Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mixed martial arts knocks out boxing

By Joe Maxse

Where has all the boxing gone?

What was once one of this country's mainstream sports is now most often buried in the back of sports pages. Just look at Cleveland. Three recent shows sum up the state of boxing in this town:

Promoters reduced a Dec. 9 professional card at Public Hall to all of three bouts, mismatches at that. The crowd of about 400 received refunds.

A week later, the national amateur championship qualifier at the Salvation Army Boxing Academy on Hough Avenue produced eight entries and three matches.

On Feb. 10, a women's title bout featuring Northfield's Vonda Ward headlined a pro show at Cleveland State's Wolstein Center. Four men's undercard matches ranged from less-than-mediocre to ridiculous.

A different scene will unfold Saturday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

The Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championships will showcase its brand of mixed martial arts matches in "UFC 68."

The event will take place in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,000 and produce a state-record gate approaching $2.7 million. The pay-per-view television buys will fetch millions more.

The monthly UFC mixed martial arts shows - featuring punching, kicking, martial arts and wrestling in a fenced-in octagon, with pounding rock music and video to boot - have become the rage, especially among males 18-35.

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