Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Saturday might be the best night of fighting in 2011. In boxing, Manny Pacquiao faces Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas on pay-per-view and — before the boxing gets started — the UFC fight will air live and free on Fox television.
In the first UFC fight ever on network TV, undisputed and undefeated UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez defends his title against No. 1 contender Junior dos Santos. Modern mixed martial arts may be a young sport, but this fight from Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., is a throwback to the days of Dempsey or Ali or Tyson.
Velasquez became the Man the old-fashioned way, just like Jack Dempsey or Muhammad Ali did: He beat the Man who beat the Man who beat the Man. And dos Santos earned his shot just like a Sonny Liston or a Mike Tyson did: He knocked out top 10 guys until he was the last man standing.
Cain and Junior are the biggest punchers in the heavyweight division and this is a fight that, as a promoter, I have no doubt will deliver on TV.
The Velasquez vs. dos Santos fight on Fox revives the great tradition from boxing where the undisputed heavyweight championship will be defended on network TV. It’s taken a long time for this to happen again — it’s been 26 years since Larry Holmes last fought on NBC. I have always wanted to bring big fights back to network TV.
There’s been a lot of talk about the UFC killing boxing. I’ve always said that boxing is hurting boxing, not the UFC. I believe many people are fans of both. And I can prove it: On Sept. 17, the UFC drew 2 million viewers to a live fight on cable TV, and a couple hours later over 1.3 million fans bought the Floyd Mayweather PPV. Fight fans stayed in and watched both!
It will happen again this Saturday. The UFC fight will start at 6 p.m. There will be a full hour between the UFC fight ending and the Pac-Man vs. Marquez fight beginning — and I promise you it will be a huge night for combat sports again.