In the wake of UFC 229 and one of the biggest fights in MMA history ending in a wild brawl complete with camps rushing the cage to throw sucker punches and arrests, the internet was filled with Very Good Takes about Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov.
But perhaps no take was quite as hot as this from Bill Center:
I like boxing. I don't like MMA and the UFC. If you can't understand my position, the debacle in Las Vegas Saturday night pretty much explains it. Disgraceful. Past and present actions/antics of Khabib Nurmagomedov or Conor McGregor not what champions are about. Thugs!— Bill Center (@PadresCentral) October 8, 2018
Having covered combat sports for much of my adult life and loving both sports, I think I can safely say any claim boxing has a moral high ground when it comes to out-of-competition violence is wildly off base.
So, let’s take a moment to celebrate — or at least acknowledge — boxing’s history of wild violence outside the bell.
Even Nurmagomedov’s flying leap to attack McGregor’s camp has a shadow version in boxing’s history, with Larry Holmes throwing a flying dropkick at Trevor Berbick after jumping off a limousine.
We’re roughly a year and a half removed from Andre Dirrell’s uncle attempting to get some bare-knuckle sucker-punch justice on Jose Uzcategui following Uzcategui controversially being disqualified for a hit after the bell in round eight.
In another serious moment, James Butler committed assault on ESPN when he blasted Richard Grant with taped fists following their 2001 bout. Butler would go on to actually murder his own friend in 2004.
Zab Judah hit Floyd Mayweather low in Round 10 of their 2006 bout, leading both camps to brawl in the ring. Of course, the fighters went on to complete the final two rounds of the contest.
It was a moment that immediately called to mind the brawl between fighters, corners, crowd and bystanders when Andrew Golota was disqualified for low blows in his first fight with Riddick Bowe in 1996.
Even press conferences aren’t immune with a mile-long list of press conference brawls including Bowe cracking Larry Donald with a two-piece sucker punch, Marco Antonio Barrera getting his own in on Erik Morales, the infamous nonsense between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson.
Ultimately, the takeaway should be that every sport has its share of embarrassing, violent and borderline criminal activity (do we need to talk about how the “acceptable” action in baseball is to throw a fastball at a man if he dares to watch his own home run?).
And, especially in the fight game, there’s no high ground to be had, just a lot of violent goofs wandering the same flat desert.