By Leo Malchugina
I am one of those boxing fans who also enjoys mixed martial arts from time to time and I enjoyed last nights UFC 116 Pay-per-view. I decided to dish out the cash for the UFC 116 Pay-per-view headlined by the return of the heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar vs. the interim heavyweight champ Shane Carwin, in hopes it would be well worth it, and it was.
I have to say this was one of the best UFC cards I’ve ever seen and I’m glad I purchased it. From top to bottom the fights were exciting and competitive and the main event finished with a come from behind win by Brock Lesnar. The UFC recently had a string of horrible PPV cards but they bounced back by stacking their biggest fight of the year Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin with an exciting undercard.
This is one of the things UFC does well and I hope boxing takes notice; the UFC knows how to hype up the undercards and many fans come early because they are emotionally invested in the undercard fights just as much as the main event. Every single one of the undercards kicked butt.
My UFC 116 personal favorites were:
Stephen Bonnar vs. Krzysztof Soszynski this was a back and forth striking match between too big guys at the 205 light heavyweight division, they were throwing leather in combos like lightweight boxers and Bonnar won by TKO.
Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama was another toe to toe brawl, both guys had iron jaws and huge hearts. Chris Leben fought just 2 weeks ago and took the Akiyama fight on short notice after Wanderlei Silva pulled out. Leben won the fight by triangle choke in the final seconds of the third round. I have to admit Chris Leben has one of the best chins I’ve ever seen in any combative sport.
The Main Event: UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin really lived up to the hype and exposed Brock Lesnar’s weaknesses; his striking technique and defense was bad and he can’t fight off of his back but after the first round blitz by Carwin, Lesnar found a way to win in the second round by submitting Carwin via arm triangle.
The card was great and really set a great example of the marketing and publicity that UFC president Dana White invests into building up his fighters and the UFC brand making them recognizable to the American public.
With boxing people only watch the main event and the majority of the time the undercards are boring or non competitive. The promoters only hype up the main event fight and neglect the undercards. When you watch countdown shows for boxing such as HBO 24/7 they only cover the main event fighters story while UFC countdown shows focus on the undercard fighters as well.
The only active boxers that Americans are really familiar with are Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., I could ask people on the street who is the heavyweight boxing champion of the world? and the majority wouldn’t be able to tell you who the heavyweight champions are (Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko are the current dominant heavyweight champions).
The reason why Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are well known is because they were properly marketed by HBO 24/7 , they do media interviews and invest in other business ventures outside of the ring.
Many times I watch boxing with a group of buddies and no one cares about the undercards. The majority of the time they have no clue who the boxers are on the undercard. You don’t see any interviews done with undercard fighters, no promos of them talking right before their fight like they do right before every fight in the UFC.
Sometimes, I wonder if boxing promoters and networks are just too lazy or too greedy to invest into their sport and they are content with their outdated model of promotion. You can’t use an outdated model and expect it to work all the time. We live in an age where you can reach different audiences via internet in turn creating more boxing fans but it seems the boxing promoters are not tapped into the younger market or they refuse to invest extra money to hire a team of marketing experts for publicity and advertising.
I watched the ESPN Friday Night Fights “Demetrius Hopkins vs. Mike Arnaoutis” fight on July 2nd it was a really good competitive boxing match but the 10,000 seat arena looked empty. They put a fight in the Citizens Bank arena in Ontario, California and it looked like only 500 people were in attendance. I am guessing the boxing promoters or ESPN probably took a loss financially renting out the venue and having such a poor turn out. They didn’t even bother marketing that fight at all. The only marketing they probably did consisted of the prehistoric model of putting out some posters on telephone polls and flyers on car windshields spending a few bucks hoping the fight will sell itself.
The bottom line is you can’t expect to make any money if you don’t invest any money, time and effort finding ways to build up your fighters to the mainstream. Boxing promoters and TV networks need to take notice of the UFC and realize how important it is to build up your stable of fighters by using every available avenue from radio, print, TV, and the internet. You just can’t put out a couple of ads in the newspaper or online and expect your fight to sell, you have to get the fighters exposure on TV shows, commercials, interviews and other events so the public becomes interested in them.
Muhammad Ali would have never been considered the greatest if he never did any media interviews or publicity. Do you think Ali would have been a draw or famous if he was just a good fighter who the American public never knew on a personal level? I doubt it. Ali became a global icon because of all his outspoken media interviews and political controversies.
This is why you have to give credit to Floyd Mayweather Jr. he took notice that boxing promoters like Bob Arum weren’t promoting him or marketing him at all and he took matters into his own hands by promoting himself and getting himself on Dancing with the Stars, WWE Wrestlemania, and various other celebrity driven events making him one of the highest PPV grossing boxers today.
Floyd Mayweather knew the importance of being accessible to the media and he took advantage of every opportunity presented to him to promote his name brand. Investing money into marketing your fighters is a chance worth taking and Mayweather Jr. is proof of that, he is not the most exciting fighter in the world but he is well known and people will pay to watch him win or lose.
If boxing wants to stay relevant they need to get with the times and jump on the horse before it’s too late.
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