These days, the best advertisement for the UFC is a boxing fight. The bigger, the better. Only the biggest boxing fights get our attention, and when a big one finally comes around -- as it did Saturday when Manny Pacquiao fought Shane Mosley -- we watch it or read about it. And we are reminded:
This is why the UFC is moving ahead of boxing.
If you watched Mosley run from Pacquiao for 12 rounds, you know what I'm talking about. If you didn't, here you go. Those are the "highlights," such as they are. It's Pacquiao moving forward, and Mosley moving backward. It's one fighter trying his best not to get knocked out, and to that end, Mosley succeeded. Pacquiao took the unanimous decision, sweeping every round on two of the three judges' cards, but Mosley did what he wanted to do. He survived 12 rounds. In a sense, he won.
Boxing almost always loses on a night like this, because the fight rarely lives up to the hype. The best thing about a big boxing fight nowadays is the series of pre-fight specials leading up to it. You get to watch Pacquiao and Mosley train. Hear them talk. See who they are as people. It's riveting TV.
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And then they fight. Revolting TV.
And all for the low price of $54.99! That's how much the Pacquiao-Mosley fight cost on pay-per-view, and for those of you who bought it ... what were you thinking? Is that what you wanted, 12 rounds of sparring? That's what boxing PPV fights have become. Pacquiao is said to be the hardest hitter in the sport, but this Mosley fight wasn't an aberration. It was typical. His last three fights have gone the distance, a trend all over boxing.
At the highest level -- the only level people watch boxing anymore -- fights rarely end in a knockout. Four of the best American fighters today barely finish anyone anymore. Light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins has seen his last 10 fights go to a decision. Keep in mind that Hopkins is 46 years old, but he's still considered by some to be a top-five fighter in the pound-for-pound category, because there simply aren't that many good young fighters anymore. Not in boxing. The best young athletes are drawn to mixed martial arts, and I say that with personal knowledge. I happen to be a boxer myself, with four amateur fights under my belt and 12 rounds of sparring as recently as Saturday morning, but younger fighters prefer MMA. I've worked out in gyms all over the place, and that's a fact.
Check out the ages of fighters in that pound-for-pound link. The top six are 32 or older. Lightweight Juan Manuel Marquez, age 37, has knocked out 38 opponents, but just three of his past eight. Light welterweight champion Timothy Bradley is the youngest fighter in the top 10 at age 27, and he has a 27-0 record -- but he hasn't knocked out anyone in more than four years, a span of nine fights.
Is that what you want to see? Of course not. At its best boxing is a cerebral sport, but we're drawn to it for the violence. At the top of the food chain, though, most boxers fight conservatively. Pursuing another fighter with the fury required to knock him out? That makes you vulnerable. With a handful of exceptions -- Pacquiao being one -- most champion boxers refuse to make themselves vulnerable. They'd rather win by decision.
The UFC isn't like that. Buy a pay-per-view event offered by the UFC, and you'll see anywhere from six to 10 fights, all of them riveting TV, because you can't look away. Believe me, I've done it. I've run to the kitchen for a refill, and in the 10 seconds my eyes strayed from the TV to the fridge, the fight ended. It happens. All the time.
And that's why mixed martial arts will continue to climb this country's sports hierarchy. We're an ADD-addled population -- guilty as charged -- and we want action. Boxing gives us some. MMA gives us more. It's as simple as that.
And here I'll entertain the other side, just to squash it. I'll entertain the argument that the best MMA fighter in the world, UFC 170-pound champion Georges St. Pierre, has been unable to finish his past four opponents, or five of his past six. And it's true. But when GSP fights on pay-per-view, we're not spending $44.99 just to watch GSP. We get six or seven other fights, and to use GSP's most recent appearance on April 30 as an example, one of those fights ended when Lyoto Machida knocked out Randy Couture with a foot to the face. Another fight ended in 20 seconds when Vladimir Matyushenko knocked out Jason Brilz with an uppercut. Four other fights ended in the first round, the finishes coming so fast, one after another, that the UFC was able to squeeze in fights from the unaired portion of the card between the live fights on the PPV schedule.
That's MMA. That's the UFC. Fights end so quick, they have to show you more.
Pacquiao-Mosley? That's boxing. The fight lasted as long as it possibly could. Maybe the PPV folks aired undercard fights after Pacquiao and Mosley were finished, but I wouldn't know. By then my TV was off.