“Ya never got me down Ray!” – Jake LaMotta’s last words to Sugar Ray Robinson
Drama – the essence of life itself. Drama is what made legends out of such names as Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Graziano, Muhammad Ali, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Iron Mike Tyson.
Many boxing aficionados complain that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is overtaking boxing – but the question is why? Is it because MMA is more exciting? Or is it because boxing lacks the drama that it possessed in the past? Don’t get me wrong, I have an immense respect for the practioners of MMA – particularly when it was first introduced by Rickson and Royce Gracie (two men who weighed no more than 180 pounds) who showed the world how they could beat any man of any size with their grappling art of Brazilian Jui-Jitsu. But MMA has evolved since, and as the strikers of MMA (i.e. karate, boxing, savate, muay tai, kung fu etc.) have learned how to grapple – or more recently learned how to evade grapplers – we are seeing strikers now come back into dominance. Strikers who would not make it in boxing.
C’mon guys, what sells tickets to the movies? Is it not the same formula that sells tickets to a fight? If history is any lesson, take a look at what happened to boxing when it lost its heroes. Boxing plunged when Ali was forced to take a three-year hiatus, after his license was revoked for his refusal to serve in the armed forces. Ali was replaced by the likes of Jerry Quarry, Jimmy Ellis – where was the drama? Could you blame fans? Could you blame the reporters who wrote for the fans? Or their publishers who were under the gun to sell newspapers? How many people did Tyson turn on to boxing? I am willing to wager the very same people who stopped watching boxing when Tyson’s myth made its exodus.
Think about it – do any of the current stars of the MMA have the charisma of a Muhammad Ali or even a Sugar Ray Leonard? Does current heavyweight champion Vladimir Klitschko, who was knocked cold due to his glass jaw in the prime of his career by several unknowns have the charm, fan and media draw of Mike Tyson?
Drama – or quite frankly the lack of drama is what is hurting boxing today. But boxing may soon be due for an encore. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are at the moment the biggest headliners in boxing and both have star appeal reminiscent of legends past. Both are in the same weight class and both have exchanged the title of Pound for Pound the Greatest with Mayweather’s abdication of the welterweight throne.
Such a match up has all the makings of a story only Hollywood’s best screenwriters could dream of. The characters: the mythical Manny Pacquiao, and his trainer the legendary Freddie Roach; the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his eccentric father Floyd Mayweather Sr. who will reunite for what will be perhaps Mayweather Jr’s last fight and chance to save their troubled father-son relationship. Both camps have drama, color, depth, story and the very best of tools from all players to make this an historic and much needed proverbial punch in the arm for boxing.
But after the fight, or series of fights, when Manny and Floyd inevitably lay their gloves to rest – what new story will boxing have to serve to its fans?
New York fans need to look no further than middleweight contender Danny Jacobs (17-0, 15 KO’s) and rising star Marcus Bianconi (4-0, 4 knockouts). Like their amateur bouts, such a matchup in the pros will be a war. Styles make fights and a fight between Jacobs and Bianconi would be no exception. Danny Jacobs has been compared to the great Sugar Ray Robinson. Bianconi, whose style is relentless and has never been knocked down inside the ring or out has been likened to the raging bull Jake La Motta!
Danny is one of the hottest prospects in the middleweight division today and is expected by many to go on to win the middleweight championship of the world. “That is if he does not run into me first..”, remarks a confident Bianconi.
When asked why he feels he has the tools to beat Jacobs in the pros, Marcus Bianconi had this to say:
“Danny was a very talented amateur – no question. The rules of the amateurs suited Danny to a T. But let’s face it – amateur national champs are a dime a dozen in the pros – and their achievements in amateur boxing are not a guaranteed indication that they are going to go on to win a world title.
I have been outpointed over four rounds per se in the amateurs but have never been outfought or knocked down anywhere in the pros, amateurs or in sparring. I don’t believe Jacobs or many other top prospects can say the same thing. But this is what the pros are about – no amateur rules, smaller gloves, more rounds to inflict damage, no headgear, and the ref is not going to step in unless someone is getting seriously hurt – where the winner is more often than not determined by the fighter who has the greater tolerance for pain. If you have any doubts, then ask yourself what would have been the outcome of the first Chavez-Taylor bout if it was governed by amateur rules as opposed to professional. Taylor was winning on all cards all the way into 12th round, and then in the final seconds he dropped from Chavez’ cumulative and relentless attack. Yet the outcome would have been in Taylor’s favor had they met under amateur rules.
I am a throw back to the old days when guys like Jake LaMotta, Rocky Graziano, and Tony Zale dominated the ring – a warrior who is not afraid to get his hands dirty – you know what I mean? I would like to fight Jacobs, but I don’t think his people will want to see it happen any time soon. Such a matchup is going to be a war – like Frazier and Ali – exciting yes – but also the kind that shortens careers. Why would Jacobs’ people want to take that kind of fight when they could take three or four easier fights and make the same money?
Today, boxing is more about money than it is about who is the best. That was basically Teddy Atlas’ gripe with Jacobs. It wasn’t about Jacobs’ ability, but rather the softness of the competition that was being put in front of him. Take last night’s fight with George Walton for example. Jacobs was quoted as saying that boxing was a young man’s game, yet he and his people picked poor old George Walton who is 35 years old and took a hiatus from boxing for several years to boot.
Years ago, guys from the neighborhood fought every week. Nobody avoided anybody. Everyone had a code about honor, courage, and pride. A burning desire to be the best. You had to respect that. I think that is one of the reasons MMA is growing in popularity.”
“Ya never got me down Ray!” Honor, courage, pride, and burning desire – the building blocks of a great drama. If you are in the mood for some drama – a sampling of what you could expect from a future war between Danny Jacobs and Marcus Bianconi, then be sure to check out their classic amateur bout when they met at the Metro Finals in 2003.
Yours in strength,
Coach Craig Smith
Marcus Bianconi vs. Danny Jacobs
Jake LaMotta vs. Sugar Ray Robinson