By Dominic Menor
Boxing purists and mixed martial arts enthusiasts are known to never back down from a fight. In defence of their respective crafts, even more so.
For decades, boxing owned the throne as the undisputed leader in must-see combat sports. With a shortage of marquee names, its death has been reported countless times, all of them apparent exaggeration. Couple the dearth of iconic stars on the heavyweight division with Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s retirement and Manny Pacquiao’s date with the sunset after the Timothy Bradley fight on April 9, and boxing’s demise could be real this time. If that happens, MMA, which continues to gain massive mainstream appeal, would be happy to take up the mantle.
Socrates Celestial, 39, a boxing coach who works at Kombat Arts Training Academy in Mississauga and an occasional fighter as the need arises, will be the first to say, “Not so fast.”
Celestial, a Brampton resident born to Filipino parents, currently trains Filipino-Canadian prospect Marc Pagcaliwangan. He discusses why, despite the hoopla surrounding the Kevin McGregors and Ronda Rouseys of the world, the sweet science known as boxing should never be counted out.
Q: Having a sense of the general environment of combat sports, what do you think is the state of MMA?
A: MMA has actually died off a lot. I know that a lot of gyms in our area directly, the GTA, have actually disbanded from having MMA programs because they don’t work for the general public. We have a lot of people who just fell in love with it right away. We actually had an octagon here, an MMA program, and the numbers just started dwindling.
I think what they did was they oversaturated the market. They just did so many UFCs, they just hit it so hard, and the people started getting bored. But boxing has remained consistent.
People say, why is boxing surviving? It’s because it’s a gentleman’s sport. It sounds funny because it’s boxing. But the whole reason why it got coined as a gentleman’s sport because if you and I have a disagreement, no matter what, OK, no knives, no guns, no friends jump in, no kicking, no kneeing, no biting, let’s just fight with our hands. Let’s settle our disputes hands only. And if you fall down, I’ll let you get back up. There’s a certain type of dignity, class in boxing whereas MMA, not that it lacks dignity, but it’s more for the high intensity, “I wanna see blood, I wanna see knockouts.” Whereas, at least for me and for other fans, (boxing) is a form. It’s poetry, seeing two guys move with their own techniques and one will win because one is sharper, one is faster or the other one is smarter.
Q: Which has a brighter future in your mind — boxing or MMA?
A: I’d go with boxing. You look at the average boxing fight in Vegas? It’s not just the purses for the boxers. Vegas makes lots of money in boxing. Vegas will never get rid of boxing. Ever. MMA hasn’t had that type of resources. I’m also a cutman. I’ve been a cutman for certain MMA competitions and fights. The number per year don’t number the match of professionals.
Q: On one hand, you have the Filipino culture that’s generally restrained. On the other hand, you have the MMA culture where it’s all guns a-blazing inside the ring. Do you think those two cultures make a perfect match?
A: You got Brandon Vera, Filipino. Filipinos back him. But it’s not the same thing. It’s different. We back him because he’s Filipino. We always back each other as a people. MMA, as a general, I’m not there so I don’t have the numbers. But I don’t think MMA has grabbed the Filipino male the way that boxing has. There’s a certain prestige in boxing. It’s ingrained in our culture and it has been for a long time. Could MMA be in the Filipino culture? Sure, it could. You have Mark Munoz. There’s been a couple of Filipinos here and there that have done it, but the numbers aren’t large. I’m not sure exactly what it could be, but I’d say the general culture of who we are as Filipinos has been always more toward boxing. Manny Pacquiao didn’t help either. He started a revolution. If we were to have a Manny Pacquiao in MMA, I’m sure we have people jump over. I see Filipinos in Thai boxing, kung fu, taekwondo, jujitsu, wrestling. There’s no sport that Filipinos don’t do. I’ve seen them in hockey, baseball, everything. But as a general sense, what does the average Filipino male in my area? Boxing.
Dominic Menor has a background in print journalism, which unlike boxing, is legitimately on its death bed. He writes in his spare time.