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Boxing vs. Mixed Martial Arts

Posted Apr 21 2008 6:00pm 1 Comment

Few people realize that boxing has a history that is as rich and varied as most Asian martial arts. Nineteenth century boxing actually resembled today's mixed martial arts (MMA). Prior to the Marquess of Queensberry charter that incorporates the now mandatory gloves, London Prize Rules boxing or fisticuffs allowed throws as well as punches. These bare-knuckled events were brutal, and quite often matches had to be held in secret, lest the intervention of local constables.

In the early twentieth century "open to all" tournaments in Japan were fairly common. One legend tells of a European prize fighter defeating one judoka after another when Okinawan karate virtuoso Choki Motobu stepped into the ring. "Maybe judo isn't the answer" proclaimed Motobu as he knocked out the boxer with a shuto (knife hand) to the temple in the second round.

In 1950 Helio Gracie, the famous founder of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, challenged then heavyweight boxing champ Joe Louis to a no-holds-barred match. Louis, who had nothing to gain and everything to lose with such an event, wisely declined. Two decades later Japanese grappler Antonio Inoki took on Muhammad Ali in a 15-rounder. Inoki was billed as a pro wrestler, but he previously defeated numerous martial art exponents in legit contests. The match was a bizarre one as Inoki spent almost the entire time on the ground in a futile attempt to kick or sweep out Ali's legs. The fight was declared a draw, but even Ali's typical pre-fight hyping tantrums couldn't save this hopeless spectacle.

When MMA bouts first made their appearance in the 90s there was some clamor as to whether a fading Mike Tyson would make an interesting opponent. How do you think Tyson would have fared against somebody like Royce Gracie? Gracie would've had his work cut out for him. Don't forget that Tyson was disqualified during a title fight when he tried to bite Evander Holyfield's ear off. It was a dark moment for boxing and Mike Tyson in time became his own worst enemy.

Unlike traditional martial arts, nobody ever seems to question the validity or street effectiveness of boxing. Indeed, boxing as a viable method of self defense is explored in this TDA Training article. Boxing is still one of the most dangerous sports as there have been a number of ring deaths through the years, to say nothing of the long term health risks involved with being a career fighter. Recently MMA suffered its first fatality as the result of a sanctioned match. Some proponents of MMA insist that it's safer than boxing, but the jury is still out on that verdict. Will MMA even be able to survive the way "The Sweet Science" has for so many years? Time will tell.
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There is absolutely no competition between boxing and Mixed Martial Arts although top boxers may earn more.  The sports most likely earn close to the same revenue per year and Mixed Martial Arts is better to train for because it teaches how to fight with the full body.
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