Floyd “Money for My Lawyers” Mayweather and Manny “No Birth Control” Pacquiao recently fought to a unanimously boring decision in Mayweather’s favor. A total of 229 punches were landed in the fight, which averages to six per minute or 19 per round (a small number compared to the real “fight of the century” Ward v. Gatti in 2002 when those punch-happy crowd-pleasers combined for a staggering average of 17 punches landed per minute and 51 per round). None of Mayweather’s or Pacquiao’s shots were able to induce a knockout, knockdown or even a stumble. People paid tens of thousands of dollars to see the fight live, or hundreds to stream it to their living room. They deserve to see more than jabs, sidesteps and clinches. If that is the best that boxing can provide, it’s safe to say the sport needs help. Yes, that was probably the payoff for the sendoff fight for both elderly pugilists, but can you name two other boxers fighting today that could legitimately provide a “fight of the century?” Boxing hasn’t been entertaining since Ali, it hasn’t been intriguing since the golden days of the 80’s, and it hasn’t been interesting since Tyson bit off Holyfield’s ear. Let’s take a look at a few quick fixes.
1) Make the Gloves Smaller:
Boxing gloves provide lots of additional power. Because of the added weight, they prove more devastating upon impact. Yet, they also provide a way to defend oneself. Let’s get some nice small gloves so that the hands can’t hide the face or body so easily from power punches. Viewers want to see punches land. We watch boxing for the knockouts or for the dazed fury of a comeback. Who wants to pay to watch someone who can dodge a punch? It’s not exciting, nor does it satisfy the bloodthirsty Roman in us to watch boxers “dance.” There’s plenty of crappy reality dance shows for that (Mayweather was on one in 2007). “Wow! Did you see him avoid getting hit?! That was awesome the way he didn’t get a swollen eye.” Nobody cares that you can move out of the way; we want to see how many punches you can give and take!
*Side note—if you dodge all the punches and then knock somebody out with a counter, all is forgiven; however, just avoiding hits for a half hour and then winning on points is not entertaining.
2) Enough with the Punching Already:
Let’s see some kicking and elbows and body slams! Yes, punches can hurt. You know what else hurts? A knee to the gut, an elbow to the nose, a shin to the thigh, a backfist to the temple. We want to see some action, like a real fight. (The unwritten rule in male street fights is nothing to the balls and no pulling hair. Street fights aren’t sweet science; they’re ugly and brutal and the reason why they’re filmed on cellphones and dispersed all over YouTube.) What if there was a sport like that? What if there was a sport where people could use all the beautiful defense of Karate, the marauding attacks of Muay Thai, the grappling techniques of wrestling and Jiu-jitsu, the takedowns of Judo and added them to the subtle ring knowledge and punches of boxing? Imagine Floyd tying up Pacquiao (in a typically boring, completely legal boxing procedure) to slow him down after a long barrage by clinching up, only to see Manny release a head grabbing uppercut or knee strike in retaliation! Imagine a fighter who can anticipate and move away from all the hand strikes, only to be felled by an unexpected, lethally quick front kick to the jaw. That sounds like something I’d like to watch.
3) Rounds Need to Be Longer:
As soon as someone is getting tired and dropping their hands to be open for counter-attack, BELL Rings! Opponents need to be able to abuse that tiredness and weakness. What if instead of twelve 3-minute rounds, we made, say, five 5-minute rounds? It would be a similar amount of total fight time, but then, we could find out how deep the fury and fiery the heart of the fighter really is. How deep can they dig to pull out that final onslaught of ferociousness to finish the fight? Have you ever wrestled with a friend about stealing the last cold beer in the cooler? You’re probably winded after those 30-seconds that felt like an hour. Imagine that times ten!
I know this is wishful thinking, but I think it could help restore the appeal of boxing. Hopefully, someone in a position to fix things takes these ideas seriously and saves boxing before it’s too late and we all start watching something else to satisfy the cruel savages of our baser selves.