Thursday, February 8, 2007

In Praise of the Grey

By Matt Wells

Last weekend, Showtime put on one of the more impressive two-fight cards in recent memory, at least on paper. The end result, with Julio Diaz winning over Jesus Chavez when Chavez’s knee gave out, and Chad Dawson’s easy victory over Tomasz Adamek, didn’t quite live up to expectations. But such is the way these things go sometimes in professional sports. Of greater concern for boxing is the fact that so many people didn’t even notice the Showtime show, because they were too busy watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship PPV card going on the same night.

UFC has become something of a bogeyman for boxing over the past couple of years, as its popularity has soared, especially among those demographics crucial for success in just about any public venture: the young and the affluent. Some boxing fans enjoy UFC shows. Others hate the organization with a passion, which some might chalk up to bitterness or jealousy. HBO commentator Jim Lampley tore it apart in a recent interview. Meanwhile, it seems that the general public knows more and more about UFC, and less and less about the sweet science.

Some points about this debate need to be clarified. Mixed martial arts and combat sports had been growing in popularity years before UFC got big. And UFC itself had been struggling for years before being purchased by casino executives Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and boxing promoter Dana White in 2001. UFC is more a reflection of trends that had been slowly emerging, combined with clever marketing. It is not quite the flash in the pan some deriders make it out to be.

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