ESPN MMA Analyst Chael Sonnen Throttles Professional Boxing Media
By: Jesse Donathan
“What Ruiz did was not a Buster Douglas moment,” declared to Chael Sonnen In a June 5, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “Anthony Joshua and the problem with Boxing….” The Bellator light heavyweight contender and ESPN MMA analyst went on to recount that, “There really wasn’t a lot to see here if you were to listen to the pundits and the insiders in boxing.” Sonnen of course is critiquing the lead up to the Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr. fight where virtually nobody in the boxing media community gave Andy Ruiz Jr. much of a chance at defeating the British heavyweight ace.
“Even if you were to square these two guys off and do the eye test,” said Sonnen. “Ruiz looked more like the everyman and Joshua looked like the heavyweight champion of the world,” the ESPN analyst said in apparent admiration for the former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s Adonis-like physique.
Ruiz Jr. wasn’t slated to be Anthony Joshua’s original opponent, but by a strange twist of fate things worked out the way that they did in what would ultimately become a historic night for the Mexican-American champion.
Originally, undefeated heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller was set to face the former IBF, WBO, WBA and IBO British champion, but after failing multiple drug tests for performance enhancing drugs and receiving a six-month ban from the WBA; “The Destroyer” as Ruiz Jr. is known was selected as the late replacement.
“Eventually the fight went off with Ruiz being a 9 to 1 favorite,” explained Sonnen. “At one point though he was almost 30 to 1 favored. One of the most lopsided matches ever. Which turns people off to boxing.”
With an air of frustration and skepticism, Sonnen would go on to hypothesize that, “They wonder why people don’t love boxing the way they used to? Look, its because they do crap like that all the time.”
The pistol whipping didn’t stop there either. According to Sonnen, “They take the heavyweight champion of the world and throw him in a fight with a guy nobody’s ever seen, because the guy has never been on television before. And oh, by the way, the insiders within your own sport think this is a massacre.”
The media is a powerful tool in modern society, many people take the information they receive from pundits and insiders alike as gospel truth. There is an implied authority to those who deliver our boxing and mixed martial arts news, the public picks up on the direction of the wind from these pundits and forges their own opinions based on the delivery of that content. Only according to Sonnen, these boxing experts bring little to the table but mirages; fictitious versions of reality based on little more than hype and idolatry.
“We never really know as fight fans who the best boxer is,” said Sonnen. “We don’t really know.”
“And the boxers themselves who survive within that industry tend to mark out for their own gimmicks.” According to Sonnen, who is slated to face former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at Bellator 222 in Madison Square Garden later this month, “I feel as if the boxers that are athletes within that space are more than happy to go along with the imagination of the media of which anoints and crowns who the best fighter in the world is.”
Sonnen’s blistering critique of the boxing media, professional boxing and the athletes themselves didn’t stop there either. On a roll, Sonnen went on to sarcastically pick apart the convenient nature in which the best heavyweights in the sport seem to always duck each other in the modern era.
“Oh boy, all the best boxers in the world all have the best record, 30-0. What a coincidence. How could they all be undefeated if you’re actually competing with some of the best guys in the world?
And you must be, because you’re the world champ!”
According to the former UFC middleweight contender, “It would just seem that you would be able to realize that I am in a B.S. industry, in a B.S. sport and therefor I’m going to take everybody really serious because the media doesn’t actually know who the best is. They don’t know because they’re not exposed to it. They’re not exposed to it because we don’t have an architecture in place to expose them.”
Sonnen is a brilliant mind in the mixed martial arts industry; always the philosopher and showman, it’s very likely Sonnen is pitching to the audience the modus operandi that Dana White, Zuffa Boxing and company plan to bring to the world of professional boxing as they look to make their entry into the sport later this year.
The UFC famously credits “The Ultimate Fighter” reality television series for their survival and very existence according to an April 20, 2016 UFC.com article titled, “Why ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Matters to MMA,” by author Thomas Gerbasi. “White called it the UFC’s ‘Trojan Horse,’ a way to not only introduce the sport to the masses on cable television, but introduce them to the athletes as well,” writes Gerbasi.
We can likely expect a similar business model and plan moving forward from Dana White and company as they look to exploit the perceived promotional void left by professional boxing with some of the sport’s biggest stars. The very criticism’s Sonnen is levying against boxing just so happen to be the strengths in which the UFC model under Zuffa excelled at prior to the four billion-dollar sale to the new promotional owners, WME-IMG.
Much of the infrastructure already exists within the Zuffa mixed martial arts matrix to make a boxing version of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series a go. And according to a February 6, 2014 mmamania.com article from author Jesse Holland it wouldn’t be the first time Dana White and company tried either.
“Boston massacre,” writes Holland. “That’s pretty much the only way to describe what happened to “The Fighters” in the ratings when it debuted on Discovery Channel last month.” According to Holland, the show was an attempt to reinvigorate Boston boxing to the local community but that it was unfortunately cancelled after just one episode.
UFC President Dana White is a New England native himself, having grown up in Connecticut with strong ties to the Boston area his attempts to make Boston boxing great again likely came from a genuine, heartfelt appreciation for the sport and the city itself. A long-time boxing fan and shrewd business person, White brings a wealth of experience in acquiring talent and building promotional stars. With the UFC front man having had a hand in successfully making UFC juggernaut’s Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor household names the world over; the UFC President no doubt has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.
Author Jesse Holland would go on to report in an April 23, 2019 article for mmamania.com titled, “Whatever Happened to Zuffa Boxing? Dana White Explains…,” that the UFC President just doesn’t take no for an answer. According to Holland, White was quoted as stating that Zuffa Boxing will be making moves by the end of the summer despite previously failing in the past.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. With Dana White reportedly having being seen with Anthony Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn in the recent past, Zuffa Boxing could have an ace up their sleeve in attempting to introduce new life into the stagnant pool of frustration that saturates the current landscape in professional boxing. One eyed Jacks and deuces are wild as Zuffa Boxing attempts to show the old guard how things are done in the modern era.