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July 30, 2014

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Square versus octagon

Two Sun writers duke it out — with words — over whether boxing or mixed martial arts reigns supreme

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Ron Kantowski: In boxing, defense and strategy count

It’s official: I am now the last old fogey too stubborn to jump on the UFC bandwagon.

Well, Sen. John McCain and I.

I recoiled in horror as Bob Arum, the esteemed Las Vegas boxing promoter and a charter member of the Old Fogies, went on the local news the other night to say how impressed he was with the UFC’s brand of mixed martial arts.

That wasn’t the first time Arum had nice things to say about the UFC. I heard him do it once before, but I was hoping that time he was lying, and Monday he might tell the truth.

Instead he talked about how boxing would be wise to copy the UFC’s marketing blueprint.

Egad! Arum’s swallowed the Kool-Aid, too (although I would almost bet he was just being nice).

But he’s also right. The UFC has done an admirable job of repackaging and selling a product that John McCain once ridiculed as “human cockfighting” and taken it mainstream.

I even like UFC President Dana Bleeping White (not that he bleeping cares). I think his rough-around-the-edges persona is perfect for a sport/activity/yet another way for two grown men to beat each other up that appeals to a rough-around-the-edges audience and frat boys from Midwestern colleges who pound iron and energy drinks.

I respect the fighters, too. Most of those guys look pretty mean. Or were wrestlers.

But I think I would like the UFC a lot more if Joe Frazier were part of it. Or if he had a son who couldn’t fight who were.

I guess when it comes down to it, it’s not a matter of me disliking the UFC as much as me liking boxing a lot more.

This is because I’m old, and most people my age prefer boxing — or hockey — when it comes to sports where the object is to beat the other guy senseless. Plus, there are enough sports to follow. There’s baseball, football and basketball. And track and field, every four years. Not to mention those “Rollerball” sequels in the movies.

I like boxing because there’s defense, and strategy. It’s possible to impress the judges even when you don’t throw punches. Heck, you can even win a fight without throwing a punch — especially if one of the judges or fighters owes somebody named Big Tony a lot of money.

That may not make boxing more palatable, but it sure does make it more interesting.

Boxing also has a cool nickname — The Sweet Science. It attracts characters who wear hats and smoke fat cigars and answer to “Mick” or “The Rock.” The competitors are required to wear shoes. Even in Kentucky. Plus, there’s no Kronk Gym in the UFC.

Boxing: Thrilla in Manila.

UFC: UFC 100.

Need I say more?

Boxing also appeals to Mexicans.

When two of them are standing toe to toe throwing punches in anger as if the 12th round — much less tomorrow — will never arrive, I will take a squared circle over an octagon every time.

Andy Samuelson: Mixed martial arts is all about the fans

Don’t get me wrong — boxing is great. Who doesn’t like a prizefight?

When the right bout is put together and the bell rings, and everyone in the MGM Grand, including Jay-Z and Beyonce, is staring straight ahead at the two men in the square, there’s electricity in the air that most UFC main events can’t match.

But the problem for pugilistic purists is that it seems to take as long for these stars to align as a solar eclipse.

No, my generation doesn’t have the patience to wait for that good fight.

We want to see it now. Give us Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather ASAP, or at the very least this winter. Don’t make us wait until 2010 or, God forbid, another rib injury could threaten our dwindling focus even further.

There are too many weight classes and sanctioning bodies. Quit ducking one another.

When was the last time you saw Wanderlei Silva sidestep an opponent? Sure, the “The Axe Murderer” may have lost five of his last six bouts. But the fans love every minute he’s in the Octagon, because he gives it his all.

And what’s the first thing the burly Brazilian did after each setback? Address his supporters, of course, causing them to embrace him even more.

Take a hint, boxing: It’s all about the fans.

When does Joe Blow get the chance to chat with Floyd Mayweather Jr. or have his picture taken with Oscar De La Hoya?

The Michael Jordan of mixed martial arts, Chuck Liddell, is more than willing to share his signature, if not belly up to the bar for a beer.

Boxing got greedy. Fighters and promoters got rich, and the fans suffered.

It’s not too late for The Sweet Science to save itself, but the fastest-growing sport in the world isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

The UFC is already global and intends to spread its worldwide roots even more.

This week the Las Vegas-based organization announced a TV agreement in Mexico.

Mexican fans are the most passionate fight fans on earth, and they’re not following just boxing anymore.

And why should they? Take away the main event of a boxing match, and how many recognizable fighters are on the undercard? One, maybe two or three, if the guy’s family is in the house.

UFC cards are stacked. You better be there for the first fight at 5 p.m., cause it might be the best one all night.

Plus there are incentives. Big bonus bucks for a Fight of the Night, Knock Out of the Night and Submission of the Night. Wouldn’t a boxer try for a KO if $25,000 were on the line?

Right now UFC fighters are evolving like never before. These guys are real athletes, too. Brock Lesnar’s 280-pound frame is not filled with the fat that some heavyweight punchers have neglected for years.

Specialized styles, like Lyoto Machida’s karate, are being used in ways that make the fighters nearly unstoppable.

It’s not just a spectacle anymore. Ultimate Fighting is a sport — one that’s paying no attention to the elder statesman.

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