There’s drama brewing in the space I least expect it from — the YouTube fight analysis space. It’s a niche full of martial arts nerds like me and it’s usually a place of learning and sharing. However, the temptation of being seen as an all-knowing god can be too much for some, leading to plagiarism and grandstanding. That was the case for Rhythm Boxing, which I’ve since unsubscribed from upon learning of their immature response to The Modern Martial Artist, one of the best fight analysis channels out there.
The gist of the drama is as follows. The Modern Martial Artist is one of the best fight analysis channels on YouTube, analyzing both boxing and kickboxing for the most part. Rhythm Boxing is an up-and-coming storytelling channel that (used to) focus on telling the stories of boxers and their careers. I’m a big fan of this stuff, so I’ve been enjoying the content of both channels and have recommended them to friends.
But almost a month ago, Rhythm Boxing put out a video on how Sugar Ray Leonard supposedly cracked the Philly shell, the guard used by Floyd Mayweather, one of the greatest defensive boxers of all time. David Christian, the man behind The Modern Martial Artist, called them out for plagiarism, showing examples of how they copied his work. Rhythm Boxing clapped back with a fairly immature response, which prompted me to unsubscribe from them.
EDIT(29JUN2022@4:20AM): Rhythm Boxing removed the community post, likely due to backlash and hindsight. I expect a quiet exit from the issue and a return to form in their future videos. In the meantime, I will continue to be unsubscribed from them.
Also, I realized that Rhythm Boxing has terrible SEO with its name as most search queries bring back results related to boxing for fitness, which are unrelated to the YouTube channel.
Hype and Analysis
There are usually two different kinds of YouTube channels that focus on combat sports — hype channels and analysis channels. The former focuses on the story of the fights, from the buildup to the fight itself and its aftermath. The latter focus more on the techniques and strategies employed by the fighters. Both are great as they help paint the bigger picture, with the former painting the broad strokes and the latter filling in the finer details.
They’re not mutually exclusive from each other, but it’s easier for one of them to do both. Analysis channels can more easily narrate the story of the fight as well and fill it in with technical analysis to elaborate on that fighter’s personality and mindset. Anyone who says the nerdy stuff doesn’t matter likely has never trained a day in their lives and it may be questionable how they got into combat sports in the first place. With that said, it does leave a big hole.
Storytelling hype channels don’t have it as easy in crossing over with technical analysis since it requires someone with knowledge and experience in the corresponding fighting style. It’s actually quite easy to determine whether a channel has that knowledge and experience just by seeing how they provide that analysis, from how well they can explain the techniques and strategies to whether they’re actually showing on video what they’re talking about.
Conflict Between Hype and Analysis in Combat Sports
There has been a bit of a debate between hype and analysis in combat sports. The one I remember the most is when MMA reporter Ariel Helwani got abruptly kicked out and banned by UFC president Dana White in 2016 for having accurately reported Brock Lesnar’s UFC return. MMA analyst Robin Black then thought it was a good idea to give the dying horse a good stomping by commenting on the situation with “Analysis > Gossip”.
Robin Black became public enemy number one for a while on r/MMA because of this. He would go on to do good analysis while also mixing it with some d-bag tactics. Too bad since his One Minute Breakdowns are fun to watch.
On one hand, I agree with Robin Black’s initial assertion in how analysis is better than gossip. However, I also don’t agree that the hype and gossip aren’t important since they’re what put butts in seats in the first place. Meanwhile, analysis is what can keep those seats warm and legitimize the sport. Casual fans only need to tune into the former in order to get excited to watch the fights, but the latter is what can turn them into lifelong core fans.
They get hyped to watch a UFC, they see their first superman punch, and watch analysis on the superman punch, then maybe even try learning how to do it in the gym. Boom, that’s when you really know they’re hooked.
Where Rhythm Boxing Falls Short
Unfortunately, Rhythm Boxing doesn’t pass that eye test. Their recent videos that attempt to provide analysis of Julio Cesar Chavez’s supposed kryptonite against the Philly Shell and Muhammad Ali’s dissection of Ernie Terrell fall short of what can be seen as astute analysis. I didn’t even have to be privy to the accusations made by David Christian of The Modern Martial Artist to sense that something is wrong.
I think Rhythm Boxing’s video on Joe Frazier’s career is a return to form and I hope they get the message and stick to that formula.
To see what’s wrong, all you have to do is watch Rhythm Boxing’s excellent video on James Toney and see what they’re actually good at. They did pretty much no technical analysis in that video, yet it’s compelling because they focused more on James Toney’s character and personality, which he had plenty of as a talented boxer who hated training, liked eating, and loved embarrassing people in spars and fights.
But for their recent efforts, they’ve stretched themselves too thin by attempting to add analysis that didn’t go that deep, which only added more fat and detritus that reduced the overall quality of their content. In my opinion, their storytelling and technical analysis had big gaps between them, showing that the scriptwriter didn’t know enough about the technical side of boxing to integrate analysis to the storytelling well enough.
Related Tangent with Lawrence Kenshin
It’s like how I find the more recent videos of Lawrence Kenshin Striking Breakdowns to be almost unwatchable. Their earlier videos that introduced Muay Thai legends were excellent as they focused on what those fighters did well, which allowed them to focus on what they themselves did well. But once they had a narrator doing voiceovers for their videos, it’s like they completely changed their process and wrote cringey scripts to make their newer videos.
Yes, I’m kinda calling out Lawrence Kenshin here. I’m barely able to sit through their newer videos with narration these days compared to their older stuff with only text and music that I was watching in the mid-2010s. Then again, maybe I’ve just outgrown their content and I’ve moved on to deeper Muay Thai content like subscribing to the Muay Thai Library on Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu’s Patreon.
Let’s Talk About Pro Wrestling
Uh oh, it’s time to annoy the grumps. A lot of combat sports people hate pro wrestling, despite how they’re earning money from lessons learned from pro wrestling over the decades. You can’t just bite the hand that has been feeding you. And yes, I know this digresses from the main point, but I’ll take this opportunity to make the connection to pro wrestling.
It’s something I can comment on since I’m in the Philippine pro wrestling scene. While my job is to call a suplex when I see it happen in a match, I also have to talk about why that one guy is hitting the other guy with a suplex in the first place. What makes people care about the suplexing stuff is the story that got them into the ring to risk their bodies for the fans.
But when you focus only on the story and don’t care for the moves, you get something like the current WWE. It’s great in its own way and their top card stuff is worth watching, but you can see how they only put most of their eggs in that upper-tier basket and not much else on their lower-card and mid-card talent. Also, their storylines have become so nonsensical that it has been turning off longtime WWE fans for years now (in my opinion).
Despite that, they’re still a multi-billion dollar company. But the trouble with public companies is that they’re getting most of their money from shareholders, so you don’t know how well they’re really doing unless you can wrangle their financial statements off of their death grip. There has to be a reason why they’ve been making tons of budget cuts in recent years aside from paying hush money to certain employees.
Let’s turn our attention back to the supposedly serious fighters and how they hate pro wrestling, who taught the best of them how to make more money in the fight game. Muhammad Ali called himself “The Greatest” and had people rooting against him only for him to win, then won them over with his charisma and honesty. Boxing brought him to the top, but it’s his character that kept him there, even when he was losing.
People like to think that they hate arrogance. But when that arrogance is backed up, it’s confidence they wish they had. Soon enough, they flock to that shepard and get herded up.
They then wonder why the Paul brothers are now earning more money than some of the best fighters in the sport of boxing. Why are people paying money to see those clowns fight old men while Terence Crawford continues to be slagged off by Bob Arum and avoided by virtually everyone in his weight division? There was a hook and the fish were biting.
This is something pro wrestling had known all along for many decades now. That’s why people pay money to watch “fake fights”. If you think they’re just stupid, yet buy into the rivalry between two professional fighters, that’s just fine. In the end, the business will keep making money and the people will keep being entertained.
Maybe a handful of them know what a cross counter or a legdrop is, but everyone knows the names of Muhammad Ali and Hulk Hogan.
Can’t The Modern Martial Artist and Rhythm Boxing Just Get Along?
This has all been really silly and unnecessary. All of this started because someone decided that they wanted to do more, but ended up doing it in an unethical and hamfisted way, which called the attention of the guy they were unethical towards. An apology and an olive branch can solve this conflict and bring things back to equilibrium.
There’s a big audience for YouTube drama, but not in the fight analysis space that’s filled with otherwise jaded adults who are only in it for the real fights and not the keyboard fights. Perhaps we can get a YouTuber boxing match out of it for big money, but these two channels are not known for the people behind them. They’re known for the quality of their work, and they should remain that way.
I wrote this blog post to touch on different subjects I’m passionate about. I wanted to talk about the importance of being self-aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the dichotomy of the storytelling and analysis halves of martial arts and combat sports. Both are important for the study of martial arts and even life itself. Being a fighter is never without your reason for fighting.
Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have in the comment section below.
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