Ken Shamrock is a pretty rabid boxing fan these days, especially now that the sport’s bigger names are actually boxing other top guys. Everyone but Floyd Mayweather Jr., that is.
Shamrock, who’s been involved in MMA about as long as it’s been an actual sport, is a UFC Hall of Famer, a former UFC champion, a PRIDE vet, a King of Pancrase, a WWE titleholder and a combat-sports trailblazer.
But for the longest time, the 49-year-old said he gave up on boxing and essentially renounced his fandom because of where the sport was headed. He hated that it was so rare to see two top guys actually fight each other.
“I think that’s what really hurt boxing in the long run,” he today told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “People were sick and tired of these paper champions, these guys who were bringing kids in and giving them 10 fights so they could knock [all their opponents] out.
“All of the sudden they’re getting title shots against a guy who has no business being in there with them. But they’ll throw in so many chumps that the guy knocks them out. Then they throw him on TV, they do some Big Mac commercials, and they show these incredible knockouts of guys who shouldn’t have been in there, and people are like, ‘Oh, wow. This would be a great fight.’ But fans got wise.”
He said one reason boxing fans smartened up was because they were seeing the big matchups actually being booked in MMA. Shamrock, of course, was involved in many of those early MMA blockbusters. And he said it came down to a simple formula.
“I never dodged anyone, and I always took on who they put in front of me,” he said.
Despite its simplicity, he said the philosophy was largely ignored in boxing. But as MMA saw a popularity boom in the mid-2000s that’s carried over to today, he said it’s impacted boxing, which finally started to realize it needed to follow suit.
Shamrock stressed that he’s not simply hating on a rival sport. In fact, he said he was disappointed to see boxer James Toney‘s UFC debut, in which he was quickly and easily handled by notable Randy Couture in 2010. Shamrock said that with a better stylistic matchup for Toney, we could have seen a more competitive fight, which would have unified fans of both sports.
Still, he thinks MMA’s biggest matchups aren’t going unnoticed.
“Boxing today, you’re starting to get to see the guys, seeing them fight each other, because of the pressure that MMA is putting on boxing,” he said. “Now these fighters are fighting each other. The only one who isn’t doing that in boxing today is Mayweather. He’s the only one because he controls his own destiny with his promotion and everything.”
Shamrock (28-15-2), who heads to England and returns from a two-and-a-half-year layoff to fight Ian Freeman (19-7-1) in late July, specifically points to the Mayweather (44-0) vs. Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2) fight that’s never happened. Constant bickering over revenue splits and other details derailed what likely would have been the richest fight in boxing history.
Shamrock, though, doesn’t believe it was all about dollars and cents with Mayweather, who earned an estimated $85 million in 2012 and picked up a guaranteed $32 million in his win over Robert Guerrero earlier this month.
“I think Mayweather – and I’m not putting him down – but I think there was a little bit of a fear factor there,” he said. “I think he kind of steers himself clear of that fear factor, and I think Manny Pacquiao had all the tools Mayweather did, and that scares Mayweather.
“In the long run, when you look at his career, there’s always going to be that spot right there where he didn’t take it – because he wanted to be ‘the man’ on that card. The only way you can be the man is to beat the man. He had that opportunity, and he steered away from it.”
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