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Why Boxing is Still the King of Combat Sports

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COMMENTARY | Did Riddick Bowe even throw a single punch in his Muay Thai debut on Friday? It doesn't even matter and, at this point, who wants to go back to review the tape?

Whether he managed to flick out a tired jab or not in his embarrassing two-round TKO loss to Russian unknown, Levgen Golovin, the two-time heavyweight champion of the world was easily thrashed by little more than leg kicks. The former elite boxer, who held legitimate all-time great potential in his prime, limped around the ring in pain from the kicks and eventually flopped to the canvas when his one good leg was kicked out from under him.

The 45-year-old, 300 lb. former boxing star was courted by influential people in the Muay Thai community to lend his name to a card that normally wouldn't have been covered outside of Thailand. Nobody really cared if the bout was competitive. Nobody cared that Bowe had likely never even heard of Muay Thai before the contract was signed or that he had less than a month to become familiar with the ins and outs of the sport.

This wouldn't be the first time that a rival combat sport tried to garbage-pick its way to glory by handing a stack of cash to a former main stage boxer.

The expanding world of mixed martial arts (MMA) has created a market for used and abused ex-boxers who serve as little more than magnets for cheap publicity. Ray Mercer, Ricardo Mayorga, and the rotund king of the four-rounders, Butterbean, have all been lured into cages by MMA promotions eager to feed off their name recognition and some manufactured MMA vs. Boxing beef.

Even the UFC, the undisputed king of non-boxing combat sports, seems all too eager to do some dumpster diving of its own.

The spectacle of an overweight and punchy James Toney, unable to even compete in a boxing ring any more, tossed into the octagon with legendary grappler, Randy Couture at UFC 118 was nauseating. A complete MMA novice, Toney was beaten by submission at 3:19 of the first round, but walked away with a $500,000 payday-twice as much as the next highest paid fighter on the card, Couture.

The blood money paid to Toney was surely considered an advertising expense for a sideshow spectacle aimed at getting some cheap publicity for a UFC product that, at the time, was growing stale.

Far from being irrefutable proof that MMA is better and badder than boxing, it proved that even with sports' mightiest marketing machine behind it, the UFC, when all is said and done, still takes a back seat to boxing in the combat sports world.

Even after a decade of hearing that boxing is dead and/or dying, the world's biggest fighters are still boxers. Both in terms of worldwide recognition and relative drawing power, the UFC is very much a second class citizen in most of the world. And even in the United States, where the boxing game has lost some of its punch, there's still nothing that outsells a main stage boxing pay per view. As a matter of fact, nine of the ten best selling combat sports pay-per-views are boxing events.

UFC president, Dana White has often been quick to attack boxing and its biggest stars, but seemingly only when he's in the middle of a media tour to hype one of his company's shows. The headlines garnered from his attacks on Floyd Mayweather, specifically, tend to keep him in the headlines for days.

White is also way too eager to befriend some prominent boxing figures who enjoy the UFC product, spotlighting them prominently on TV, perhaps trying to create the impression that names such as Mike Tyson are leaving boxing behind in favor of the UFC.

By contrast, boxing promoters don't seem to be the least bit interested in signing elderly, shot former MMA champs to main event PPV bouts. There's no push in boxing to cross-reference itself with the UFC at any level. And even while the UFC's faithful crew of internet disciples screams about boxing being dead, the numbers just don't support this.

Given the UFC's constant nipping at boxing and the MMA world's willingness to use faded former boxers to help sell their product, it can only be assumed that they are still conceding the top spot in combat sports to boxing.

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Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

Sources: MMA-Manifesto, Bleacher Report

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