The writers and editors at BloodyElbow and BadLeftHook don't believe in the line of thinking that Boxing and MMA are engaged in a "There can be only one" Highlander-esque war. In the coming months you will see occasional features that cross the border between MMA and Boxing as well as other "joined up" work between the two sites.
Up first: a look at the recent finale of The Contender and its similarities to the finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter as well as the turning point in the sport it may represent.
Life and a general hatred for past seasons of The Contender got in the way of my watching the live finale on ESPN Tuesday. As much as I love boxing I had no plans to watch the card live or on a re-broadcast. Once 9:45pm rolled around and my phone started blowing up with messages from Scott (SC) saying things like "Oh my god! The Contender finale is a war!" "This is a great fight!" I decided it was time to get home and set the TIVO to catch the replay.
Last night I finally had the time to sit down and turn on my TV long enough to watch a few fights. All I can say is...Scott wasn't lying.
To put it simply, it was just an absolute war. Did Bika win just about every round en route to getting the 8th round stoppage win? Yeah, absolutely. Were the majority of the punches in the big exchanges looping and thrown without proper form? They sure were. Does it matter? Absolutely not.
If ESPN continues to push the replays of this fight it can become a watershed moment for boxing. The Contender and boxing as a sport may have just had its "Griffin/Bonnar."
For those of you unfamiliar with MMA and the UFC's reality program The Ultimate Fighter specifically...
The first season of The Ultimate Fighter ended with a live light heavyweight final between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin. The finale was broadcast on Spike TV and was the first time a non-PPV UFC event was available live.
The two put on an absolute war that a lot of people consider to be one of (if not THE) best MMA fights ever. Before any of my BloodyElbow brethren call me out on it, let me quickly say that I don't consider Bonnar/Griffin to be the best fight ever, nor one of the ten best fights ever. There were times where it broke down into sloppy brawling (what Kid Nate likes to call a "bad kickboxing match"). It was, however, one of the most entertaining brawls I've ever seen.
Regardless of it's standing as an all-time great fight, it is arguably the single most important moment for American mixed martial arts. For the first time MMA was easily accessible, the reality TV aspect was used to introduce people to the sport and in the finals two of the best personalities from the show met in a classic fight. As Dana White (president, UFC) and Spike TV like to point out ratings increased as the fight went on; a sign of the "calling tree effect" where a friend calls someone to say "are you watching this?" they turn it on and call a friend...etc.
The UFC was in a healthy place and on the rise image-wise prior to The Ultimate Fighter's premier on Spike but anyone who says that TUF (and more specifically the finale) didn't raise the profile of the sport in the common American's eyes is either a moron or a liar.
Bika/Codrington can and should be boxing's version of this. ESPN needs to push the fight out there and really get across that the sport is still relevant in today's culture. With fights like DLH/Mayweather having happened recently and some of the upcoming great-on-paper fights it will be interesting to see if PPV buy rates and TV ratings are up at all for events like Saturday's intriguing Cotto/Mosely card. It may not have that immediate of an impact on the sport but in the long-term ESPN has the ability to do a lot for the sport by pushing this fight, The Contender's next season, and all boxing cards.
Regardless of what happens going forward, boxing had a moment this past Tuesday. If you haven't yet seen it, do yourself a favor and find the time.