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MMA and Queensbury: Clash of Cultures

by Lee Robertson

The hype surrounding the Mayweather vs McGregor bout is already at fever pitch, without an interview, without an official press release, without trying to sell us this boxing match, fight fans are already sold, on what looks like becoming the biggest PPV event in sports history. Contracts have allegedly been signed and both parties have begun their respective training camps. With a 12 month run-up to the eventual official announcement, it's not surprising that this boxing match has already created a clamour not seen in the boxing world for over a generation.

But why is that? Why has a match between an undefeated pound for pound boxing legend and a boxing novice, captured the imagination of the public so completely? Is this just another boxing bout? Or is there a deeper meaning to this fight?

MAYWEATHER VS MCGREGOR

In the strictest terms, as a boxing bout, on paper, this match should not happen. In amateur and professional boxing gyms around the world, match makers are shaking their heads in disbelief (not least Mickey Helliet! Ed).

McGregor has no amateur or professional boxing experience, outside of sparring.

His MMA record (although many would argue that it's irrelevant to this bout) stands at 21 wins vs 3 losses; a solid record for an MMA fighter, but not amazing. That is in stark contrast to Mayweather, who was born into a boxing dynasty. Mayweather boxed as a child and was an Olympian as an amateur, is undefeated as a professional and has won 15 world titles in four weight classes; he is widely considered to be one of the best boxers of all time, With a record of 49 wins with 29 KO’s.

So where is the match?

BOXING VS MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

MMA via the conduit of the UFC has come to dominate the world of the ‘fight fan’. With genuine world class boxing matches often not being made by fight managers and promoters, because of the inherent risks to fighters careers; the UFC has stepped into the void. There is no political squabbling between sanctioning bodies. In the UFC, the champ is the champ and he fights the best until he gets beat.

The UFC production values and standards have raised the bar in terms of event management and spectacle. Their events are scheduled every two months and there is at least one and often up to three world titles on the line; boxing cannot compete with the slick professionalism of Dana White and the UFC. The WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO do not even seem to accept the idea that they are in competition (a fight), let alone that they are losing.

The tragedy is that It is at a grass roots level, that boxing is the heaviest loser. Where once, council estate kids would learn to fight in boxing gyms so over crowded they barely had space to skip; they now learn to apply choke holds and arm locks in MMA gyms that teach BJJ, Maui Thai, wrestling and boxing.

Why learn one art when you can learn them all?

Why learn to box when you can learn to fight?

And it is this question, that is the central question that the Mayweather vs McGregor fight seeks to answer. Is boxing a martial art? Can it be mastered by a martial artist, as easily as attaining a black belt in karate? By practising movement and form (known as Kata in Japanese) Or is boxing intrinsically different? As a fighting art does boxing operate on a different level? Are instincts and reactions rather than form, precision and economy of movement the deciding factors?

THE FIGHT

When two boxers meet in a ring there evolves between them an ebb and flow - One acts, the other reacts – but within these constraints there is room to manoeuvre, not so much physically as mentally. The boxer with the shortest distance between thought and movement, between instinct and action is always the victor.

Mayweather is a master of this art; in some fights he has actually elevated the sport of boxing to a higher plateau. He hits without being hit, can move and counter with amazing dexterity, but can stand in the pocket and trade against Canelo, De La Hoya, Hatton all world champions and not take a single shot in return.

In MMA the tempo is different, it's slower, there is more to consider, legs, knees, elbows,

As well as fists.

Then there is the ‘ ground game’. A Whole martial art (Brazilian Ju Jitsu) dedicated to the practice of fighting on the ground, of employing grips, chokes, triangles, arm bars- of forcing your opponent to submit to your will.

McGregor is MMA’s crown prince.

Holding both the lightweight and Featherweight titles at the same time. He is an accomplished and skilful martial artist, who has demonstrated a fighters heart repeatedly in the octagon. He is also known as an incredibly hard puncher with a finishers instinct.

Can he learn to be as good as Mayweather at boxing by 26th August?

In my opinion… no.

Boxing reflexes take years to build, years to hone, yet more years to perfect and even then, there are no promises of a victory over Mayweather. Ask Pacquiao, Hatton, De La Hoya, Canelo, Chavez etc… They all boxed for years at an elite level before meeting Mayweather, they all suffered the same fate.

MMA as a fighting (self defence) art, is in my opinion far superior to boxing. If McGregor and Mayweather were to meet in a car park, back alleyway or on the card of a 1970’s unlicensed show, McGregor would win within 2 minutes. This match is however being fought under the marquis of Queensbury rules; rules Mayweather mastered as a child.

Posted: 1st Jul 2017

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