EA Sports' Fight Night Round 4 is one of the highly anticipated sports games of 2009. Loads of G4 staffers are amped for the game and all signs point to it being a knockout. As the biggest boxing fan on the staff, as well as someone that has trained in the sport, I'm super excited for this title. My expectations are quite different from my coworkers' and I wanted to see what other hardcore boxing fans think of Fight Night. This was an excellent excuse to ping MaxBoxing.com's Gabriel Montoya. In addition to being one of my favorite boxing writers, I've spent hours mixing it up with Gabe in Doghouse Boxing's forums. He's one of the sharpest guys in the business, brilliant to talk boxing with, and an avid gamer. If you're a Fight Night fan and/or a boxing fan, you definitely want hear what Gabriel Montoya has to say.
G4: For boxing fans, how has EA's Fight Night series been a success?
Gabriel Montoya: I think for one thing, it has treated fight fans with respect. It has attempted to do for us what Madden did for football. Now while I would consider it a kid compared to Madden’s adult, it really is the closest thing we have to the complete package in terms of gameplay, realism, and its rosters that ranges from prospects to hall of fame fighters. We could have easily gotten digital Rock ‘em Sock ‘Em Robots, but the progression from Knockout Kings to Fight Night has been a pleasure to play. One thing I think it’s really gotten right is the movement. I’ve gotten by for years against my casual boxing fan friends who don’t understand that moving left or right is a helluva lot better than moving forward or back. This ain’t Double Dragon in the arcade. This is the sweet science.
G4: What are some of the things it can do better to appeal to hardcore boxing fans?
Montoya: For one, it needs to find a way that it can’t be gamed unlike Rounds 2 and 3 where guys could live on haymakers. Now I love untangling a tough style, but that in-and-out, hit you only with the haymaker just didn’t feel like boxing. This was a problem, particularly online.
Another thing would be to expand the career mode. As much as I was not a fan of Don King’s Prizefighter's gameplay, the career mode was the bomb. I’d like to see competing promoters, shady managers, as well as all the pitfalls of getting to the top and staying there. Something I think is very attainable is a downloadable roster. Madden does online roster changes, why not do the same with Fight Night? Boxing has emerging stars all the time and it would be nice to see them after the game came out. Young fighters develop or unknowns emerge out of nowhere. The rosters should keep up with the sport. It can get old fighting the same roster while you wait for the next game to come out which leads me to my last wish. Let’s get a regular schedule for the game. All the other sports games come out once a year, why not Fight Night?
G4: Clinching is an aspect of boxing that has never been accurately portrayed in a game. Do you think boxing fans want to employ hit-and-hold tactics like Ricky Hatton? Or does the potential for a John Ruiz-type hug fest make it unnecessary?
Montoya: Clinching is part of the game. I always like to see a well-rounded fighter. Without clinching you can’t have it. You can’t slip everything, you need to block, too. And sometimes, you need to clinch. Different styles present different challenges and so you need a diverse set of tools to deal with them. If you’re as much of a Fight Night junkie as I am, you get bored after awhile once you figure out a style. While I can’t stand the sight of a John Ruiz fight, I have to give him his due. His style was very hard to deal with for a lot of top guys and so you have to include it. Ignoring it is to ignore the great boxing axiom “styles makes fights” or in Ruiz’ case, “styles put me to sleep.”
G4: What are some aspects of boxing you'd like to see implemented or improved in future games?
Montoya: I’d also like to see different punches have different degrees of damage. If Tito Trinidad lands that vaunted left hook, it should do more damage than his jab. This would make for much deeper game planning from the gamer and it would feel more like boxing. I’d like the investment in bodywork to show more. Plus, I’d like to see individual moves come into play more. Holyfield’s headfirst approach, Naseem Hamed and Vic Darchinyan’s bizarre styles should be replicated. The shoulder roll of James Toney or Floyd Mayweather, Jr. would be cool, too. And this would be tough, but the Bernard Hopkins hip punch along with his patented right hand, shoulder, head butt combo move would be cool to game against. Fouling is a part of the game and while there is a nice selection, I’d like to see some more diversity in it. Some combo fouls. Maybe use the special move button for that. Each guy should have his own.
G4: Lastly, EA has started up the Ali vs. Tyson debate with the cover for Fight Night Round 4. Would you tell the G4 audience who you think would win and why?
Montoya: You know, I love me some Ali and I tend to think his intelligence, ability to adjust on the fly, and speed of foot and hand win the day BUT, Tyson in his prime was a beast. Relentless pressure, power in both hands, combinations from hell, and a solid chin, as well. The Tyson that lost to Holyfield and Douglas was not the Tyson that beat Michael Spinks. To me, that was prime Tyson. The Tyson that lost was without his original trainer, spoiled by too much of everything and Robin Givens. So let’s say the Ali that beat Cleveland Williams or Ernie Terrell vs. Spinks’ Tyson go at it. Early, I got Ali working from the outside but getting crowded on the ropes and pummeled to the head and body while tying up and moving Tyson back. Somewhere in the first four rounds, Ali gets dropped. Tyson tries to follow up but Ali is able to tie up and move just enough to survive. By the mid to late rounds, Ali takes over with superior conditioning and experience at fighting into the championship rounds. A couple scary moments for Ali down the stretch but ultimately his feet and moving backwards one-two get him a split decision. It looks a bit like Ali-Frazier I, but The Greatest is close enough to his prime to pull off what he couldn’t with the three-year layoff.
G4: That sounds like an awesome fight! More importantly, it should shut up the G4tv.com readers that keep telling me that Tyson would win. So Peter Moore, Thomas Gerbasi, and the excellent Gabriel Montoya have all picked Ali. End of discussion!