Worlds collide: If consoles were boxers

World Collide: If consoles were boxers - Image 1Aside from the Fight Night series and Wii Sports Boxing, what do boxing and gaming have in common? A lot, really. Join us as we analyze the histories of both fields by drawing parallels between great boxers and game consoles. Why is Muhammad Ali equivalent to the NES? Why is Oscar De la Hoya comparable to the PS2? What does Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. share with next-gen consoles? Find out in the full article when you click on the “read more” link.

World Collide: If consoles were boxers - Image 1

Over the years, boxing and video game consoles have enjoyed quite a relationship with each other. Just about every generation of gaming seems to have a need for a defining squared circle simulator, dating back to Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out from Nintendo during the NES days, the Knockout Kings and Fight Night franchises by EA in the 3D age, and now to Wii Sports Boxing with the introduction of motion-sensing controllers.

Being a big fan of both video games and the sweet science, this blogger has observed that there’s more to the relationship of boxing and videogames than games based on the sport. There actually seems to be a bit of parallelism between the respective histories of both.

Has it occurred to you that the great console wars through seven generations of gaming are comparable to the great rivalries of boxing and the marquee fighters of their eras? If not, let’s analyze the histories of both businesses by drawing comparisons between pugilists and game systems. In chronological order, here are my points of comparison:

Ray Robinson, Atari 2600 - Image 1 Ray Robinson, Atari 2600 - Image 2 

Sugar Ray Robinson = Atari 2600

  • In terms of sheer longevity, these two are the kings of the “refuse to die” departments of both industries. The Atari 2600 was launched in 1977 and kept on rolling until it was retired in 1992. Sugar Ray Robinson racked up 85 bouts as an amateur and 200 fights as a pro – one of the longest and most fruitful by any fighter in history.
  • Both are viewed as defining patriarchs of their fields. The Atari 2600 transcended generation after generation with consistent success, introducing video games to homes as more than just novelty devices. Robinson, on the other hand, brought big-money prizefighting to the boxing world, all the while capturing the collective imaginations of hardcore and casual boxing fans a;ile.
  • Both were runaway champs in their primes. The original Sugar Man won a multitude of titles in the welterweight and middleweight divisions, fighting all the greatest pugilists of his time. The Atari 2600 competed with every console from the Channel F to the Genesis and SNES, selling 30 million units as of 2004’s tally.

LaMotta, Odyssey - Image 1 Picture credit: Martin Goldberg and the Electronic Entertainment Museum - Image 1 

Jake LaMotta = Magnavox Odyssey

  • Every great fighter needs a rival to create career-defining fights, and no console war would be complete without multiple machines duking it out for supremacy. The Magnavox Odyssey to the Atari 2600 is what Jake LaMotta was to Sugar Ray Robinson.
  • LaMotta etched his name in history by being the first man to defeat Robinson. The Magnavox Odyssey was the only real challenger in terms of sales and tech chops to the Atari 2600, making their 1978 to 1984 rivalry an exciting bout.

Ali - Image 1 Ali - Image 2 

Muhammad Ali = Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

  • Every industry and sport will inevitably go through sluggish phases, and both boxing and gaming have had theirs. In the early 80’s, after the initial turf between the Atari 2600 and the Magnavox Odyssey waned down, game industry sales slowed and dipped to dangerously low margins in a span of several months. Thankfully, a young, upstart company from Kyoto called Nintendo entered the picture with its NES console and roused the industry from its creeping paralysis.
  • Boxing had a similar phase. After Robinson’s game declined, boxing needed a new face to banner it to the masses. Enter young Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) from Louisville, Kentucky who showed the world a fighting style unprecedented in the heavyweight division. Ali was renowned for his fast hands and feet, incredible stamina, a good chin, and a big heart. He soon became a household name and was named Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated and the BBC.
  • Both were runaway winners of their respective eras’ battles for greatness. Ali was a three-time World Heavyweight Champion who sold tickets everywhere he went, while the NES crushed rivals Sega Master and Atari 7800 with over 60 million units sold. Nintendo also dominated software sales with Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 combining for 58.23 million copies sold as of 2003.
  • Both are viewed as innovators of their fields. Ali for his slick out-fighting style that made heavyweight boxing stylish, and the NES for marking the rise of game genres, popularizing D-pads, accessories, and much, much more.

Leonard, SNES - Image 1 Leonard, SNES - Image 2 

Sugar Ray Leonard = Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

  • When Ali retired, someone had to take the reins and carry boxing’s torch proud and true. The sport was very fortunate to have Sugar Ray Leonard who was fresh off a dominant performance at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He had all the tools of the original Sugar Man, carrying power, speed, technique, and charisma in one explosive package.
  • Like Leonard was to boxing, something had to come up in gaming to follow up on what the NES started. Nintendo seized the initiative once more with its sequel to its first juggernaut. Aptly called the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the new console carried more power, better games, and more fun than ever.
  • Like Ali and the NES, both Leonard and the SNES were the stars of their ages. Leonard fought and beat all the greats of his time, winning championships from junior lightweight to middleweight. The SNES also dominated the 16-bit age, selling 49 million units worldwide.
  • Both had famous nemeses. Sugar Ray Leonard took his only loss in his prime to rugged Panamanian great Roberto Duran, while the SNES locked horns with Sega’s mature-oriented Genesis in a duel that would last until the mid-90’s

Duran, Genesis - Image 1 Duran, Genesis - Image 2 

Roberto Duran = Sega Genesis

  • Boxing and the game industry both thrive on rivalries, and no console war was as  enthralling to watch as the SNES vs Genesis days. The Sega Genesis is the “La Pietre Manos” to the SNES’s Sugar Ray. In terms of popularity, aggression, and mature appeal, the Sega Genesis and Roberto Duran are true parallels.
  • Both were famous nemeses of an era’s rulers. Leonard may have made more money, beaten bigger stars, and ultimately sealed his reputation as his time’s main man, but Duran was the first to beat him in the pros. Let’s not forget that Duran himself had classic encounters with the likes of Tommy Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
  • The SNES may ultimately have won the console wars of the early 90’s, selling 20 million units in the US and 29 million more elsewhere, but the Genesis didn’t do too bad either. Sega’s black game system sold 29 million units worldwide, and was considered an innovator with the introduction of the Sega CD peripheral among others.
  • Both Duran and the Genesis were not squeamish combatants if you get this blogger’s drift. The Genesis allowed developers to paint their games crimson red with blood and gore, while the SNES tried to tone games like the original Mortal Kombat down. Similarly, Duran holds nothing back in a fight, hurting foes with anything that gets the job done, be it clean or dirty.

Roy Jones, PlaySation - Image 1 Roy Jones, PlaySation - Image 2 

Roy Jones Jr. = Sony PlayStation

  • When you talk about the rulers of eras, you can’t miss out on Roy Jones Jr. and the original Sony PlayStation. Both rose above their competition with utter dominance, beating just about everyone effortlessly along the way during their respective primes.
  • Both have stellar pedigrees: Jones won titles from the middleweight to the heavyweight classes, outperforming everyone from Bernard Hopkins to John Ruiz. He also won a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and is recognized as one of the greatest pound for pound fighters of all time.
  • Similarly, the first PlayStation had a monstrous run against rivals Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn. A total of 102.49 million units were shipped worldwide, breaking the gaming scene wide open and getting 3D gaming into the mainstream.
  • Both had unrivaled arsenals: Jones had phenomenally fast hands and feet for a middleweight, his reflexes were cat-like in his prime, he could throw every punch in the book and all of them packed a wallop. The PlayStation had great games for every imaginable genre. Everything from sports sims to RPGs were represented by classics that some of us still play today.

De la Hoya, PS2 - Image 1 De la Hoya, PS2 - Image 2 

Oscar De La Hoya = Sony PlayStation 2

  • Generation-defining, imagination-capturing, and of course, money-raking. That’s how powerful these two entities are. Both may be heading to retirement in a year or two, but it’s clear that they still have more market value than most of the young colts.
  • Both are the gold standards of their respective businesses: “The Golden Boy” won championships in a record six different weight divisions, an Olympic gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and is of course the highest-paid  prizefighter in history. He also owns Golden Boy Promotions, one of the two biggest outfits in the sport today.
  • Like De La Hoya,The PlayStation 2 is the most commercially-successful contender in the console arena. It sold more units than any game machine in history bar none. As of November of 2007, 120 million have flown off shelves and even in decline, it’s outselling next-gen machines. It also has the best game library in the business today with a collection that caters to gamers of all ages.
  • In the same manner that the PlayStation 2 appeals to both hardcore and casual gamers, De La Hoya draws crowds from all walks of life. His combination of technical skills, good looks, and his willingness to brawl makes him the biggest draw in boxing today.

Hopkins, Xbox 360 - Image 1 Hopkins, Xbox 360 - Image 2 

Bernard Hopkins = Microsoft Xbox 360

  • A parallelism between middleweight great Bernard Hopkins and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 can be drawn in terms of how they’ve settled in as staples of both their worlds. Hopkins is one of those old-school Philly fighters that the boxing world has come to embrace. Similarly, the Xbox 360 remains true to hardcore gaming, capitalizing on more traditional genres like shooters, sports, and action.
  • Both have had troubled pasts. Hopkins ran into trouble with the law at an early age and had a stint in prison before he turned his life around. The Xbox 360 suffered from a case of the gremlins with widespread complaints of system failures. The fear of the notorious “red ring of death” kept a good number of buyers away for a while before new chips were introduced.
  • When Hopkins had his epiphanies in the big house, he used discipline as his main rhetoric in life. Similarly, Microsoft decided that it’s had enough of returning consoles and introduced the more reliable Zephyr and Falcon chipsets to its consoles.
  • Both have had tremendous success in their businesses. Hopkins is arguably the greatest middleweight boxing has ever seen, and he holds the middleweight record of 20 title defenses. He’s also one of the best-paid fighters of his time, and for some time was the Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound king.
  • The Xbox 360 is also one of its generation’s best-sellers. Thanks to its rich collection of great games and exclusive franchises, it’s been able to rack up enough commercial success to put it on top of next-gen consoles for some time. However, it’s facing serious challenges as of late from the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii.

Pacquiao - Image 1 Pacquiao - Image 2 

Manny Pacquiao = Nintendo Wii

  • Talk about breaths of fresh air when you need them. Manny Pacquiao and the Nintendo Wii are exactly that to boxing and gaming. Both are unconventional performers, to say the least, but they’re both wildly popular and both have fast-rising stocks.
  • When Pacquiao first fought in the US, he was regarded as a good puncher who’d beat some good fighters, but would never rise to the elite level. All that changed in late 2003 when “The Pacman” put on a shocking demolition  job on one of the game’s biggest stars, Marco Antonio Barrera. From then on, there was no looking back as he is now considered the most exciting fighter in the business.
  • Similarly, expectations were low when Nintendo made its “Revolution” concept known to the public. Pundits scoffed at the thought of competing with high-end graphics using motion-sensing controls. By the time E3 2006 hit Santa Monica and people saw the long lines for Nintendo’s little beast, the gaming scene began to realize that the Wii is much, much more than a novelty machine.
  • Both may be small in size but they sure as hell are powder kegs of fun. The Nintendo Wii gets you up on your feet, waggling the Wiimote to control innovative titles. Pacquiao gets you up on your feet too as there are no boring moments in his fights knowing that he can land a savage powershot to stop the fight anytime.

Mayweather, PS3 - Image 1 Mayweather, PS3 - Image 2 

Floyd Mayweather Jr. = Sony PlayStation 3

  • For Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Sony’s PlayStation 3, it’s all about living up to their potentials and breaking stigmas cast on them. These two have undoubtedly the most advanced tools in their trades, but the lull it took for them to get into the thick of things have given pundits the ammunition to criticize them.
  • Mayweather’s questionable choice of opponents prior to 2007 can be equated to the PlayStation 3’s shortage of big, exclusive releases in the same year. In the same way many were disappointed with how Floyd cruised past lesser foes, a lot of people in the gaming scene complained of how the PS3’s advanced hardware was being put to waste with the absence of software that would truly showcase what the platform can do.
  • Both, however, are cranking up the pressure as of late and both have been silencing their critics. In 2007, Mayweather moved up in weight and beat Oscar De La Hoya for the WBC Junior Middleweight title. He was able to follow it up by knocking out unbeaten British welterweight Ricky Hatton in another megabuck event.
  • The PS3 has been coming on, too. Things began to heat up in the latter parts of 2007 when big games like Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, The Orange Box, Call of Duty 4, Devil May Cry 4, and Unreal Tournament 3 arrived. Price cuts on its various models also helped make it friendlier to more prospective buyers.
  • Both are headed towards big performances this year. Mayweather has a possible date with Puerto Rican sensation Miguel Cotto, and perhaps a rematch with De La Hoya. The PS3, on the other hand, has a ton of goodies slated. Inbound are Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, Metal Gear Solid 4, PlayStation Home, the Dual Shock 3, and much, much more.

 – Magnavox Odyssey photo credit: Martin Goldberg and the Electronic Entertainment Museum.

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