Muhammad Ali fought professional wrestler Antonio Inoki more than 30 years ago in what turned out be a comic attempt to prove who would win when a boxer fought a wrestler.
The question still remains on the minds of fight fans, who these days frequently debate the boxer vs. mixed martial artist proposition.
K.J. Noons has a unique perspective on the issue, though, since he's not only an active competitor in both sports but has made it a goal to win a world title in each.
Noons, a lightweight MMA fighter who takes on Edson Berto in the main event of a Showtime-televised card Friday night at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif., is 4-2 in MMA and 7-1 with five knockouts in boxing.
He's got a long way to go to reach his dreams, but he's not the type to give up easily. "Why not set your goals high?" Noons asked. "You never reach greatness if you don't chase it. I understand what I'm facing.
"It's difficult enough to win a title in one sport – it's pretty hard even to get a chance to win one – and I know it's harder in two. But I'm not afraid of the work or of the commitment. I think I'm good at both, so I'm going to go for it."
Elite XC promoter Gary Shaw, who is also a boxing promoter, said he encouraged Noons to try to cross over and become a champion in both.
He conceded that he was caught up in the hype when he signed Noons and said he was shocked when Noons was stopped in the first round by Charles "Crazy Horse" Bennett in February.
"When I got him, he was one of the most hyped fighters out there and, honestly, I thought I was signing a killer fighter," Shaw said of Noons. "I was the most shocked guy in the arena was he was knocked out, close to cold, by Crazy Horse. I'm not giving up on the kid by any means, but I was surprised.
"But he's very sincere and he's obviously got a lot of confidence in himself. I didn't have to ask him twice if he wanted to fight Berto and anyone who knows this sport knows how highly regarded Berto really is."
Shaw said Berto is on the same level as an MMA prospect as his brother, Andre, is as a boxing prospect. Andre Berto is one of the elite prospects in boxing and is moving inexorably toward a world title.
There are a lot more questions surrounding Noons coming off the loss to Bennett, but he insists he's made the adjustments and is ready to defeat Berto.
He didn't come out as hard as he should have against Bennett, Noons said, but won't make the same mistake against Berto.
"It definitely wasn't that I trained or that I looked past him or anything like that," Noons said. "I got caught. It's something that happens to everyone in this business. If I had it to do over again, I'd keep me left hand higher and I'd be more aggressive. That's kind of the fighter I am and it's how I have to fight."
Shaw said he'll encourage Noons to keep working at both, though he admits the boxer-vs.-MMA argument is getting ridiculous.
They're different sports, Shaw said, and there is little need to compare the two. But Shaw said he'd be willing to match a boxer and an MMA fighter because he believes it will attract widespread interest.
And Shaw said the winner would depend upon who fought. Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. mocked MMA fighters earlier this year and was called out by UFC president Dana White.
Shaw said the angle is more shtick than anything else.
"I understand why people ask about it and talk about it, but it's a silly argument because one has nothing to do with the other when you come right down to it," Shaw said. "Both will survive. Boxing has been around for many, many years and has endured many black eyes and scandals and has been through all the corruption and all the (expletive) and it's still surviving. It will be here long after I'm gone.
"MMA is still growing. It's getting more exposure and I believe as time goes on, it will gain more mainstream acceptance, but you still can't put a fight on in all 50 states. I look at them a little bit like separates but equals."