Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Come On, Tell Us How You Really Feel!


I was startled to read this article quoting World Boxing Council president José Sulaimán expressing his distaste for mixed martial arts. Here are three choice quotes from Mr. Sulaimán.
  • "I oppose 100 percent this ultimate fighting. It has taken boxing to the era of the caveman and the Roman circus."
  • "These are not ancient times. This fighting is fed to those fans who like aggression, blood and illegality. They are not boxing fans. Boxing fans have class."
  • "There should be more control over these [MMA] fights, they should not be accepted. They are intended crimes accepted by bloody people who love this savage fighting."
Yeow. Savage? Aggression? Blood? Illegality? That's some pretty strong language to describe MMA. He could have just said he didn't like it. He didn't have to say it was "savage." On the other hand, at least Sulaimán doensn't leave us guessing about his opinion.

I have mixed feelings about mixed martial arts. I think MMA is fine as long as it's kept safe and the fighters aren't exploited by people out to take advantage of them. It's not my first choice of sport, but I would like to learn some good grappling and ground-fighting techniques to complement my skills as a boxer.

As for taking "boxing to the era of the caveman and the Roman circus," I respectfully disagree. Mr. Sulaimán is certainly entitled to his opinion, an opinion that is based on a hell of a lot more experience and knowledge about the sport than I have. Even so, boxing certainly had its share of problems long before MMA began its ascent as a popular sport. Ironically, Sulaimán himself has been instrumental in resolving some of those problems. Of course, he has his critics and one can certainly debate whether some of the changes he has effected are truly reforms. Nevertheless, the problems existed before and independently of MMA.

Regardless of whether one likes MMA or dislikes it, I don't think it's fair to blame boxing's problems on the newer sport. During the last year, I've read countless articles and debates about how MMA was going to eclipse boxing, while various enthusiastic fans predicted gleefully that boxing would simply fade into oblivion. I haven't seen that happen, and I don't think it will happen. MMA's organizations are experiencing difficulties, just as boxing's organizations have. Each sport needs to clean up its own house and there is no reason for blame; both of them can coexist without a problem, in my not-so-humble opinion.

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