Oscar De La Hoya recently spoke on what he felt would be a very positive step for the future of boxing suggesting that having one promoter controlling the majority of fighters would make the sport more accessible to the public:
“We are very transparent with whatever we do with our fighters, and in a way, yes, we do want to take over,” De La Hoya continued. “Well, we don’t want to take control of boxing but we want to do the right thing for the sport. Have one (organization) running it like UFC. It’s very confusing with all these championship belts-my idea would be to have one champion in each division. There should be one heavyweight champion, not 20 like we have have now. Too much confusion. We have to weed out the bad and bring in the good.”
Absolutely there is more to what Oscar is saying than simply what he thinks is best for the sport. Oscar has been in public for a little while now claiming that this single organizational structure is not only what boxing needs (which is hard to argue) but that Golden Boy Promotions should be the “single organization” in question. Not to mention that by being out front on this topic it makes Oscar come across as the one promoter who is looking out for the good of the sport long-term.
Of course, any long time reader of our site is aware that I am a lifelong boxing fan. And certainly I don’t want to spend too much time focusing on boxing here but the above linked article on Boxing Dispatch has some solid information that really should allow us to reflect on the current promotional model for MMA (the UFC in specific) and come to a better understanding of how and why things work.
Such as this piece by Michael Woods about his recent talk with Dana White on The Sweet Science:
I spoke to White on Monday morning (see ESPN piece here: sports.espn.go.com/extra/mma/news/story) and he again mentioned the possibility of cutting a well known veteran, the former heavyweight champion Frank Mir, who, save for a last minute knee-from-hell which dropped foe Mirko Cro Cop, looked like he was getting in some work at the gym during the main event of UFC 119 in Indianapolis on saturday night.
Would he consider cutting Mir, I asked him?
“Sure,” he said, without a second of hesitation.
Not so in boxing. Imagine Bob Arum, Richard Schaefer or Don King being so disgusted after a poor PPV showing that they publicly threatened to dump the headliner. Now, before you jump in with a comment telling me that I am comparing apples and oranges, let me state that we are somewhat comparing apples and oranges. White and UFC are MMA, while boxing is comprised of a load of free agents, jockeying and shoving each other to gain better position. So if Schaefer told the media after Shane Mosley’s last fight that he though SSM had seen better days, and a few days later Schaefer cut him loose, the day after, another promoter would take Shane on, because he’s still bankable. White’s sole interest is the sport, because UFC is the sport. Because 95% of the top athletes in MMA are working for him, he can toss one overboard if he’s not living up to expectations, and his bottom line won’t tank.
Now, I don’t think anyone really takes White seriously in this case. He isn’t cutting Frank Mir any time soon. The fight with Mirko Filipovic was a bad one, there’s no way around that but Mir still has far too much value to the UFC to be in any danger of getting cut. But the UFC is bigger than any single fighter and that allows Dana to be out in the public threatening to cut any under-performing star from Anderson Silva to Frank Mir.
The current promotional model of MMA has allowed the UFC to become a basically untouchable force. Any fighter who they choose to let go becomes stigmatized with the “UFC washout” label which diminishes any future accomplishments and actually damages anyone they beat to an unreal degree. Fedor Emelianenko wasn’t just beat by Fabricio Werdum, he was beat by Fabricio Werdum…a guy who couldn’t cut it in the UFC. Without the UFC blessing your worth is much, much lower and that affects you, your opponents, the promotion you fight for and so on. This isn’t ultimately the worst thing in the world as it gives fighter careers an ultimate destination. Any fighter with any sense is fighting to get to the UFC and eventually to become UFC champion. There is a clear, linear path to the top rather than boxing’s muddled system where a man like Manny Pacquiao only holds 1/4 of the major titles in the division in which he last fought.
This control has, obviously, been largely a positive for the sport and its fans even if there are some aspects that can occasionally make one uncomfortable. And this is something that a boxing promoter like Oscar De La Hoya has to drool over. Even Bob Arum, who called Oscar “pathetic” and “dumb” for suggesting the UFC model, would be lying through his teeth if he said he didn’t want their biggest shows to be driven by the Top Rank name rather than being driven by Manny Pacquiao. Unfortunately for boxing things are too established the way they operate currently and there is too much money for the top individuals to ever see things shift to where a new model is followed that favors the long-term growth of the sport vs. the short-term gains of a small handful. As long as over the long-term we start to see fighter salaries go up as promotional profits rise, the UFC model has proven to be the best thing going in combat sports.
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