticks in the craw as so egregious (if you watched the fight, there’s simply no way to reasonably explain the score) that it should in the future become some sort of shorthand reference to the corruptibility of judicial scoring in boxing.  Given Malignaggi’s heartfelt and memorable post-fight promo, this might indeed come to pass.

Boxing is bullshit, everyone has known it for decades, and now there’s a boxer screaming it in the ring after he’s on the losing end of a decision he believes he deserves.  Fans watching — even those who believe Diaz won — know that ten rounds to two is a travesty.  The worst part about this is how unsurprising it all is.  Boxing fans have actually become conditioned to expect a screwjob if a fight goes the distance.

If asked to name the promoter to have gained the most from boxing’s skulduggery many would probably name Don King, but I want to suggest another: Dana White.  Much has been made of all that UFC and Dana White have done right in terms of growing their business, but I wouldn’t underestimate the value to UFC in all that boxing has done wrong.  At the very least, in a parallel universe where over the last 15 years the top boxers fought the top boxers, and decisions were not obviously corrupt, UFC would have had a much more difficult time making inroads against the established sport.  We’ve reached the point now, in 2009, where boxing matches that would have been placed on ppv a year or two ago, and would have provided at least some level of competition against UFC, are now airing on HBO pay cable.

On September 19, there’s going to be a lot of talk about MMA (UFC 103) vs. boxing (Mayweather/Juan Manuel Marquez) as the UFC and Mayweather pay-per-views go head-to-head, but the fact of the matter is that discussing the ppv battle at that level of generality, MMA vs. boxing, is either ignorant or disingenuous.  It’s not MMA that’s huge; rather, it’s UFC whose business is booming.  Likewise, what Mayweather is able to draw on ppv has no relation at all to the state of boxing’s health.  I fully expect Mayweather to outdraw 103 on ppv (based primarily on UFC’s lackluster line-up), perhaps significantly, and for the “Bible of Boxing,” The Ring, to make way more of it than it deserves, but the real story was told last week, in Houston, Texas, for anyone bothering to listen.

24 Responses to “"Boxing is Bullshit" Or: Why MMA is King of Combat Sports”

  1. Jake on August 31st, 2009 3:34 AM

    Athletic commissions are bullshit, aren’t those the ones who put the judges and officials? Malignaggi got a very similar decision against Herman D’dou at a fight in New Jersey, most people thought the fight could go either way or Paul lost it but one of the scorecards was 117-111 8-3. I wonder if Paulie boy was screaming Boxing is bullshit back then also.

  2. Steven Reich on August 31st, 2009 6:11 AM

    Interesting article, great reading.

  3. brent on August 31st, 2009 7:26 AM

    A fighter gets screwed and the whole sport is Bullshit is that what your trying to say? I love MMA and I love Boxing each sport has it’s place. I have watched many a UFC and wondered why the fighters can’t strike worth shit. Most of them have have zero skill in striking and it shows when the fight is boring as hell. Most people don’t want to watch 10 UFC PPV fights with the fighters rolling round on the floor for nine minutes. I have seen great UFC matches and great Boxing matches. Some crappy judges don’t make the whole sport bullshit.

  4. B on August 31st, 2009 10:12 AM

    You do know that the athletic commissions assign the officials to cover both boxing and MMA events, right?

    This strikes me as a Texas commission problem and a Gale van Hoy problem.

    The very same system that produces boxing officials and places them on fight cards is now controlling and producing MMA officials.

    This writer would do well to educate himself just a bit on the way things work before trying another one of these ill-formed “shock value” articles.

  5. Miguel Antonio Barragan on August 31st, 2009 12:02 PM

    brent
    “A fighter gets screwed and the whole sport is Bullshit is that what your trying to say? I love MMA and I love Boxing each sport has it’s place. I have watched many a UFC and wondered why the fighters can’t strike worth shit. Most of them have have zero skill in striking and it shows when the fight is boring as hell. Most people don’t want to watch 10 UFC PPV fights with the fighters rolling round on the floor for nine minutes. I have seen great UFC matches and great Boxing matches. Some crappy judges don’t make the whole sport bullshit”
    I think the issue is when fighter gets screwed time and time again, not just one, Paulie in this case. Its happened countless, in fact Paulie mentioned Chavez/Whitaker which was in Texas too. I for one wont say Boxing is bullshit, simply the politics behind it. And Im must say most of MMAists, or UFC fighters dont have zero skills in stirking, Boxing to be specific, I would say yes there, because when you say striking you include kicks, knees elbows, all of which are obviously not allowed in Boxing, so we can judge there, striking, no, Boxing yes, there’s a difference.

  6. Miguel Antonio Barragan on August 31st, 2009 12:04 PM

    (Can’t judge there) sorry

  7. Miguel Antonio Barragan on August 31st, 2009 12:10 PM

    “You do know that the athletic commissions assign the officials to cover both boxing and MMA events, right?”
    I think Paulie was complaining about Raul Caize who he called DeLaHoyas gopher. The judge who is most likely to give Diaz the nod had it the closest. Im not too sure, perhaps it was the other judge.

  8. brent on August 31st, 2009 12:14 PM

    @Miguel Yes you are right I should have been more specific. Punching skill would be a better way to put it. Countless times I have seen UFC guys with there hands behind the other fighters heads just standing there. I can’t help but ask myself why they don’t just step back and start unloading punches. The reason is they are lacking in this skill. The ones that have this skill (I can think of a few) excel in MMA.

  9. Jonathan on August 31st, 2009 4:36 PM

    brent, i have to say you are not a MMA fan. I have been involved in boxing and MMA for over a decade. Almost everyone at UFC level are very skilled in the striking game. Though the point was made about the diff. between boxing and striking, you obviously still dont understand. I know how to do both very well. I also know what i am watching when I see the amazing punching talent that pro MMA fighters have. Oh, and anyone that says all that rolling around on the ground is boring, has no idea what fighting is about. The ground game is the most important thing about fighting. No real MMA fan would ever say that. If anyone thinks ground game is boring, go to a REAL Jui Jitsu academy and grapple for a few sessions. It will blow your mind.

  10. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) on August 31st, 2009 5:36 PM

    I rather suspect that the proportion of boxing fans among MMA fans is not that much different from the proportion of boxing fans as a portion of the general public.

    Boxing’s “downfall” has little to nothing to do with the rise of MMA, either as the victim or as the root cause. MMA is MMA, boxing is boxing. It just happens that boxing is also incurably corrupt and it’s fans are grey haired and getting older by the day.

  11. David Wolf on August 31st, 2009 6:16 PM

    B, I refer you (and everyone, to see the conflicts of interest at issue here) to the following article:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more_sports/2009/08/29/2009-08-29_ring_bribes_you_be_the_judge.html#ixzz0PmTQOyOf

  12. jodeci on August 31st, 2009 8:37 PM

    its a good article..but i want to ask several questions…how come boxers get paid more money(pacman gets 15 million excluding ppv and brock lesner gets 400Thousand)? if boxing was in any way dying…2. how come anderson silva the best p4p mma fighter as well as former heavyweights ufc champ tim silvia and arlovski want to move over to BOXING? if its dying…
    thats the reason i always read mmapayout because its fact based and less Dana white hype machine on this website..
    if mma wants boxing’s place..first they should be allowed in the olympics..so that globally the standard of fighting would be upgraded…
    no doubt on ppv market in the u.s UFC is leading(white male 18 to 35)…but then again most fans of boxing are from the blue collar market and 50 dollars is expensive

  13. Kelsey Philpott on August 31st, 2009 11:32 PM

    “How come boxers get paid more money (pacman gets 15 million excluding ppv and brock lesnar gets 400 thousand?”

    Apples to oranges. Boxing promotions run skeleton crews, use television networks such as HBO to foot the production costs of the event, and spend little on their own marketing (again leaving a lot to the networks). It allows them to pay Pacman $15 million (and undercard fighters sometimes as little as $500) .

    Furthermore, to claim that Silva or Lesnar make only $400,000 a fight is ludicrous. The sport is 4 years into profitability and these guys are already making MILLIONS per fight; wait another 5 years and then see if you can ask them same question.

    “how come anderson silva the best p4p mma fighter as well as former heavyweights ufc champ tim silvia and arlovski want to move over to BOXING?”

    Silva wants to fight RJJ in order to prove he can out-box a boxer; not because he wants to make a permanent “move,” nor was Arlovski’s boxing experiment going to be permanent.

  14. B on September 1st, 2009 4:04 AM

    “B, I refer you (and everyone, to see the conflicts of interest at issue here) to the following article:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more_sports/2009/08/29/2009-08-29_ring_bribes_you_be_the_judge.html#ixzz0PmTQOyOf

    That’s exactly the way it is in MMA as well. No difference at all.

    Promotions hand over the checks to the commission, who in turn hand the checks over to the officials, including the judges, refs and timekeepers.

  15. brent on September 1st, 2009 5:06 AM

    John… see this is what you don’t get. Your the problem with MMA. You think real people in the real world love the ground game.. they don’t. You think because I said most people don’t want to see fighters rolling around on the ground for 9 mins that I don’t love the ground game. i love the ground game. I am a MMA fan. You love the ground game your an MMA fan. Not sure where you got “most people” and turned it into “me”? Normal people want to see to guys punch each others heads off (like in boxing). For normal people (the one that bring in the PPV money) that is what they love. You need to hang around more normal people so you can hear them talk about how bad the UFC sucks every time this happens. They think it’s boring as hell. But you have your UFC blinders on. i think you have your blinders on when it comes to punching power in MMA as well.

  16. David Wolf on September 1st, 2009 5:08 AM

    The difference seems to be that MMA simply isn’t riddled with questionable decision after questionable decision.

    I don’t know why this is the case — maybe the difference lies in something as simple as all fighters on an MMA show falling under the promoter’s banner, as opposed to boxing, where you have an independent Paulie facing a company’s chosen fighter.

    Even that explanation seems insufficient, though, when you consider that there are certainly times when Dana White would strongly prefer that one UFC fighter beat another. Perhaps Dana doesn’t attempt to improperly influence judicial scoring in the way it appears boxing promoters do?

    I don’t know what the answer is, but to give you a concrete example of what I’m talking about, when Keith Jardine defeated Chuck Liddell by decision, at the time (and I still believe this today) I was convinced that had it been a boxing contest, somehow the decision would have gone to Chuck, as that was what UFC was hoping and expecting for as a build to Chuck/Wanderlei.

    Until Hamill/Bisping (which wasn’t even under the auspices of a commission) outcomes become the norm and not the exception in MMA, I can’t agree that there’s “[n]o difference at all” between the actions of boxing and MMA promoters with respect to judicial influence-peddling.

  17. B on September 1st, 2009 5:35 AM

    “I can’t agree that there’s “[n]o difference at all” between the actions of boxing and MMA promoters with respect to judicial influence-peddling.”

    My “no difference” comment referred to the way officials at combative sports events get paid. Sorry for the imprecise language.

    The two sports operate under the same framework. That MMA has so far managed to avoid the appearance of impropriety on their very biggest shows is actually a testiment to its biggest promotion and nothing else. I’m not a Zuffa fan in the least, but having guys like Ratner in place keeps them running smoothly.

    Again, the framework is the same, and the same things you cite as problems in boxing are occurring in MMA every day and everywhere, except in Zuffa-land, which is, again, to their credit.

  18. Jonathan on September 1st, 2009 7:41 AM

    brent, once again you are way off. My UFC blinders? I dont even know what that is refering to. The diff. between me and you, is you are just a fan who thinks because they sit and watch this stuff they know what is going on. What would you know about MMA punching power unless you train or fight. The truth is you dont know. Oh and by the way, the “normal people” that you say i need to hang around more dont all agree with you. Maybe because they are more knowledgable about the sport. Maybe some of the american market who is still learning the sport might think this way. Those who have been around the sport and understand it love all aspects. When I go to Japan, the crowd go nuts when a fighter just goes to set up a submission. It is a very global sport and the american market is just a small peice. So the “normal people” you hang with, might not be so normal, when it comes to a bigger worldly view. Its alright for you to give your opinion, but it is pretty funny from a fighters point of view. By the way, just for referance…when I boxed I had tons of punching power and speed. Since I have been fighting MMA that has only gotten better. Its a totally diff. game tho my friend. You cant compare the two. If u tried i would say the best boxer could never punch as hard as a head kick. now thats some power.

  19. Joe S. on September 7th, 2009 4:06 AM

    If I read this trenchant article correctly, it’s saying that boxing sucks because it involves judges and (sometimes unfair) decision victories.

    Good thing we don’t have subjective judges deciding MMA bouts. Good thing we don’t have obviously biased decisions (Bisping-Hamill).

  20. Brain Smasher on September 9th, 2009 10:26 PM

    Yes the commission appoints the judges. But the corruption comes from boxing promoters having so much invested in a guy over another or their fighter over someone elses guy. That they use their power to enfluence the judging. There is to many people with power trying to take control in boxing. Between each fighter, their manager, the commission, the belt org like WBA for example. Then you have HBO and Showtime. To many people looking out for their best interest with to much at stake to not get some people in your pocket.

    The reason the UFC is different is they have all the control. They get the fights they want made. They own both fighters who are fighting so they win reguardless. There is no need for corruption.They build fighters through favorable styles. Not unqualified bums and phony rankings and records.

    This si why its so important that the UFC stay the #1 promotion in MMA. Anyone who roots for multiple top promtions is a tool who could careless about the sport. Also the more fighters make in MMA the faster it will take MMA to where boxing is. WHere fighters have total control and never risk their big pay day. Think about that the next time you root for Couture and Fedor to get their demands met.

  21. AndyLOckett on September 13th, 2009 7:32 AM

    Boxing is sometime hard to swalow but MMa is sometimes hard to watch with all the blood and rolling around with elbows in the face.But the boxing juges should be asked to explain there decisions in fights like these..

  22. Armond Harris on September 14th, 2009 3:44 PM

    Normal people hate the ground game……? I think if its your 1st time watching MMA and you have 2 submission or wrestlers out there, and they spent alot of time on the ground. yea its going to be boring cause you wont understand or appreciate whats going on. I think people like this should start off watching fighters who stand and bang 70% and ground 30% of the time so they dont become over whelmed by the ground game. And a good friend who knows the game who can explain WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. Everyone here is a MMA fan. Lets considerate less on arguing and more on helping the new fans out with knowledge and the beauty of the sport MMA.

  23. Andrew on April 26th, 2014 3:25 PM

    MMA is only popular cos boxing has become so screwed with peoples greed and people rave on about how great MMA fighters are and that they better than real Martial Artists. Inside a cage and with the rules of course a cage fighter will beat any boxer or Martial artist. Likewise put any top cage fighter in they chosen weight against a good boxer under boxing rules and they would get whipped. And this is bit that I really get mad at is when they dis Martial artists as most MNA fighters even if bigger would of been destroyed if not killed by say people like Ip Man, Wong she lueng who were involved in street fights with no rules. another case if America thinking they have improved things in there arrogance. I mean look a your sports, soccer is like hundred times bigger than them all put together.

  24. Lee Paxton on March 15th, 2017 6:24 AM

    Boxing has been dying since the Ancient Greeks, but always manages to survive, even thrive, and is once again on the rise world-wide; because it’s the ultimate fight-contact sport and MMA is, quite frankly, very inferior–where–well-anywhere; most prizefighters would simply knock the shit out of MMA people; your heavyweight champs against guys like Liston, Tyson, Ernie Shavers; really, forget about it; is MMA really about white men that can’t win in the boxing ring anymore? Remember, America in its heyday, boxing was king. As for MMA, nothing new, the Greeks had it; Pankratia, but both the Greeks and the Romans recognized boxing as a more serious and dangerous form of combat.

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