By Paul Mason (@paulmason1986)
Here I preview “The Event”. This weekend’s bizarre professional boxing contest between a five weight World Champion 49-0 Boxer and a debutant UFC combatant, with thankfully a good undercard!
Floyd Mayweather (49-0, KO26) v Conor McGregor (0-0) – 12 Rounds Welterweight
This 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. For me, as a lifelong fan and advocate of the sport, I’m extremely disappointed that this has come to pass. Sky Sports Box Office is the place to watch in the UK, while Showtime are the Pay Per View provider in the USA.
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 have been lively to say the least. That said Boxing and the UFC are two parallel worlds, poles apart.
Floyd Mayweather is quite simply one of the best of his generation. Turning professional in 1996, following a Bronze Medal at the Atlanta Olympics, Mayweather first lifted a World Title in 1998, the WBC Super Featherweight Title, by stopping Genaro Hernandez in Las Vegas. After eight successful defences, Mayweather turned to the Lightweight division, and added the WBC crown at the weight against Jose Luis Castillo, via disputed decision, in a fight many reference as the closest Floyd has come to losing in his illustrious career.
He immediately re-matched Castillo, and won handily on the cards this time, before making two more defences of the WBC Title. He then moved to Super Lightweight, defeating DeMarcus Corley via decision and Henry Bruseles via stoppage before challenging again for the WBC Title at the weight. Mayweather masterfully picked apart Arturo Gatti, and stopped him in six in Atlantic City to break out as a pound for pound superstar. Floyd then moved straight to Welterweight, stopping former World Champion Sharmba Mitchell, before outpointing Zab Judah in a wild brawl involving not just the fighters, but their camps mid fight. This win gained Mayweather the IBF Welterweight Title, and he added the WBC Crown by outpointing Argentine, Carlos Baldomir in November 2006.
Mayweather then beat Oscar De La Hoya in a mega fight via split decision to gain a fifth WBC Title at a fifth weight, this time at Super Welterweight. He still held his title at Welterweight and dropped back down to take on the also undefeated Ricky Hatton. Mayweather showed superior skill to eventually grind the Manchester man down by tenth round stoppage.
Since then, we have only been treated to cameo’s by Mayweather, as and when he wants to fight. After a near two year lay off he thrashed Juan Manuel Marquez at a catchweight. After beating Shane Mosley on the cards, Mayweather regained his WBC Welterweight Title, by knocking out the unguarded Victor Ortiz in four rounds. He moved back up to defeat Miguel Cotto in a competitive fight for the WBC Super Welterweight Title, before going down again to outpoint Robert Guerrero at Welter. A win against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez followed this, Although via majority decision due to a horrible scorecard turned in by CJ Ross. Mayweather was a handy winner and never in trouble. This also earned “Money” the WBA Title at Super Welterweight.
Next was a tougher than expected tussle with wild Argentine Marcos Maidana. Floyd deservedly won via majority decision, and then left no question marks in winning unanimously in a rematch. He was showing signs of now slowing down slightly. He was now WBA and WBC Champion at 2 weights at the same time.
In May 2015 Mayweather finally locked horns with Manny Pacquiao, but unfortunately the fight came a few years too late. Mayweather easily fended off the Filipino for a wide points win. Four months later Mayweather announced “the end” as he attempted to get to 49-0. There was to be no mega fight though, as he settled for a going through the motions points win over Andre Berto in September 2015.
So after a 23 month hiatus from the sport, Mayweather returns this Saturday.
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. Add to this that the use of 8oz gloves have been approved for the fight and you have even more of a farce.
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 didn’t fare much better, with one win and one loss under MMA rules. 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.
What baffles me even more is that McGregors betting odds have plummeted to as low as 3/1 with Skybet, with Joe Public being taken in by the hype train that has been built up following the press tours and the infamous Paulie Malignaggi “knockdown”. These are lower odds than you would have got on Mayweather’s last few opponents, namely Marcos Maidana and Andre Berto, established World Champions.
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 “TBE”(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.
Nathan Cleverly (30-3, KO16) v Badou Jack (21-1-2, KO12) For The WBA Light Heavyweight Title
The undercard on Saturday night is thankfully pretty strong, and heading the preliminaries is an intriguing clash between two time Light Heavyweight King, Nathan Cleverly, taking on a man coming up after an unbeaten reign as WBC Super Middleweight Champion in Las Vegas based Swede, Badou Jack.
Nathan Cleverly is a man back on the up following a tough few years. The Cefn Forest man began his career in 2005, and went twelve fights unbeaten, before picking up the Commonwealth Title by unanimously outpointing Tony Oakey in Liverpool in October 2008. After three stoppage defences of the belt, he then won the British Title by stopping Norwich’s Danny McIntosh in seven at the York Hall. Cleverly stopped Courtney Fry in his first defence of the British Title, and claimed the European belt by stopping Antonio Brancalion in five rounds at Wembley Arena.
Cleverly was now on the World Title trail, and impressively stopped Karo Murat in Birmingham in 2010. This lead to a shot at the interim version of the WBO Light Heavyweight Title, and “Clev” duly outpointed Nadjib Mohammedi in Liverpool. Cleverly was then to due to fight for the full version of the title in May 2011, only for the Champion, Juergen Braehmer to pull out of the fight on less than a week’s notice, alleging a cut suffered in training. Tony Bellew was drafted in as a replacement after a wild press conference, but was rejected when he failed a check weigh in. Aleksy Kuziemsky was eventually the opponent at the O2 in London, and Cleverly won the full version of the belt by stopping the Pole in four rounds.
Naturally after that infamous press conference, Bellew would be next for Cleverly at the Echo Arena in Liverpool in October 2011. In a close run fight, the Welshman emerged victorious via majority decision, a decision that enhanced Bellews hatred towards him. Three successful defences followed against Tommy Karpency (Unanimous) Shawn Hawk (TKO7) and Robin Krasniqi (Unanimous) before he ran into the Russian wrecking ball, Sergey Kovalev in Cardiff. Cleverly was overwhelmed from the start and was destroyed by Kovalev, floored twice, and stopped in the fourth round, relieving him of his belt emphatically.
This lead Cleverly to believe he had outgrown the weight, and he followed old rival Tony Bellew up to Cruiserweight. The pair were put on a collision course in each other’s home towns and two blow out wins against Shawn Corbin and Alejandro Vilori set up the rematch at the higher weight back at the Echo Arena. In a terrible encounter, in which Cleverly looked tired and lethargic throughout, Bellew gained revenge over his old rival with a split decision win.
After that performance, Cleverly trimmed back down to Light Heavyweight, and after a warm up first round win against Thomas Man, Cleverly went straight back into the deep end against Andrzej Fonfara in Chicago. In a brutal and entertaining fight, Cleverly came up short, and dropped a decision unanimously on the cards. Fast forward twelve months later to October 2016, and Cleverly was afforded a shot at the WBA Title, against Juergen Braehmer in Germany, five years on from the original proposed meeting. After six rounds, Braehmer was two points ahead on all three cards, when he inexplicably retired on his stool between rounds, citing an arm injury, making Cleverly a two time World Champion. After ten months, he finally makes a first defence this Saturday night.
Badou Jack quietly turned professional in June 2009, in a sports hall in his native Sweden, and also racked up two wins in Finland during his first year. After meeting former Heavyweight World Champion Shannon Briggs at a Swedish boxing event held in honour of the Swedish boxing legend Ingemar Johansen in 2009, where Jack was fighting and Briggs was brought in as a guest, Jack moved to the United States in 2010 to train with Briggs and eventually sign with Lou DiBella, bringing his 5-0 record over with him. Jack moved to 11-0 and, following a sparring session with Andre Dirrell, his skills caught the eye of Floyd Mayweather, who signed him up to his Mayweather Promotions stable. Common opponents are a theme for this fight as in his 16th fight, he took on Marco Antonio Periban in Las Vegas in September 2013. The fight was the first blot on his record, scored a majority draw. Jack immediately rebounded from this, knocking down Rogelio Medina three times en route to a sixth round TKO victory.
In February 2014, it seemed Jack and James DeGale were on a collision course to fight in an eliminator for a world title, but those plans were shattered at that time when Badou was caught cold and knocked out by the unheralded Derek Edwards. Again Jack was forced to rebuild, and after two wins against Jason Escalera (Unanimous) and former George Groves victim Francisco Sierra (TKO6) “The Ripper” challenged Anthony Dirrell for the WBC version of the world title. Jack was seen as the underdog for the fight, but outfought Dirrell and exposed his limitations fighting on the inside for a majority points victory.
Perhaps Jack’s most impressive win came five months later on the Mayweather v Andre Berto card against George Groves. The Hammersmith man endured a nightmare start after being knocked down in the first round, and this helped Jack accumulate enough points to win via a split decision.
Jack and DeGale met in January this year in a unification match, with DeGales IBF Crown on the line alongside Jack’s WBC belt. Jack was knocked down in the first round, but scored a knockdown himself in the final round, and in the end the judges scored a majority draw. Two judges scored a draw with the third edging towards DeGale. Jack immediately announced post fight a move to Light Heavyweight, and he makes his debut at 175lbs this Saturday.
I believe Cleverly has what it takes to beat Jack, although it won’t be easy. Cleverly is the same odds unbelievably as Conor McGregor to win this one!! Jack has not exactly been dominant as World Champion, and is beatable. If Cleverly can be careful early, his punches in bunches style could upset Jack’s rhythm and help Cleverly retain his title.
Gervonta Davis (18-0, KO17) v Francisco Fonseca (19-0-1, KO13) For The IBF Super Featherweight Title
Gervonta Davis makes the second defence of his IBF Super Featherweight strap, when he meets Costa Rican, Francisco Fonseca. Last time out Davis successfully defended against Norfolk’s Liam Walsh, impressively stopping him inside three rounds at the Copper Box in London.
Davis had a very successful amateur career, winning many national championships. He won the 2012 National Golden Gloves Championship, three straight National Silver Gloves Championships from 2006–2008, two National Junior Olympics gold medals, two National Police Athletic League Championships, and two Ringside World Championships, among other accolades. Davis finished his illustrious amateur career with a reported record of 206–15. He made his professional debut aged 18 in February 2013 against Desi Williams in Washington. Davis triumphed with a first round knockout. His first three fights were against opponents with a combined record of 0-4, and that 0-4 record belonged to Williams.
After eight straight wins, he finally met an opponent with a winning record in German Meraz, winning unanimously over six, and knocking Meraz down in both rounds three and five. Israel Suarez, Alberton Mora and Recky Dulay were then all stopped in the first round, before Davis stopped Christobal Cruz in three in October 2015. Luis Sanchez was next, and lasted into the ninth round of a scheduled ten, but was down in both rounds eight and nine, and then stopped. Guillermo Avila was stopped in six, and in June 2016, a one round blowout of Mario Antonio Macias set up a showdown with IBF Champion, Jose Pedraza for January this year.
Davis was almost punch perfect against Pedraza, effortlessly handling the step-up to world title level and ripped the belt away from the previously unbeaten Puerto Rican. He then backed this up by destroying the previously unbeaten Walsh in May.
Not a lot is known about Francisco Fonseca. He is unbeaten, and has nineteen straight wins following a majority draw on debut against Eduardo Urbina. He has only fought outside his native Costa Rica twice, and Nicaragua and El Salvador at that. He doesn’t seem anything to write home about on paper, and gets this shot on the back of picking up the IBF Inter Continental Title in August 2016 by knocking out the 22-8-1 Luis Gonzalez.
He has since followed this up with knockout wins over the 6-16 Miguel Corea, and the 17-8-3 Eliecer Lanzas in his last contest. This all seems to suggest an easy nights work for Davis.
I expect a dominant performance from Davis, leading him to much bigger and better matchups later this year. A stoppage is surely inevitable.
Best Of The Rest Of The Card
An intriguing Welterweight contest is off for the time being as “Showtime” Shawn Porter has had to pull out of his meeting with Thomas Dulhorme due to a family issue.
Touted prospect Andrew Tabiti (14-0) meets former IBF Cruiserweight World Champion Steve “USS” Cunningham (29-8-1).
Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshall makes her professional debut, against fellow debutant Amy Coleman.