By: Kevin Dyson
Right, first thing is first. This is about a video game and, as such, will probably get dismissed.
But humour me, as I want to explain how something that may be seen as niche can impact the way our sport is seen and supported by the general public.
With that out of the way, let us talk about the saga of Fight Night Champion 2.
Between 1999 and 2011, gamers enjoyed a series of 10 boxing games, five under the Knockout Kings moniker and a further five in the Fight Night series.
For a great part of this run, the fighters that historically attracts the most casual fans, the heavyweight division, was at its lowest ebb, thanks to a dearth of talent and the dominant but dull Klitschkos facing very little challenge. I was a fan of both, but sometimes it seemed the only way we would get any excitement was through the brothers facing off against each other.
Thankfully we had the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather and a plethora of talent in the lower weight classes. But there is no doubt that having stars among the big men is the easiest way to attract the public.
With 2011’s Fight Night Champion we had a great sports game that managed to satisfy true boxing fans, featuring legends and current fighters and rewarding players who understand the ebb and flow of the sweet science, It was also ground-breaking, featuring a dramatic storyline that would go on to inspire a number of other sports titles.
So we played the game, loved it.
Ever since then publisher EA has opted to take advantage of the burgeoning UFC, releasing three editions of mixed martial art action since 2014.
On the face of it, it was entirely sensible given the fortunes of the sports at that time.
However, with sales in the UFC series falling and the resurgence of boxing’s glamour division, you could reasonably expect the sort of thinking that drove them into the arms of UFC in the first place directing them back to boxing.
Just compare the potential rosters for a start. While Fight Night Champion featured all the legends of the sport, the modern talent was underwhelming. As well as the Klitschkos, we had Butterbean, Eddie Chambers and Chris Arreola.
bviously, we did have the likes of Pacman, Mosely, De La Hoya, Cotto and Bradley to make up for that, but broadly speaking it was less than stellar.
Compare that to the potential line up in a sequel.
Lomachenko, Fury, Wilder, Joshua, Ruiz, Inoue, Garcia, GGG, Canelo, Ward, Kovalev and so on. Not only are these exciting fighters, they are all personalities.
Unfortunately, this short list highlights the one potential roadblock. With the UFC the game developers deal with a single entity, as they do with their NFL, NBA and NHL games. Clearly this makes a deal a lot more straightforward.
The boxing industry certainly can’t be accused of being straightforward. After all most fighters are more like freelancers or agency workers and the each sanctioning body works independently of one another. Trying to secure individual fighters for a game is a laborious, not to mention expensive, endeavour.
Still, if not now, then when? If they don’t get their finger out during this boom period for the sport I wouldn’t put money on them bothering in the future.
There has been no lack of pressure from fans, that is certain. One fan decided to be proactive, setting up a petition, www.change.org/p/ea-games-new-boxing-game-fight-night-champion-2, which has attracted more than 10,000 signatures.
The petition states: “There is no doubt about it. Boxing IS on the rise again. The excitement and entertainment the sport brings to the masses is unquestionably breath-taking
“It (Fight Night Champion 2) would mean a great deal to the boxing community as well as many casual fans to be given an opportunity to relive the great moments from fighters, old and new, all over again.”
While many (possibly most) of you may have absolutely no interest in pixelated pugilism, I hope that you would agree that, for boxing to grow, it is precisely this type of crossover that has a role to play – drawing people, especially younger ones, into the boxing family.