As Boxing’s Popularity Falls, Mixed Martial Arts Popularity Rises
It’s been nearly 46 years since the biggest moment in Maine boxing history. On May 25th, 1965, in Lewiston, Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston to remain world heavyweight champ.Now in 2011, professional boxing is illegal in maine and the sport’s popularity has plummeted. Prescott Rossi explains.The Ali-Liston fight in Lewiston is the only heavyweight title fight to ever be held in Maine. This once popular sport is on the verge of being knocked out and now, mixed martial arts is the prefered sport for fight fans.”The winner, still undefeated, five in a row, all by knockout, Bobby Wadleigh.”"You can’t trust anybody in the sport. Something about it. It’s the greed.”Many people who have been involved in Maine boxing have their theories as to why boxing’s popularity in the state has dropped dramatically. “Boxing is a generational sport passed down from grandfather to son, father to son, it’s a generational sport. That’s not happening anymore.”Bobby Wadleigh – Former Professional Boxer”My very first year as an amateur, I fought 32 times because there was fights in Waterville, Skowhegan, Dexter, Dover, Portland. You could fight Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights because the economy was great. The money was there for individuals to have gyms, but it’s tough.”There also is the issue of popular fighters. There are no local boxers that people recognize like Bobby Wadleigh and Joey Gamache. This problem also exists on the global level.”I can’t tell you who the heavyweight champion is right now. I don’t know.”"The heavyweight champion of the world right now in boxing. I don’t know, and I don’t care.”"Uhh, the Russian guy. Klitchsko? Does he hold it?”Another big blow for Maine boxing came a few years ago. There is a law on the books dating back to 1873 that makes prizefighting illegal in Maine unless the fight is supervised by a state commission. When the Maine athletic commission was dissolved by the state legislature as a cost-saving measure in 2007, professional boxing in Maine became illegal. That opened the door for mixed martial arts to become Maine’s top fighting sport.Paul Bernard – Former Professional Boxer”A lot of different aspects to mixed martial arts. You have to be proficient, not just with your hands like boxers, but you have to be able to kick, you have to be able to wrestle.”While the number of boxing gyms in Maine have fallen, the number of m-m-a gyms and schools have risen. MMA fighter Marcus Davis owns the Team Irish gym in Brewer.Marcus Davis – MMA Fighter”I’m training guys that want to fight. I’m training men, women, and now I’m going to be training kids in a kids MMA class for whatever their goals are. I don’t care what your goal is.”With the rise of MMA, people have begun wondering what will keep mixed martial arts from going the same direction as boxing?”Take care of their fighters and be honest. I think there is a lot of dishonesty in boxing and it came back to haunt them.”Tomorrow we will take a closer look at Maine’s connection to mixed martial arts as the state prepares for it’s first MMA fights in late-April.