DiBiase: Can boxing put up a good fight against MMA?

Justin Dibiase

Boxing is cemented into the landscape of American culture. Through the good and the bad boxing has kept the pulse of America beating. Some of the most beloved, recognizable celebrities come from the world of boxing. If Muhammad Ali never became heavyweight champion, would the world ever have learned the great ideas and lifestyle of Ali the person? Where would the silver screen be without Rocky?

Boxing is more than just a sport. Boxers give us hope. They arise from city streets and rickety gyms to tell their underdog story to the millions. They show us what heart, glory and pride truly mean. They give us hope that no matter how much we want to give up and fall to the mat, we always have a chance to “go the distance with Creed.”

Enter mixed martial arts. Its rise in popularity has brought about questions over the future of boxing in the United States. MMA is a breath of fresh air for combat fighting enthusiasts. It is pure blood, sweat and tears (okay, not so much the latter). Its foundations hover around amateur wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They do not offer mega-celebrities or recognizable faces, yet ratings and pay-per-view buy rates have never been higher. Many of the athletes in MMA did not come from the mean streets; a high percentage of fighters have high-profile collegiate wrestling backgrounds.

Imagine Muhammad Ali dancing across a caged octagon, taunting his prey, Randy “The Natural” Couture. Couture stares deeply into Ali’s eyes, ready to strike like a rattlesnake at any time. Many experts argue over which is the superior sport in terms of sheer athleticism. Could a mixed martial artist step into the squared circle and box at a high level? Could a boxer succeed using more than just their hands in the octagon? Some argue that an MMA fighter would not fair well against boxers in a boxing ring because they often rely heavily on their mat skills. The toughness of boxers is often questioned in comparison to that of the MMA world. The brutality factor of boxing knockouts pales in comparison to MMA knockouts. By the way, “knockout” in MMA is often a literal term.

There are several differences that athletes transitioning from boxing to MMA (or vice versa) must account for. Boxers generally are better conditioned than MMA fighters. Boxers have to be prepared to last 12 three-minute rounds. Fights are often won and lost in the gym during the weeks and months leading up to the fight. On the other hand, MMA fights have three to five five-minute rounds. MMA fighters are usually more concerned with not getting decapitated rather than lasting five rounds.

In boxing, fighters are trained to “keep distance” from their opponent so that they can have adequate space to extend their arms for punches. This is why a fighter’s “reach” is so important in boxing. In MMA, fighters are trained to split the distance and get as close to the opponent as possible because their ultimate goal is often to get their opponent on the mat in a compromising position.

In terms of popularity, MMA is gaining on boxing because of its accessibility. Prize fights in boxing cost the consumer around $50, and the title fights don’t last 10 minutes at times. MMA organizations such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship have big fights on cable television. Their weekly broadcasts lure consumers into buying their pay-per-views, as well.

MMA enthusiasts wonder if boxers could take a punch from something other than a boxing glove. Many MMA fighting outlets make their athletes wear thinly-padded gloves. The difference between those gloves and boxing gloves is comparable to getting hit by a tricycle versus a bus.

Earlier this year, famed boxer Floyd Mayweather gave his opinion of UFC fighters. “UFC’s champions can’t handle boxing,” Mayweather said. “That’s why they are in UFC. Put one of our guys in UFC and he’d be the champion. Any good fighter, he’d straight knock them out.”

UFC president Dana White responded to Mayweather’s claim. “Boxers couldn’t become mixed martial artists,” White countered. “That’s why they’re boxers. They are one trick ponies. Our guys can do everything. They can box, they can kick box, they can wrestle and do jiu-jitsu. They are much better athletes than boxers.”

If trends continue, American boxing may soon become extinct and all that will remain will be memories and nostalgia from a once unparalleled sport.


Justin DiBiase is a junior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]