The partnership between Golden Boy Promotions and mixed martial arts promoters Affliction has turned more than a few heads, including those at HBO. With the companies planning to put on "at least four" events featuring both boxing and MMA in 2009, I'm getting conflicted feelings about the whole deal.
As a boxing junkie and an MMA fan, too, I can't help but shake the feeling that this is happening because Golden Boy sees a chance to take advantage of the MMA affiliation to promote its boxing. There is nothing wrong with that, but I just don't think Oscar de la Hoya and Richard Schaefer see more than dollar signs. They certainly don't have the passion for MMA that UFC boss Dana White does, and "passion" is a very big deal to the sport's fans. If they smell anything they think is phony, they're going to call you on it. And Oscar's phony baloney demeanor will definitely set off B.S. detectors with fans as passionate and diehard as MMA's patrons tend to be.
Now, like I said, there's nothing wrong with Golden Boy doing something like this to promote their boxers, while Affliction promotes their MMA to a portion of an audience that might never have cared. But as much as I think there should be no feud between the two sports, which I see more as brothers in arms, truly mixing the two also doesn't exactly feel right.
Let me be very frank here: a lot of mixed martial arts fans don't like boxing because they find the sport boring. Hey, that's their right. There's certainly a lot more that can happen in an MMA fight than there is in a boxing ring, so for those looking for more dynamic action, MMA is an obvious choice. Boxing is but a portion of the sport.
If you put fights of both sports on the same card, how do you do it? Do you go back-and-forth? Do you do a boxing show and then put up a cage for an MMA show, or vice versa [ed. note (ed. is me!): I stupidly forgot that Affliction is using a ring]? The fact is that outside of the infamous Shamrock-Severn II (which happened 13 years ago) and scattered other bouts, "boring" MMA fights soundly trump "boring" boxing matches, because there's generally something going on, and because the fights are shorter. I realize this is hardly a scientific way of analyzing the differences of the sports, but I think you get what I mean. All I'm saying is that if Golden Boy puts crap fights on a mixed card, the fights and the sport of boxing itself will look terrible.
The thing that most worries me is that despite this being a somewhat novel idea --especially considering the size of Golden Boy and the potential of Affliction should it continue to get help the way it has so far -- I can feel it being terrible already. Something doesn't seem genuine about the whole partnership. Affliction is reaching out because they're not going to survive long trying to pay world-class fighters (and bands like Megadeth) without any dedicated fanbase that is sold on their product and believes in what they do. People are interested, but they're not Affliction fans, if that makes sense. Golden Boy is offering a hand for that reaching out because they're in a position to do so...and maybe milk some money out of the whole thing.
Thing is, should this bomb, Golden Boy will be around in 2010. Affliction may well not be.
Dan Rafael reported the other day that when Affliction's October 11 show was cancelled, Golden Boy and Affliction tried to get the scheduled main event between heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett onto the October 18 pay-per-view main evented by Kelly Pavlik and Bernard Hopkins, both men who have official Affliction-brand t-shirts of their own. According to Rafael, HBO and co-promoter Top Rank turned them down.
That decision, while interesting, gives me some feeling of validation for thinking Golden Boy won't know quite how to do this right. Putting Arlovski-Barnett on a card is one thing, because it's a big fight between well-known fighters. But to have them share a pay-per-view card with Bernard Hopkins? How many MMA fans that pulled out some cash to see their fight and give boxing a shot (perhaps yet another shot) would come out of that one feeling disappointed and 50 dollars lighter if Hopkins fights like Hopkins?
It's all worth a shot, I suppose, and could benefit both companies and both sports if handled perfectly. But anything less than perfect will probably snowball into downright bad territory, and then nobody wins.