Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: February 28, 2001
The art of fighting with one’s fists has been a part of just about every culture in history. There are indications that the Ancient Egyptians treated pugilism as a sport; with leather thongs wrapped around the participants’ knuckles and wrists, the activity was added to the ancient Greek Olympic program in 688 B.C.E. In the 1700′s, England gave rise to a codified set of rules that came to roughly resemble the sport we know today, including the division of fights into rounds and the introduction of “mufflers” or gloves for the combatants. Today’s boxing features even further codification of the rules, massive TV and Pay-Per-View coverage, and fighters who have become media personalities in their own rights. Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson may hold the spotlight today, but history remembers fighters like Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali with as much, if not more, fondness. Thus, it was with a strong sense of history that EA Sports updated its boxing series to this year’s version, Knockout Kings 2001.
Unlike their real-life counterparts, digital athletes never age, avoid injury and never have an off day. Matches that the linear nature of time would deem impossible are easily accessible so long as the programmers provide the necessary templates for their players. To this end, EA Sports has included a roster of Dream matches, which will surely be a highlight of the title for any boxing historian. Want to see the great Ali go up against Marciano, the only undefeated boxer of all time? It’s there. Sugar Ray Leonard pairs up with Sugar Ray Robinson to put a new twist on the “sweet science,” and there’s even a toe-to-toe slugfest between two of the greatest female boxers fighting today: Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker. Each fantasy bout comes complete with descriptions of the fighters, and a transcript of a virtual press conference between the two, proving that sometimes the build-up is as satisfying as the execution.
The system by which the famous boxers of yore are recreated is a mixture of statistics and style. Every character is rated in several characteristics that determine their performance in the ring. Power, Speed and Stamina are all easy to decode, but it bears explaining that high Chin levels minimize the damage taken from each hit. Similarly, a strong Heart rating makes it easier to haul your man off the mat after a knockdown, and a high Cut rating prevents wounds from opening up mid match. Mixing and matching these skills with the four included styles can create some fascinating combinations. The Boxer style is a classic stance with the arms held upwards at all times, while Freestyle mimics Muhammad Ali’s footwork-heavy methodology. If power’s more important then defense, some of the finesse may be traded for heavy hits by choosing the Slugger style, while Ken Norton’s infamous “Crab” technique lets boxers keep their arms floating out front defensively. As might be expected, Freestyle offers the widest selection of combos and specialty moves, while Sluggers have the least, but their hits deal more damage than a similar move from the competition.
Of course, no boxing simulation would be complete without the stars of today, and the current giants of the boxing world have also been included. With greats like Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley included in the default roster, there’s sure to be exciting bouts in each and every weight class. New to this year’s edition is the inclusion of female boxers, including Mia St. John, Christy Martin, Chevelle Hallback and Denise Morietes, all of whom have made a serious impact in this once exclusively male sport. Working within Exhibition mode, any fighters in the same weight class can be put head to head, and two players can get in on the action to settle any long-standing debates between friends. For those new to the boxing world, Knockout Kings 2001 has even included a Biography section where every fighter in the game receives a brief analysis of their lives and fighting styles.