Boxing has been constantly making headlines throughout the first half of 2019. From shocking knockouts to stars like Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin essentially killing pay-per-view by moving to DAZN, the “Sweet Science” has seen quite the resurgence. Even Electronic Arts distanced itself from the sport as it started to create games based upon mixed martial arts instead of focusing on a new Fight Night game. However, given the upcoming Pacquiao-Thurman fight and boxing’s affiliation with nearly every major television network from ESPN to Fox and NBC, it makes sense for EA Sports to bring back its dormant Fight Night series of fighting games.
One element that boxing has in its favor is that there are simply more major stars in the sport compared to MMA at the moment as both Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor have stepped away. There are still well-known figures at the top level like Jon Jones and Henry Cejudo, but they aren’t drawing in the same way.
This weekend sees two of those stars clash as the legendary pound-for-pound great Manny Pacquiao takes on current World Boxing Association welterweight champion Keith Thurman. It will either be a passing of the torch from one generation to the next or “Pac-Man” will show that he still has one more run on top left in him.
The trash talk has been fantastic going into the bout as the American has repeatedly talked about how he is going to retire the Filipino legend. He even likened the situation to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, saying that Pacquiao will be beloved after the fight but he’ll never walk the land again. It’s all too easy to imagine hearing that from an awesome Japanese role-playing game boss. Thurman has talked so much that it will be humiliating if he loses to the crafty veteran.
Boxing is filled with these sort of storylines up and down the various weight classes. You’ve got the ultimate underdog story as the admittedly chubby Andy Ruiz Jr. managed to shock the entire world by knocking out British Olympic champion Anthony Joshua and gaining three of the four main heavyweight titles of the world. Ruiz Jr. is now a genuine Mexican-American hero that attributed his victory to eating Snickers bars. He’s an unlikely hero that oozes likability and one that many would love to get to play in a video game. And given how recent sports games have embraced stories, it’s not too hard to see a new Fight Night embracing this type of storytelling.
A new Fight Night game could allow us to see boxing without politics
Of course, there is always one constant negative about boxing and that is the ridiculous political landscape. With four major sanctioning bodies and different promoters partnering with cable brands, actually getting the big fights to happen can often seem like more of a dream than a possibility. Even when a lot of that is worked out, the big fights that should happen can wind up not happening.
No one has to look any further than the currently situation between “Canelo” and “GGG” as the two middleweights both signed historic deals with DAZN with the subscription service wanting to put on a third fight between the two since neither won decisively in their first two bouts. Despite this being the biggest fight for both men, there has been squabbling about where the fight will take place, and now it seems unlikely to actually manifest this year.
The great thing about Fight Night is that it’s a video game and players can actually live out these battles without any of the constant headaches that come with being a boxing fan. The heavyweight division is now hotter than it has been in years, but many of the top stars don’t want to face each other. This is exactly why Ruiz Jr. was able to get into a position to gain the majority of the belts as Joshua was delaying bouts against other undefeated heavyweights Deontay Wilder and Tyson “The Gypsy King” Fury.
Each of the big men are huge personalities as Wilder is the greatest puncher the sport has seen in decades and Fury is an enigmatic personality that has shockingly good movement and is willing to sing classic Aerosmith songs after knocking out his foes. Getting all of these matches in real life will take years of negotiations and can be derailed at any moment, but Fight Night can make them happen instantly.
Those wanting to enjoy a good boxing simulation have to go back to 2011’s Fight Night Champion. That was eight years ago and many of the top stars from that era — bar Pacquiao — are no longer at the top of the sport. Most of the best boxers in the world aren’t available to be played in a game and that is simply ridiculous. The sport deserves better and there is a clear appetite for another entry as it sold very well upon release.
A new Fight Night game could keep EA UFC from stagnating
Another aspect in its favor is that EA Canada’s UFC line of games have shown that they aren’t big enough to be a yearly property. Unlike team sports, there simply isn’t enough changes every two years for a new UFC game to make sense constantly. Paid DLC to add in fighters would be more than enough at this point and the team has struggled to improve much mechanically. By alternating between the two, the developers would get to switch between different types of games (as both play very differently despite being combat sport simulations) and fans wouldn’t get fatigued.
With boxing churning out new stars that are getting mainstream headlines more often than they did five years ago and EA saturating the market with MMA titles, it makes sense for all parties involved to make another Fight Night game. It would help plenty of boxers reach a possible new audience of fighting game fans and help them build their brand, and it makes sense for the publisher to capitalize on its renewed popularity. And besides, we all want to see what the new sweat tech would look like in 2019.