In recent weeks Eddie Hearn has spoke of the need and his desire to implement a UFC style organisation into the sport of boxing. The UFC has successfully been able to dominate MMA, attract the best talent and in turn, stage the biggest and most compelling matchups and events. Boxing has long since suffered with fragmented promoters and TV companies hindering the ability to make the biggest fights, and as a result it can be argued MMA has overtaken boxing as the most popular combat sport.
But is the answer to boxing’s quite clear issues a UFC style organisation? And if so how likely are we to see one in the sport over the coming years?
Boxing right now is enjoying a renaissance with huge stars like Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Canelo Alvarez drawing huge numbers and driving huge PPV sales, and it is true the UK is enjoying a hugely successful period of their own and have done for the past decade. This increase in eyes on the sport has led to a deserved increase in purses amongst the mid to upper echelons of the sport.
But one issue that has plagued boxing for a number of years is the best often not fighting the best. Whether it be Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe never squaring off in the 90’s, or Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao refusing to fight until both men were in the latter stages of their careers, the sport often misses out on these huge generation defining fights. This is something a UFC style organisation could help to end, as with all fighters under the same promotional and TV broadcast umbrella, this removes a large obstacle and makes fights in theory that little bit easier to make.
As well as this the UFC has one recognised champion in each weight class, allowing for no debate about who the best in the division is. Boxing’s four major governing bodies each have their own world title belt (in most cases more than one) and as a result it can become confusing as to who is actually the true elite of the division. This increase in ‘world champions’ also lessens the achievement as many a fighter have claimed world title belts when in reality they are no where near the top of their respective weight class (Charles Martin I’m looking at you).
The UFC’s protocols when dealing with failed drug tests is also superior to the way boxing deals with the issue. The best example of this is by comparing the cases of Jarrell Miller and TJ Dillashaw, Miller failed three drug tests in the buildup to his title fight with Anthony Joshua, and due to his boxing license expiring, the NYSAC were unable to take any action against him, meaning he was free to box the following weekend if he so desired. A year later he failed another drug test in the buildup to his comeback fight.
TJ Dillashaw failed a drug test prior to his flyweight title fight with Henry Cejudo, and received a two year suspension from USADA, and while many will claim this still isn’t enough, it’s at least a start in comparison with the lenient laws boxing has in place.
Overall a blanket organisation would bring with it some huge positives that could see the further growth of the boxing industry. However, it is perhaps unlikely a promoter any time soon will be in a position to create a monopoly over the sport in the way the UFC was able to, and also worth remembering it took the UFC a long time to get to the position they are currently in, and they did not face the same level of competition an Eddie Hearn would face. But just having such a debate perhaps shows just how big the UFC has grown, and how far boxing has fallen.