Boxing has more problems than title belts. Yet one of the single biggest issues this once great sport faces is that one of its most popular fighters just died. More people know Smokin' Joe Frazier than they do any of the fighters who have succeeded him, and Frazier's last fight was in 1981.
Do not believe extremists who say boxing is dead. It's not dead, but it is hurting, either through maddening incompetence or the serious shots that mixed martial arts and Ultimate Fighting Championship continue to land.
While the UFC continues to muscle its way into mainstream America, and the global market, boxing increasingly corners itself as a niche sport.
Don't believe me? Turn on the TV tonight.
Tonight, boxing's biggest name -- Manny Pacquiao -- will fight Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas on HBO Pay-Per-View for $54.99.
"Long awaited," is how ringside announcer Jim Lampley calls this fight on the HBO website teaser.
Long awaited? This will be the third time these guys have fought.
The only suspense is not whether Pacquiao wins, but "how bad can Manny beat Marquez," former featherweight champion, and Fort Worth's own, Paulie Ayala said this week in a phone interview.
A few hours before Pacquiao beats Marquez, for the first time an Ultimate Fighting Championship event will be broadcast on free TV when Cain Velasquez will defend his heavyweight title against Brazil's Junior Dos Santos.
The telecast will last only an hour but, beginning at 8 p.m., Fox and the UFC will see just how far this sport has come.
Prediction: a lot further than the Ring of Fools who run boxing think.
With the UFC, you talk about fights, fighting and fighters. With boxing, you talk about past fighters, corruption, fights that never happen and controversy.
Fox is televising this title fight on its flagship network from the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. This is part of a seven-year agreement between the UFC and Fox to televise four major events each year, as well as becoming a fixture on FX.
On the same night boxing asks you to pay almost 60 bucks to watch its biggest name against an opponent he should crush, the UFC asks you to pay nothing to watch a genuine main-event title fight.
I can't recall the last time a noted boxing match was on free TV. Decades?
It's not as though UFC chief Dana White is some genius; all he is doing is stealing boxing's plan from decades ago that helped make guys such as Frazier, Foreman, Ali and Sugar Ray household names and generate massive international appeal.
"Some of it is boxing has shot themselves in the foot by putting it on pay-per-view and the fights not being that good," Ayala said. "People want to see good fights. The UFC puts on good fights, for the most part. I like it. The UFC fans want to see blood and knockouts. It's more barbaric. It's a totally different demographic."
The eyeball tests say the UFC has gained a big following among the white community, while boxing continues to thrive among minorities, especially Latinos.
"That's the truth," Ayala said.
There are household UFC names now, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Mark Coleman and Ken Shamrock. Kimbo Slice may be a stiff, but you know who he is.
However well the UFC does tonight, and beyond, it is not a formal grave for boxing.
"Boxing can't commit suicide on its own," Ayala said. "There was that fight at Cowboys Stadium that had 50,000 people. Look at how many people watched the last Mayweather fight."
Yeah ...let's talk about that.
When Floyd "Fraud" Mayweather Jr. knocked out Victor Ortiz with a glorified sucker punch in the fourth round of their fight in September, the subject wasn't the fight but the controversy.
Boxing can't be hurting too badly, though; that "fight" generated nearly $80 million in PPV. Count me among the suckers. But this is not the same sport that made Frazier so celebrated.
The fight that would put the UFC back in its place, at least for little a while, still is not happening.
Mayweather-Pacquiao is the fight that people want, but if it doesn't happen soon, boxing will have missed out on its biggest event since the days of Tyson-Holyfield. A Mayweather-Pacquiao bout would break every fight record conceivable.
"Hopefully, it can happen next year," Ayala said. "There is no one else for these fighters to fight."
Dana White and the UFC have the advantage of running the sport like dictators, which cuts out all of the political garbage that cripples boxing.
And that is why I intend to watch Velasquez-Dos Santos for free and skip Pacquiao-Marquez III.
Follow Mac Engel on Twitter @MacEngelProf and the Big Mac Blog.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697