Many MMA fans on the internet assume that boxing doesn't really have a place in their sport. In my opinion, there is not nearly enough data to reach a conclusion at this time. That said, I firmly believe that boxing is highly valuable in self-defense, so I see no reason to think it would be any less effective as a base than wrestling. The kayo punch can be dilvered with either hand, from many different angles.
Boxing has over 100 years of men being pulverized on film, so we know what works. It can be argued that the jab is the most important offensive move in all of fighting because of it's efficiency, strength and suddenness. This can be true for grapplers, too, as it makes for a great feint, or entry shot while closing the distance, especially when doubled or tripled. One could also argue that this fundamental weapon is the most glaring omission when it comes to mixed martial arts competition.
In time the quality of the boxing in MMA will rise. Reasons for this include the hyper-evolution of the fighters, the growth of the sport and the money that will attract young boxers (and unfortuntely more old ones). Things are moving along. The Heavyweight Champion of the World, Junior Dos Santos, is a boxer, for the most part. Former Lightweight Champions, Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn have demonstrated some higher level skills over the years. Welterweright Champ, Georges St. Pierre became even harder to beat when he learned how to jab. Anderson Silva is seen by most as the greatest MMA fighter of all time and his head movement has roots in classic stand-your-ground boxing.
Still, I think it is fair to say that the striking has a ways to go if it is going to catch up to the level of grappling we see in MMA. By the way, how annoying is when you get all excited to see two decorated grapplers go at it, and then you end up watching them engage in a hopeless kick boxing match for 15-25 mins?
Anyway, since I've been watching and casually practising boxing and mixed martial arts for the same amount of time (1995- Boxing: Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield 3 / 1996- MMA: UFC 1* -rented tapes from video store as a 14 year old, so don't worry, I'm not QUITE as cool as you) I've always wondered how champion boxers would do with the 4 ouncers, and I know I'm not the only one out there, so I decided to put together a list of boxers who could have done well in MMA.
First of all, not all boxers are suited for that type of fighting. The ones who could succeed would have to possess the right blend of physical and stylistic attributes that would make them naturally difficult to ground, so I kept this in mind while creating the list. The takedown is going to be enemy #1 for these guys, because they are going to be finished most of the time. However, the best fighters have a unique durability, so "ground and pound" tactics aren't likely to be the finishing threat that submissions would be. The last thing you want is for them to get a fresh 5 minutes, starting on the feet.
The other big problem for fighters who are only trained to receive blows above the waist is being kicked in the legs. It really sucks. They're gonna hate it. So let's give them a bit of education on how to check those, since it's easy enough to learn.
It's just for FUN, people!!!
The boxers that I have chosen also demonstrated punching power throughout their careers. Maybe not one punch knock out highlight reel stuff, but hurtful bangers get the nod over cuties, here. I think being able to finish the fight at any second is going to be an advantage they'll need under these rules.
So "let's get it on". Here are 11 boxers who I think could have been good MMA fighters:
David Tua: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49HmzuXu9DI&feature=related
Many of those familiar with this Samoan "Terminator" would say that he never lived up to his potential. That may be the case, but he still did his share of damage while delivering plenty of entertainment in the form of sickening KOs. Tua was similar to MMA's "Super Somoan" Mark Hunt, in that he had short arms, a hard head, tree trunk legs and really heavy hands. At 5'9 and 220-240lbs, you're not gonna want to get too close to this guy. Taking him down wouldn't be the easiest thing to do either as most of his weight was distributed throughout his absurdly massive thighs. Tua also had as many late knock outs as early ones, so he was dangerous at all times.
Jack Dempsey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmaPxa-eZss
When he started fighting, boxing pretty much was MMA. The sport had just transitioned to the gloved era and new rules were being established, but it was still a very rough game, rife with the sort of clinch fighting we sometimes hear called "dirty boxing". Dempsey hit you as hard as he could, wherever and whenever and truly never stopped coming. This is why he was the most popular and highest paid athlete in the world at one point. If you want to get a grasp on what it must have been like to fight a guy like this... you know when Wanderlei Silva smells blood? Jack fought like that every single round, moving his head constantly in between bombs. Put him in the octagon with Dan Henderson, get comfortable and just enjoy the carnage, my friend.
Joe Louis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPQlNhGMlGQ
I'm gonna say something right now that I want you to take very seriously, okay? Ready? All right. Ahem...
Joe Louis Barrow is, pound-for-pound, the hardest hitting man who has ever lived.
You know what? On second thought, I love MMA too much. It has struggled enough. Someone would get killed in there if Louis landed one of his short ones to the chin and that would be horrible for the sport.
Joe Frazier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7Ue-dtzzQQ&feature=related
Smokin' Joe was about the toughest man ever, so it's hard to imagine anyone at 205 making him blink with a strike. He was another of those non-stop bobbing and weaving, soul-taking machines. A fighter who realized that being short was as much of an advantage as being tall, so long as he was in command of where the fight taking place. In the clinch, up against the ropes, and at close range, he was the boss, with ferocious hooks upstairs and down, until his man melted to the canvas. Jon Jones is a fine champion, but he would find that the lights seem to burn just a little bit hotter when Joe Frazier is baring down on ya. How would Bones have handled Manila or Madison Square Garden? He may start the fight at 6'4, but he wouldn't finish it that way.
George Foreman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoL5jIgJ4-g&feature=fvwrel
If Louis is the hardest hitter P4P, then "Big" George is the most brutal puncher in history. The guy had knockout in his "telephone pole jab", for crying out loud. The young version tipped the scales at 220 lbs, while the old version came in as high as 260. Both were major powerhouses. I had the honour of standing near Foreman once, and even at 60, his arms were bigger than my head. Just a huge individual who had been an athlete his entire life. Before one of his fights on HBO they showed Foreman in his mid 40s pulling a jeep up hills. I'm just gonna go ahead and say that Dos Santos wouldn't want to get into a shoot-out with this Texan.
Rocky Marciano: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqM_X01BnfA
Rock was 195 lbs or so in his day, which would make him a middleweight in the UFC (when he competed, weigh-ins were on the day of the fight, so no big weight cutting like today) but he hit like a legit heavyweight and could really take a belting, too. He may have been 5'10 or so, but in the ring he was more like 5'5, as he was a fighter who moved his head, got low and swarmed the other fellow, often leaning on him just to take that little something extra. In close, "The Brockton Blockbuster" was famous for smashing opponents with heavy blows on the hips, elbows, shoulders... whatever he coud get his mitts on. And if the other guy tried to hold on for a breather, they'd be catching a beating instead.
That's it for the heavyweights. I know, I know... you were all waiting for Mike Tyson. Too bad! His inside game is overrated (Holyfield outmuscled and outworked him in close) and he never showed the grit that the guys above did. Sure, he'd smash a few faces, but he'd also let ya down when he didn't have it his way. And he wouldn't under these circumstances.
Here are a few smaller guys who could have made the transition successfully:
Gene Fullmer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-sW4dqH6OQ
Fullmer was not loved by everyone during his time at the top. Many fans and writers disliked his rough style of fighting. Personally, I love it. Gene was an example of a scrapper who knew what he brought to the table and went to work with it. If boxing was a beauty contest he never would have been Middleweight Champion, but he was able to grind his way to the the belt more than once against gifted fighters because he simply wore them down. Watching him go to work on the poor bastard who got muscled into the ropes is beautiful if you're into watching grown men get rag-dolled and smacked around mercilessly. Which I am.
Tommy Hearns: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZdLJAYzV9M
"The Motor City Cobra" or "The Hitman" was a 6'2 and 147 lbs of fast-twitch muscle. Today, he could have fought at 135 and would have huge height and reach over everyone. As we have covered though, that isn't necessarily an advantage... unless you also happen to have great wheels, a long, stinging jab, blinding speed and all-time great punching power. It wouldn't be fair. Dominick Cruz, the diminuitive Urijah Faber and company would have to start shooting for the takedown from halfway across the ring. I should also mention that Hearns was still a very good fighter and hard hitter all the way up to 175lbs, so he could compete in multiple weight classes.
Roberto Duran: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqSq7XbSQkA
"Hands of Stone" is seen by most as the greatest 135 lb fighter ever and a top 10 all time great in the history of the sport. He started out as a bull who just tore through everyone with immense pressure and terrifying power, but evolved into a very crafty counterpuncher. I rarely say this about any fighter, but he could do it all in the squared circle. Duran could box on a dime or just chase the guy across the ring, dig his hooks in and make things ugly. There's not a fighter in MMA who could deal with him standing and I don't think you could count on him to obey the rules if it went to the ground. He'd take things back to the "No Holds Barred" Days and bring back those horrible memories of Keith Hackney vs Joe Son. Don't believe me? He won the title with a nut shot.
Henry Armstrong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzA68zatfaQ
"Homicide Hank" is in a two-man competition for the title of Greatest Boxer Of All Time with Sugar Ray Robinson. 150 wins, 101 KOs. He was Joe Frazier's fighting idol and he learned a lot from watching Jack Dempsey, which gives you an idea of how he fought. The crazy thing is that he came even harder than those two. Opponents were forced to fight him on the inside, one way or another, because he just didn't give them a choice. Round after round he drove into opponents, stuck his head on their chest or shoulder and chopped away with both hands, until something broke. I've seen a fair bit of footage and all I can really say is he was a madman. Armstrong truly didn't care about getting hit in the face. Pretty much the scariest opponent anyone can fight is a guy who never, ever stops. And that's true if you fight in a square or an octagon or an alley.
I hope you enjoyed my list. If you can think of any other boxers who could have been ssuccessful in the octagon or MMA ring, please let me know.