By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
And so, Boxing’s worst kept secret is now official. On Saturday August 26, inside the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather, a 49-0 fighter with Hall of Fame credentials, attempts to break Rocky Marciano’s unbeaten record against a man making his debut inside a Boxing ring, and the fight will be contested over twelve rounds (or less). In the other corner will stand Conor McGregor. A man who competes in the UFC, a Mixed Martial Arts arena, where forearms, knees, kicks, grapples, takedowns and submissions are the norm. This is a far cry from the Queensbury Rules that Mayweather and McGregor will both adhere to in just over ten weeks. For me, as a lifelong fan and advocate of the sport, I’m extremely disappointed that this has come to pass.
The Irishman holds a 21-3 record in Mixed Martial Arts. His sole loss in the UFC Octagon was in March 2016, to Nate Diaz, via submission, which he avenged a fight later by majority decision over five, five minute rounds. He is the first man to hold Titles in the organisation at two different weights concurrently. He held the Featherweight Title and Lightweight Titles at the same time. It’s fair to say, that although McGregor is seen as the flag bearer and poster boy for UFC, it’s his mouth that has also got him to where he is today. He is brash, cocky and arrogant, and frequently disrespects opponents and anyone with objections to his views. So it’s almost inevitable that the press conferences and public appearances between the two will be lively to say the least. That said Boxing and the UFC are two parallel worlds, poles apart.
What baffles me, is that an organisation such as the Nevada State Athletic Commission have sanctioned such a fight. In essence, in Boxing terms, without knowing who Conor McGregor is, they are sanctioning a man making his professional Boxing debut to be allowed to take on a man who has been a World Champion at five different weights, and has rarely been troubled in his professional career so far in 49 fights. I don’t have any problem with the fight itself as an event per-se, but I don’t believe it should be approved as a professional boxing match, when it is more of an exhibition.
Although McGregor himself is a two weight World Champion in his chosen discipline, this is a mismatch in every sense of the word. Imagine Wigan Warriors, the English Champions at Rugby League, taking on the New Zealand All Blacks, in a Rugby Union match. It would be a one sided contest, and there would only ever be one outcome, as much as Mayweather v McGregor will be. These are two completely different combat sports and no one has truly made the crossover to the other sport. Multiple World Champion James Toney was blitzed by Randy Couture in 2010 in a UFC contest, and Ray Mercer, the former Heavyweight World Champion fared slightly better. In the Women’s side of UFC, Hollie Holm was a former Welterweight Boxing Champion, then crossed over and ended the reign of the once formidable Ronda Rousey to become UFC Bantamweight Champion. But she has since lost three on the spin following that win. I can’t think of any that have made the transition from MMA to boxing.
The only thing that drives intrigue for this contest is money, plain and simple. Both men are money hungry with expensive lifestyles and reputations to uphold. The reported figure that each boxer is likely to make from the bout is $100 million. Even more frightening is that this could break American Pay Per View records, which would be a tragedy for the sport, considering some of the superfights we have seen down the years.
I have seen McGregor sparring with Welterweight fringe contender Chris van Heerden, and the signs don’t look promising. I know this is seen as just practice for the real thing, and we don’t know what sort of condition Conor was in at the time, but even van Heerden was quoted as saying that the original video that surfaced online, was edited in order for McGregor to look good, and the South African said that if he was able to land clean shots on McGregor without much effort, then Mayweather would certainly have no problem with doing the same.
The likely outcome is, in order for everyone to stay popular, is Mayweather putting on a Boxing clinic, and beating McGregor on points. Cue Mayweather praise on how Conor was much better than he expected etc etc, thus paving the way for Mayweather to finally bow out of the sport as the self-proclaimed “greatest of all time”(please don’t get me started on that subject!), and freeing McGregor up for an immediate return to UFC Title level with his reputation relatively intact. Despite McGregor being a Boxing novice, Mayweather has not stopped an opponent for nearly six years, and even that was a free shot on Victor Ortiz. It’s no secret that Floyd has suffered with extremely delicate hands over the years, and he has preferred to adopt a safety first approach where he can in his most recent fights. If Mayweather was to knock McGregor out early, his stock could drop as a result, and proving the people (myself included) who view this contest as a sideshow were right all along.
I would also hazard a guess that Sky Sports Box Office will take a keen interest in picking up the UK rights to the fight, meaning fans will have to fork out upwards of £16.95 a pop to watch this circus. Showtime will televise in the USA. Although I have slaughtered the bout, I will be buying it as a fan of the sport, and hoping for a really good undercard to soften my annoyances! There is talk of Nathan Cleverly putting his WBA Light Heavyweight Title on the line against Badou Jack, who is coming up in weight from reigning as WBC Super Middleweight Champion. Matches like this are vital for the card to appeal to everyone.
My biggest disappointment is my belief that the best should fight the best, and if Mayweather truly wanted to cement his legacy and go to the fabled 50-0 in style, then he would be taking on a challenge, such as Gennady Golovkin for the Middleweight Title, and retiring in greatness with victory. But instead, he is taking the easy, money making way out against someone who in Boxing terms, couldn’t even lace his boots.
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