-by West Coast Craig   

“Kickboxing.  Sport of the future.” – Lloyd Dobbler  

SILVER LAKE, CA – Okay, maybe Cameron Crowe didn’t quite have it right…it’s now been nearly twenty years since John Cusack said that line in Say Anything, back when Mike Tyson hadn’t tasted defeat (or Desiree Washington, or Evander Holyfield’s ear), and kickboxing hasn’t quite spread beyond the Philippines or the Jean Claude Van Damme movies of the time (by the way, has anyone seen JCVD yet?  It looks pretty excellent).  Boxing seemed safe…sure, it’s a dirty business with an alphabet soup of various belts and titles, but how would those skinny kickboxing guys ever compete with it?  Back then, the idea must’ve invoked the frustrating images of Mohammed Ali fighting Inoki in the Bomb at Budokan. Kickboxing, however, has given way to a newer kid on the block (at least on these shores), Mixed Martial Arts.  Now, I’m old enough to have nostril hairs that are going grey, old enough to have been emotionally moved by people standing on their theater seats and cheering Rocky to get to his feet before Apollo in Rocky II, so I still have that certain romanticism attached to the Sweet Science.  Some of my fondest sports memories involve boxing…like going to Boston Garden as a college freshman to watch a closed circuit broadcast in which hometown favorite Marvelous Marvin Hagler got handed his lunch by the flawless Sugar Ray Leonard, or a couple of years later, paying to see a similar public broadcast of Iron Mike and Michael Spinx and missing the entire thing when I took a sip of my beer.  I went to the fights out here at the classic Olympic Auditorium, and once saw a young Mexican flyweight get robbed in a decision against a skinny white Swede (the Swede was more technical, the Mexican kept coming like Julio Caesar Chavez and, right when he started taking the fight over, they stopped it and awarded the Swede the decision…the place went crazy, with beers and chairs raining down on the ring from the balconies as the Swede was hustled out of there, covered up by his handlers, and the Mexican was hoisted on the crowd’s shoulders and carried around in a victory lap).  I even once got great ringside seats behind Roy Jones Jr.’s corner in a bout at Staples Center, sat near LL Cool J, and then got to meet Mr. Jones afterwards (he looked like he could’ve come from a night of bowling, much less standing toe to toe with a guy who could literally knock my head off). 

But boxing seems to be dying a slow and ragged death.  Too many scumbags have been running it for too long, the rot is deeply ingrained and our economy will be fixed before it will.  There are no good heavyweights out there, the lifeblood of the sport, the good, big athletes have way more outlets now than they did not that long ago.  Meanwhile, after a rather lurid beginning here, MMA has finally found its foothold and is coming on strong.  It doesn’t have the history that Boxing does (though in Japan it’s the opposite), and hasn’t inspired the great literature, song, or cinema that Boxing has.  Joyce Carol Oates hasn’t written about MMA, Bob Dylan hasn’t crooned about its characters, Martin Scorcese hasn’t made a good MMA movie (however, at least in the case of this last, David Mamet has made one…Netflix Redbelt, it’s very good).

 “He’s a hungry fighter.  In fact, he’s fighting for a sandwich.” – Moe Syzslak

Boxing has a right to be scared…when you think about it, how can it compete with a sport that allows headbutts and knees and flying kicks?  Sure, that Grazie style of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, while amazing, isn’t as easy to appreciate if you don’t know anything about it…while a guy throwing a thunderous left hook to somebody else’s face is something tha’ll  get anybody’s blood flowing, whether they’re familiar with the rules or not.  This weekend, that excruciating pause between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, when the most notable thing going on is the NHL no-defense-allowed All Star Game, saw two big time fights here in the California southland.  Down at the Honda Center in Anaheim, an MMA title fight saw Fedor Emelianenko knock out a former UFC champ in the bearded Andrei Arlovski in just three minutes.  Arlovski leaped into a flying kick, and Fedor, a big Ukranian, stood firm and landed a devastating right hand that dropped Arlovski out of the air and face first onto the canvas.  That’s tough to beat…but here at Staples Center, in front of the largest crowd to see an event at the venue, Sugar Shane Mosely pulled off an upset over a younger, seemingly stronger, and favored Tijuana Tornado, Antonio Margarito, sending him to Margaritoville in the eighth round after simply schooling him the entire fight.  It was a thing of beauty, and not even Larry Merchant could suck the fun out of it.  And just like that, just like the wily veteran Sugar Shane, boxing showed that, for now, it’s still the champ and MMA is still the kid.  

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About West Coast Craig 226 Articles
West Coast Craig reports from Hollywood with an endearingly laid back style. A happily married father of two little boys, WCC has an avocado tree in his yard, plays the hot corner in a "Valley" hardball league and always manages to take cool sports-related mini road-trips, often with his immediate clan. He hails from Oneonta, NY but has been "So very L.A." for twenty years, so his sports teams are the Yankees AND the Dodgers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the L.A. Lakers and the Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques. WCC loves bacon-wrapped hotdogs and can touch his heel and his ear... with his hand.