By Rahul Deb: MMA recently got its first exposure on network television when CBS broadcast the EliteXC fight card headlined by none other than internet sensation Kimbo Slice. It was a big step for MMA towards gaining mainstream recognition as a sport and some claim it is a matter of time before MMA passes boxing in popularity. Boxing as we know hasn’t had network tv airtime in many years. I had the pleasure of watching Kimbo Slice pop open the alien ear of James Thompson on route to a highly questionable stoppage.
Watching Kimbo struggle and almost get stopped against the extremely mediocre and limited Thompson made me wonder. Why did Kimbo choose to become a professional mixed martial artist as opposed to a professional boxer? After all, his only fighting experience is in street fights which
were basically old fashioned bare knuckled brawls. Fighters were not allowed to grapple and they are given counts after each knockdown exactly as in the sweet science. There were no elbows, knees, kicks or submissions allowed. In fact, the only fight Kimbo lost was against Sean Gannon,
a policeman with some MMA training. In the fight, Sean was able to tire Kimbo by choking him and grappling with him which Kimbo’s troupe complained was against the rules. Kimbo’s lack of ground skills was also exposed by Thompson, who is an unquestionably inept ground fighter.
So why then is Kimbo not a professional boxer? If the latter part of Mike Tyson’s career has proved anything, it is that we as boxing fans like a freak show as much as anyone else. I’m sure promoters would have welcomed the opportunity of having Kimbo fight on their cards. To me the answer is very simple. It would be a terrible career move. Kimbo is an extremely limited fighter who is slow and throws wide telegraphed punches. While he does have power it is unclear whether this power is considerably more than an average heavyweight boxer. In MMA, having moderate boxing skills makes you a striker and this presents a competitive advantage over other fighters who have a predominantly wrestling or jiu jitsu background. By possessing a dimension which other fighters do not, Kimbo gives himself a chance at winning.
In a boxing ring, on the other hand, Kimbo would be exposed. Possessing mediocre boxing skills merely makes you a mediocre fighter. After all, even shop worn journey men would provide a bigger challenge than some of the bums Kimbo beat up on youtube and the extremely unskilled and chinny James Thompson. On the other hand with careful matchmaking, Kimbo can climb up the MMA ladder against good fighters with good records who have been known to perform poorly against strikers.
Don’t get me wrong, Kimbo would be destroyed by a medium to top level MMA fighter just as he would against a medium to top level boxer. All I am saying is that I doubt a feared puncher in the MMA world like Chuck Liddell would be competitive in a boxing fight against a comparably sized David Haye. MMA and boxing are just extremely different sports. Come to think of it, I wonder if Kimbo would have beaten the 46 year old Ray Mercer had they been fighting Marquess of Queensberry rules.