Adapt or Die – How Boxing Needs to Change to Survive in Modern Fighting Sports
This weekend Manny Pacquiao suffered a very controversial loss to Timothy Bradley, which has given boxing a lot of flack for being “rigged”. This hasn’t been the only complaint, as the boxing business is way behind the times in terms of promotion and fighter opportunities. In terms of women’s boxing, the opportunity for fights and promotions are even worse.
A lot has to do with the old guard in boxing. Boxers’ management, for the most part, has been the promoter for their boxers’ fights. This at times has made it a huge conflict of interest. The Pacquiao-Bradley fight is an example of this. A rumor went around that Pacquiao was leaving his current management company, which is an obvious biased when they were the ones promoting the fight. Management also sees dollar signs in a rematch scenario. Bradley was passing out re-match flyers to the public a few weeks before the fight. Corruption in terms of influencing judges on which way to decide is way more tempting in these scenarios. Not to mention the commissions banking on rematches to bring them money in terms of promotional fees.
The current MMA model has been the example most fight fans give as a way of boxing to change in the new millennia. Under the model, management and promotion is separate. This allows the promotion to be unfettered when it comes to match outcomes. If there is an injustice, most of the blame falls on the commission judges. It would also be at the promotion’s digression to give out rematches. No automatic rematches before the fight takes place. No hand picking opponents for fighters. Plus the best fighters will face the best fighters.
Another advantage is promoting more fights rather than banking on one premium fight. A lot of people felt “ripped off” in the Pacquiao-Bradley fight; not to mention the quick Mike Tyson KO’s of the 80’s. If that does happen on a UFC card, there is opportunity that another fight will make the card worth it.
There has also been a huge gap between top tier fighters and mid-carders in boxing. While Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are getting paid tens of millions of dollars for fights, many mid-carders are only getting a few thousand. MMA promoters tend to give a closer pay scale to main card fighters, while giving fight of the night bonuses to those who perform well. More fighters benefit for less money.
In terms of women in the sport, many boxing promoters are not taking the opportunity to bring something different to the table. With the popularity of female MMA fighters in the past few years, tv ratings for their matches have been stronger than a lot of male fighters. European and South American boxing promoters are taking notice, but theU.S.has yet to catch on. Many of the top marketable fights in the sport, including Holm vs. Mathis and Martin vs.St. John, haven’t got a tv deal, or even a streaming deal.
Unless boxing doesn’t change the way it does business soon, it will become a dinosaur and continue to lose ground over MMA. With the influx of new promoters on the scene, we can only hope they see a new way to take the sport into this century.