Who is the baddest man on the planet? This unofficial title, often a self-styled mantra, is synonymous with the alpha male of combat sports, the world’s most daunting fighter.
Today, boxing and MMA are usually at the heart of this hypothetical debate. Both have their respective heavyweight champions and so here begins the usual bar-room banter and internet forum discussions around who would kick whose ass!
Undefeated boxer, Tyson Fury, made a recent outburst calling out UFC heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez adding further fuel to the fire. Just months before, it was then UFC heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos (who won his title by knocking out Velasquez, but since relinquished it back to Velasquez) who was calling out boxing’s heavyweight kingpin, Wladimir Klitschko.
Before trying to really delve into this though, we have to acknowledge that these are two very different sports with very different rules. That said, and for what it’s worth, we can tackle a few of the head-to-head attributes between the squared circle and the cage.
Boxing, of course, is a stand-up fighting sport using only one’s fists. MMA allows for grappling and kicking techniques, enabling the fighter to end the fight on the feet and on the ground, utilizing anything from jiu-jitsu submissions to Muay-Thai kickboxing.
As such, the variety of disciplines involved in MMA compared to the singular pugilistic aim of boxing affects the timing and distance of techniques if you have to worry about kicking range and grappling range.
Some boxers in the clinch can employ some gamesmanship — think Bernard Hopkins or Floyd Mayweather — but not to any great advantage besides smothering an opponent’s work and being a nuisance.
Both boxers and MMA fighters have a grueling training regime at the top level. Boxing training involves a great deal of cardiovascular training, in addition to strength training, and boxing-specific training, such as sparring, bag and mitt work, and so forth. In addition to what boxers might do in their preparations, MMA fighters would also have adapted some training drills to complement the overall skill-sets involved.
The cardio used in grappling is more of an antagonistic muscle exercise so again, very different from the punch output in boxing. Certain rules and regulations also come into play when we talk about cardio (see below).
The time limit in the rounds of each respective sport is something which could affect a fighter’s cardio. with 3 minute rounds in professional boxing, and 5 minute rounds in MMA.
Another rule difference is that in MMA, they also use tiny finger-gloves as opposed to 8 to 10oz gloves in boxing. It makes it easier for UFC fighters to score, and fall victim to, one punch knockouts, although clearly, boxers have superior punching form and the top hitters in the squared circle levy substantially greater punch force.
There are many examples of fighters switching disciplines from boxing to MMA or vice-versa. Kimbo Slice had limited success inside the UFC as he was more of a viral internet street fighter but enjoys a current 6 and 0 record inside the ring.
The highest profile boxer was James Toney, who was welcomed to the UFC by Randy Couture and manhandled in a first round defeat, to nobody’s surprise. Meanwhile, a number of club-level fighters have made moves to the UFC and rounded out their games to become substantial contenders in the cage.
Since Mike Tyson declared himself the baddest man on the planet, there has been an evolution of a younger combative sport in MMA, but it is clear that either sport could house potentially great fighters. Freddie Roach has trained MMA fighters and stated that he believes it easier for an MMA fighter to convert to boxing rather than the other way around.
This makes sense since we are talking about multi-discipline vs. one discipline. It would be like asking distance runner Mo Farah to go out and win a triathlon. In short, it is down to the dedication and resolve of the individual to succeed in either game, and the fighter who gets to compete in his core discipline will be the one greatly favored to win that fight.
Back to the original story, I don’t know anything about Tyson Fury’s cage-credentials are like, but he should stick to the ring. And Velasquez’s great-for-MMA boxing would be entirely average and incomplete if he competed in the Sweet Science.