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Down for the Count: What Happened to Boxing Games?

Posted on Saturday, May 3 @ 13:30:00 Eastern by ryanbates

Every major sport has annual events, events that transcend regular competition, to the point where even people who aren't fans of the sport may consider tuning in. Rather soon at the time of publishing, two teams will compete for the championship in the NBA Finals, while in the fall the World Series will captivate the minds of baseball fans. Currently, hockey fans are waiting to see who will grab the Stanley Cup, and every winter, millions flock to the TV to watch the one and only Super Bowl, amidst the hoopla, commercials, pre-game and halftime shows, and the like.

Boxing may not be considered one of the “Big Four” sports, but it too has events that captivate and fascinate, and as a year-round sport, they occur with more regularity than other sports. In fact, on the weekend of publishing, arguably the best fighter in the world (though maybe not the classiest), Floyd Mayweather Jr., will put it on the line to stand toe-to-toe with the aggressive welterweight from Argentina, Marcos Maidana. Boxing fans may not consider it the greatest fight, per sé, but undoubtedly it is an event, with nosebleed seats at the top of the MGM Grand Garden Arena still fetching top dollar, and glitterati coming out not for the sport, but because the event is the place to be seen that night.

Many gamers who are sports fans enjoy recreating these events on their favorite games before, during, and after the event. Hockey fans can combine their favorite teams to see who might take the Stanley Cup in EA’s NHL 14, basketball fans can pit their combination of playoff teams in 2K's NBA 2K14, and of course football fans can pop in Madden NFL 25 to recreate (or destroy) the Seattle Seahawks victory from last year.

While those fans have updates to their games annually, boxing fans will not have the luxury of recreating this weekend's big event, as Fight Night Champion, the last major boxing game to come out on seventh-gen, dates back to 2011, and has neither Mayweather Jr. nor Maidana. Prior to Fight Night Champion, EA had released a Fight Night, or prior to that, Knockout Kings, nearly every year since 1999, with a small lapse between the third and fourth iterations of the game. Now, over three years have passed since the release of Fight Night Champion, and EA has point-blank said that they would not be creating any more boxing games.

In fact, the only recent triple-A combat sport title on the horizon is “the enemy” to some boxing fans: EA will release EA Sports UFC in July. In an interview with IGN, head of EA Sports Andrew Wilson said that their fighting focus was on UFC because of its growing prominence as an international sport and boxing's waning popularity.

May I politely suggest that Mr. Wilson's reasoning is a bunch of bull. To start, UFC is a league. The sport is mixed martial arts.

Second, while it may be declining in popularity in the US, boxing is still exceptionally popular worldwide, especially in countries where numerous A-list boxers hail from, such as Mexico, The Philippines, and a large swath of European countries, as well as many portions of the US, including Southern California, urban Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and New York, cities with long histories with boxing. Popularity overall may be declining, but be not deceived: Boxing still enjoys healthy support.

The damage that has been done, in the eyes of this boxing fan, has been through corruption, stupidity, or a combination of both. Greedy promoters making flimsy fights, boxers with big egos dodging fights, and poor quality judges and referees, in separate instances, take the peg of boxing down every time something occurs. For every great fight the majority of fans miss, such as last month's war between Lucas Matthysse and John Molina Jr., there is a robbery on the scale of the first Juan Diaz/Paulie Malignaggi fight, or a mismatch on the scale of Klitschko/Thompson (or most of his resume, for that matter). And then there's the whole Mayweather/Pacquiao will-they-or-won't-they that's been going back and forth for the past three or four years.

But while that may blemish the image of the sport of boxing, none of it affects boxing games (unless it is found in a story mode). It's a cash-grab, pure and simple, and like true fans of both boxing and MMA say of each sport, we can make room on the shelves for both boxing and MMA games. It's not like developments on one game won't also improve the other. Also, it's not like significantly higher personnel would be needed, as the team that works on EA Sports MMA can also work on Fight Night. We know this to be true, since the Fight Night team were all shuffled over to EA Sports MMA, so I don't feel like I'm wildly speculating here.

EA could have simply alternated between the two sports: one year boxing, one year MMA. Supplemental fighters could be released as DLC (God knows EA loves their DLC anyway), and both series would constantly stay fresh. Innovations that work in one series can be tried out in the other.

EA Sports could, right this moment, be the undisputed unified champion of combat sports games and put all other contenders down for the ten count. Instead, their myopic view of the two most viewed forms of combat sport left fans of a great sport, and a great franchise, with broken dreams and swollen eyes.

Tags:   EA Sports

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