Old hand at boxing: "Boxing is dead"

by Bernard Fern├índez | source: philly.com

Old Hand at boxing now in love with UFC

THERE NEVER was a burning bush moment, or a celestial voice whispering in their ears. For two very influential older converts to the church of mixed martial arts, the revelation was gradual, like the changing of the seasons. To tell the truth, it sort of sneaked up on them.

"Joe Jr. and then Joey Jones [the sales manager of Joe Hand Promotions] got into this before I did," Feasterville's Joe Hand Sr., the national closed-circuit distributor for boxing and UFC events, said of his introduction to mixed martial arts. "I was the last one to come aboard."

Hand formally entered boxing, that most traditional of combat sports, in 1964, as one of the original investors in Cloverlay, the consortium that backed the early portion of future heavyweight champion Joe Frazier's professional career. The former Philadelphia police officer went on to become the closed-circuit distributor of major boxing cards, first locally and then nationally, and he acknowledged being initially resistant to a new idea, a new love. But, well, things change. Sometimes it is possible to teach an old dog a new trick.

Hand, 72, still sells boxing's bigger fights to about 40 sports bars and restaurants in the Delaware Valley, and up to 3,500 nationwide and in American territories as far-flung as Guam. But, increasingly, boxing constitutes a smaller portion of his business, and UFC makes up for, and surpasses, whatever he has lost in boxing.

"Over the course of a year, we might do three big boxing matches, tops," Hand said. "UFC is running every month. And a year in advance, I know the date and site of those shows.

"When I go to sell [UFC] in a bar or a restaurant, they understand they're going to get 3 hours of entertainment. Every fight is a great fight. Most boxing promoters, they'll put on a good main event. But you might not find out who's on the undercard until the last minute, and then it's usually junk. The undercard is not important to them."

Hand might have arrived late to the mixed martial arts party, with most guests in the coveted 18- to 34-year-old male demographic, but he is now having the time of his life. And he thinks UFC 101, set for Saturday night at the Wachovia Center, signifies a sea change that could cement MMA's recognition as the foremost combat sport. Although UFC, which is far and away the most dominant of the MMA promotional companies, has a presence in Europe, UFC 101 represents the Las Vegas-based company's farthest penetration east in this country.

Forty states have sanctioned MMA and, if the lobbying efforts of Marc Ratner, UFC's highly respected vice president of regulatory affairs, are successful, Massachusetts and New York will soon enter the fold.

"People ask, 'Do you think UFC will kill boxing?' " Hand said. "It already has. Boxing's dead.

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Recent Comments »

Squared Circle site profile image  

8/5/09 2:15 PM by Squared Circle

Wladimir Klitschko, Ruslan Chagaev to fight for crowd of 60000 - ESPN

CRE site profile image  

8/5/09 2:09 PM by CRE

Boxing is to combat sports what NY rap is to hip hop, MMA is that new south shit destroying the air waves and Anderson Silva is Gucci Mane bitch with Lyoto Machida the pissjuiceman

lueng jon site profile image  

8/5/09 2:02 PM by lueng jon

Lame under cards is a big contributing factor to Boxing's decline in Popularity. When I watch UFC I know there is at least the potential for an entertaining undercard.

Ogami Itto site profile image  

8/5/09 1:59 PM by Ogami Itto

This. Honestly, I have been a little disappointed that the rising interest in MMA hasn't also driven interest in boxing and other combative sports. Perhaps some cross-promotion between promoters in both sports would be mutually beneficial. Imagine it, mma fights as undercards on boxing matches on HBO. Boxing matches as prelims in the cage.

nate787 site profile image  

8/5/09 1:58 PM by nate787

LOL @ mma fans still trying to convince themselves that boxing is dying.

bismanfightclub site profile image  

8/5/09 1:58 PM by bismanfightclub

I don't think boxing will ever die, it will just be a much less signifcant presence than it is or has been in the past.

vegard site profile image  

8/5/09 1:53 PM by vegard

boxing isn't dead, not even close. to say they have no stars is uninformed. hatten, cotto, calzaghe, pavlik, mayweather, pacquiao, juan manuel marqueznone of these guys might be ali or frazier but they have rabid followings and do good numbers for their fightsthe heyday for boxing where matches drew 100,000 spectators and the whole country listened to them on the radio has been gone for nearly 100 yearsi became a real fan of boxing through mma a bad boxing match is as boring as a bad mma match. a great fight is a great fight, regardless of the sport.

vegard site profile image  

8/5/09 1:49 PM by vegard

floyd mayweather jr

jason hornbuckle site profile image  

8/5/09 1:42 PM by jason hornbuckle

other than Pacquiao, name a guy who could earn 20 million a fight in boxing right nowif he gets hit by a car tomorrow, there isn't a single superstar in the whole sport

Daniel Plainview site profile image  

8/5/09 1:40 PM by Daniel Plainview

 You guys said the same thing ten years ago.  You were wrong then, too.