BKB: The Good, the Bad, and the Value for the Dollar

By Caryn A. Tate on August 17, 2014
BKB: The Good, the Bad, and the Value for the Dollar
Will the skill and technique of the sweet science be lost in favor of a senseless brawl?

If BKB is the “future of boxing,” as the organization has stated, the traditional sport of boxing may have no one but itself to blame…

On Saturday, August 16, the inaugural BKB (Big Knockout Boxing) card took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, televised via pay-per-view. For $29.95, nine fights total were broadcast (six on PPV only), including the main event of Bryan Vera vs. Gabriel Rosado for the BKB middleweight title.

There have been concerns voiced from fans and media alike about the level of skill and potential loss of “the sweet science” in BKB. While the first two matches on the undercard featured fighters who were unfortunately lacking in technique, the third bout (still on the non pay-per-view portion of the card) featured junior welterweights Raul Tovar and Herbert Acevedo, who clearly had some skill and knew what they were doing. Following that bout, all of the remaining fights featured clearly well-trained fighters of varying degrees—no different in quality than their traditional boxing counterparts. It’s vital for BKB to continue recruiting boxers who possess skill and technique, in addition to being exciting. Otherwise they could easily fall into the trap of one-sided matches or simply losing audience due to lack of quality fights.

Boxing fans know the main card fighters well. Returning to middleweight after two fights at super middleweight, Bryan Vera is a boxing veteran at the age of 32, having fought some of the toughest and best boxers in the world. Gabriel Rosado is newer to the sport but very well-respected, having proven that he’s unafraid to face the best that the junior middleweight and middleweight divisions have to offer. Both fighters have no-quit attitudes in the ring, and are undeterred by losses—both qualities which have made them popular with fans.

Vera dropped Rosado in round 3, and later in the same round Rosado returned the favor. Throughout round 4, Rosado seemed to get the better of Vera by outworking him and proving more accurate in his punches—he even showboated, displaying more confidence than we’ve seen from him before (possibly due to the recent surgery he had in an attempt to fix his predilection towards getting cut over his left eye); Vera seemed a bit taken aback by it. Rosado continued to land more than Vera in round 5, until finally two successive shots landed flush to Vera’s face and dropped him again. Vera rose but was clearly wobbly, and referee Kenny Bayless correctly halted the bout. Both fighters didn’t back down and displayed skill and heart, as expected, but Rosado proved to be too much for Vera on this night.

Lending further legitimacy to this new platform, each bout featured well known and respected professional boxing officials. Referees included Kenny Bayless, Tony Weeks, and Jay Nady; judges included Robert Hoyle and Jerry Roth. Providing commentary throughout the event was trainer Robert Garcia.

Brandon Rios and Mikey Garcia were interviewed between bouts. A surprise to no one (due to his aggressive style) was Rios expressing interest in fighting on BKB; but Mikey Garcia, more measured in his approach, also mentioned he might like to try it. Because BKB is separate from boxing as a sport, fighters like Garcia who are having promotional or contractual issues may find it appealing to move over to BKB so that they can continue fighting. From a fan perspective, it would be very appealing to have more boxers like Garcia, known for being masterful on a technical level, join the ranks of BKB to show that it’s more than just a shrine to the slugfest.

It’s important to note that BKB has retained the core rules of boxing and its basic trappings. What they did change is the fighting space and the rounds. Instead of a square ring with ropes surrounding it, the boxers fight inside the “pit,” a circle 17 feet in diameter with the specific intention of forcing offensive fighting. They changed the length of the fight and its rounds, to a maximum of 7 two-minute rounds for the championship fights, or 5 two-minute rounds for non-championship fights. BKB claims to “put the knockout back into boxing,” and that it’s “designed for fans who crave action, intensity, and most of all—big knockouts.”

There are more intangible differences between BKB and regular boxing as well, that may add additional appeal. The seeming lack of “favorite” fighters or promoters and a lot of the politics that we’ve come to expect from traditional boxing further served to separate BKB from its supposed rival in its first event on Saturday. There were no delays between bouts; immediately upon one match ending, the next fighters made their way to the pit and very shortly afterward began to fight. Fans weren’t given a chance for their attention to wander.

Many boxing fans understandably felt concern and had a lot of questions upon hearing about BKB and how it works. Will the skill and technique of the sweet science be lost in favor of a senseless brawl? With shorter and fewer rounds, won’t we also get even further away from the old 15-round fights’ ability to separate the true athletes and warriors from those who can’t hang tough? If the fight is geared towards being more aggressive than even traditional boxing, are we looking at a new platform that is more brutal, more on par with MMA? If so, many boxing fans would count themselves out.

Despite the promise of knockouts, only a few of the BKB bouts ended that way. All in all, the card felt like traditional boxing with house rules; yes, the fighters fought in an odd-looking area that appeared more reminiscent of MMA than boxing, but other than that it was simply boxing, just in a smaller space. Fighters displayed head movement, danced, evaded, and truly boxed. In many ways BKB has taken boxing back to its original roots, when fighters simply fought in a circle surrounded by people, before the advent of ropes or corners.

BKB has a number of positives. As promised in its marketing, the lure of a faster pace and more probable knockout is undoubtedly appealing for most fans—chiefly because knockouts entertain, but also because a knockout means there won’t be any of the questionable or downright disgraceful decisions by the judges that have plagued the sport. Nine fights for $29.95 is a great value for the money, particularly in this day and age when, for a traditional boxing pay-per-view card, we get maybe half that many fights for $60 or $70…and of course, many of those bouts result in decisions, which then takes us back into the aforementioned territory of boxing judges and the presumed favoritism towards certain fighters or those promoted or managed by the big names in the sport. (Several of the BKB fighters themselves mentioned this as one of the reasons they came over to BKB at the weigh-in on Friday.) Fight fans are also well aware of the problem of mismatches and the prevalence of politics in the sport of traditional boxing—resulting in less than suspenseful fights, and even more bouts we want to see but won’t get made. So the appeal of a fresh new platform, with in-house titles (rather than those managed by separate organizations to which sanctioning fees are paid), and a seeming lack of favoritism and big name promoters/managers, is palpable.

Is BKB a gimmick? At first blush it appears to be that, particularly when you discover that the heads of it used to work in traditional boxing (Bruce Binkow is BKB’s executive director, having come from Golden Boy Promotions only this summer). Apparently they saw the need or opportunity (depending on your viewpoint) for BKB to win over fight fans—seemingly providing entertainment that they feel will appeal to both fans of boxing and MMA.

And why is that? If BKB is a hit, how is it able to steal the market share from traditional boxing? Even if it’s not a hit, the simple fact that it was able to find its way into fight fans’ consciousness at all is telling. Can you imagine BKB being created in the 1970s, 1980s? Would anyone have watched it if its competition was with boxing’s best and most exciting fighters at the time, like Hagler, Leonard, Duran, Chavez, or Tyson?

BKB may be capitalizing on some vital aspects of boxing that the traditional sport has not been giving us. When many of the most popular and well known fighters in boxing are more known for their defensive abilities or their antics outside the ring than anything else, where does that leave the sport? Even hard core fans who can appreciate defensive skill still really enjoy seeing effective aggression. There’s a reason Fights of the Year are always exciting, scrappy, and offensive bouts: it’s because those are the fights the fans enjoy most. Certainly that doesn’t mean that aggressive fighters should be lacking in defensive skill, or that fans want to see brutality; it simply shows that the audience does have a desire to see action, and showmanship. Skill does not have to equal lack of offense; nor does being more offensively minded have to mean you’re a one-dimensional brawler.

There’s a lot that traditional boxing can learn from BKB. Faster-paced action fights, better value for the money, and a lack of politics and favoritism are major factors for fans. The differences between BKB and the traditional sport are minor; the things that boxing fans perceive to be differences or possibly threats are really just aspects of marketing hype to draw attention to this new platform. But the truth is that BKB feels like boxing without the baggage.

If BKB is the “future of boxing,” as the organization has stated—which remains to be seen—the traditional sport of boxing may have no one but itself to blame.

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Brian Vera vs. Gabriel Rosado - Full Fight

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  1. Jim Allcorn 04:12pm, 08/20/2014

    Honestly? I expected this to be a bit of a train wreck.
    A one & done curiosity that would be lucky to wind up as a trivia question a decade or so down the line. Just like the rather infamous “People’s Choice One Night Heavyweight Tournament” & Cedrick Kushner’s similar heavyweight tourney a few years later, BOTH of which failed miserably because they turned out to be SO deadly dull.
    But at least both of them were contested in a regulation pro boxing ring. THIS thing? A “pit”? REALLY?!!
    The last time that a fight promoter attempted to “revolutionize” combat sports by using a “pit”, the UFC’s original promoter tried to make a comeback with his “can’t miss” idea & PPV YAMMA PIT FIGHTING.
    Never heard of it? That’s because almost no one purchased it & Davie lost his shirt.
    Fight fans are big on their love of traditions. And while innovation may seem like a spectacular idea to those prone to innovative ideas, those who love combat sports will quite often simply refuse to watch something that’s non-traditional. They don’t have to have a logical reason why, they just WON’T.

    Still, I was curious. So, I went ahead & watched it & even though wasn’t really enjoying any of the prelims, I stuck through it until the main event & wound up enjoying it. Though I’d rather have watched it take place in a regular boxing format, it was a good scrap between two lower echelon top twenty-ish guys.
    It was a nice rebound win for Rosado after his recent string of high profile losses & maybe he can still do something with his career a bit more substantial than being a gatekeeper.
    As for Vera, his days should REALLY be numbered. Hopefully for him & his family he was able to put some of that HBO $$$ away from his two Chavez fights & he’s got a plan for his life & livelihood outside of the ring. I’d hate to see him just stay on as a record padder & KO fodder.

  2. nicolas 10:56am, 08/19/2014

    When we have things like this, we realize that the “sweet science” is in big trouble I think it really started in the 80’s with the ending of 15 round fights, and finally the coming of the IBF in 83, and the WBO in 87. Because of this, MMA I think was able to make a foothold in the sporting society, and in the fight type of society, really make a big dent, something that other fighting sports were not able to do, at least in the USA. With things like this, and as well as things like the International Amateur Boxing Association, something that the late Jose Sulaiman railed against, we see boxing fracturalized as never before, and marginalized. Personally on a whole of all these organizations, I don’t have such a big problem with them, as long as they would all just recognize one champion, which as in the case of the WBA, they don’t.

  3. ch. 03:47am, 08/18/2014

    Congratulations Gabe, You looked terrific. Great performance. Congratulations to Billy Briscoe also.

  4. Darrell 10:04pm, 08/17/2014

    I like it!!  The much smaller fighting “surface” means the action will be “on” all the time.  Not sure about the width of the sloped outer part, should be smaller really to allow the spectators to be closer to the action…...that edge is a just a trip hazard though.  The pit style is great though.

    Still see the most skillful being the winner most of the time but the small area does allow a less skillful guy to be able to possibly land something.  Defense would be just as vital as KO power in this format, imo.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:46pm, 08/17/2014

    Not so sure about the border/perimeter of the pit….looks like a trip hazard to me. Looks like Gabe has found his niche…..all he has to do now is get Kid Chocolate in that snake pit.

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