The sports world has become consumed by what is, perhaps, the biggest mega-fight in boxing history. Floyd “Money” Mayweather will take on “The Notorious” Conor McGregor on Saturday night in Las Vegas on Pay-Per-View. Starting at 6pm on your local Fox station, you can see the undercard, which includes two Super Middleweight bouts and two Welterweight bouts. After taking in the undercard, the Pay-Per-View event begins at 9pm, which can be purchased through your cable or satellite provider for $89.99 ($99.99 if you want it in HD). Featured on the main card are three championship matches, starting with a USBA Cruiserweight Title Fight, followed by a WBA Light Heavyweight Title Fight and an IBF Super Featherweight Title Fight. Finishing off the night will be the main event, between the undefeated Mayweather and the UFC superstar McGregor.
Now that we have all of the logistical information out of the way, let us get into the madhouse this mega-fight has become. For starters, Mayweather, who holds a professional boxing record of 49-0, tied for the most wins without a defeat in the history of boxing with Heavyweight Rocky Marciano, is coming out of retirement at the age of 40 for the match. Mayweather is guaranteed to earn $100 million for his participation, with the possibility of making as much as four times that if gate receipts, PPV buys, and other financial metrics are met. Meanwhile, McGregor is the reigning UFC World Lightweight Champion, yet has never fought in a professional boxing match.
An oddity about this fight is that both men are viewed as ”bad guys”. McGregor is possibly the greatest trash talker in the history of the UFC, which is saying something as UFC has a rich history of featuring the greatest trash talkers in the world. The lengths to which Conor will go to insult and degrade his opponents knows no bounds, including such blunt verbal jabs as, “If I hit a man, his head is gonna go into the bleachers.” As far as Floyd Mayweather goes, what more needs to be said other than multiple Domestic Violence convictions, tax evasion, and a history of misogynistic behavior in his private and public life.
Mayweather should win this fight easily. When the odds-makers were first handicapping this fight, the line was drawn so heavily in favor of Mayweather that a small wager on McGregor would net you a hefty sum if he were to win. As I mentioned earlier, Mayweather has never lost a professional boxing match, while McGregor, an MMA fighter, has never boxed professionally. Such a mismatch would normally be considered an afterthought in the boxing world when it comes to picking a winner.
It all begs the question, why in the hell are we so mesmerized by this fight? Is it the allure of Mixed Martial Arts’ biggest star going toe to toe with Boxing’s greatest defensive fighter? Is it the spectacle of the two fighters not holding anything back when a microphone is in front of them? Possibly, is it because everyone loves a David v. Goliath matchup, with Goliath going for a record 50th victory without a defeat to his record? Whatever the circumstance, the sports world is addicted to Mayweather v. McGregor, and it sure is fascinating to figure out just why that is.
BOXING V. MMA
For decades, Boxing ruled the world of combat sports. Some of the most famous athletes in the world were boxers. From Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson to George Foreman, boxing’s biggest names were recognizable to even those who did not follow sports. Championship fights were must see TV, with the biggest fights being shown on the prestigious ABC Wide World of Sports, often announced by Howard Cosell. To this day, ESPN continues to show boxing every Friday night. In fact, they have brought back marquee championship matches to regular cable TV, having recently aired a title fight featuring Manny Pacquiao live on ESPN.
Pay-Per-View, while a massive moneymaker for boxing, drove the casual fans away, as most casual fans do not want to shell out upwards of $100 to see a boxing match. I love going back and watching old Muhammad Ali fights, but if you asked me to watch a modern championship bout, I would say no because of the cost involved to purchase the fight. With the aforementioned return of bigtime boxing to cable TV, I must say I am intrigued by the possibility of seeing a monumental boxing match while only having to pay the regular cable fee.
While boxing has been on the decline, mixed martial arts has seen a rapid growth over the last two decades. MMA also uses Pay-Per-View as their primary outlet for broadcast. Unlike boxing, which has been ripe with controversial decisions and missed opportunities for booking the fights we want to see, most MMA promotions, especially the top federation, the UFC, consistently seems to deliver the fights that fans want to see. While it took boxing over five years to bring us a super-fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao, we had to wait a mere five months to see a highly anticipated rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz, where McGregor won the rematch by Majority Decision.
On top of the success of MMA Pay-Per-Views, some federations, most notably the UFC, have entered into partnerships with major networks to air their events on broadcast television. EliteXC, along with its successor Strikeforce, was the first promotion to put on a broadcast television event when they held a card on CBS featuring Kimbo Slice. UFC, while already airing fights on cable TV through Spike, would later sign on with Fox to air select events on broadcast airwaves, as well as supporting programming through Fox Sports 1. While you will not see all of the title fights on free TV, you still get the chance to see some of the promising fighters work their way up the card to the number one contender’s slot without having to pay a penny.
It can be argued that MMA is overtaking boxing, but, from a purely monetary sense, that would not be accurate. It is true that MMA, especially the UFC, has been gaining fans and growing rapidly for the last two decades, and boxing fans are growing tired of the behind-the-scenes politics preventing us from seeing the bouts we truly want. Nevertheless, boxing continues to outdraw MMA in Pay-Per-Views for the most part, with the upcoming fight between Mayweather and McGregor expected to draw four million Pay-Per-View buys in the USA alone. Still, the fight between Floyd and Conor brings the argument of how damaging to boxing this would be if McGregor wins, to which I say the sport would absorb major, perhaps irreversible damage should Mayweather, the undefeated boxer, lose this match. Conversely, is there any way MMA, as a sport, loses any credibility in this fight? Simply put, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts can only gain fans, not lose them, regardless of the outcome of this fight.
WILL SOMEONE SHUT THESE MEN UP?
Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are two of the best trash talkers in the world. Mayweather has a history of taking it to his opponents on the mic, including such verbal jabs as when he told the great Oscar De La Hoya “I’ma beat you and make you call me pretty.” McGregor may have the advantage in the insult department, having responded to a Jeremy Stephens challenge at a press conference by simply stating, “Who da f*** is dat guy?” That is just a taste, of course, of what these two men can do with their voices.
Of course, you have to think that McGregor has an almost unlimited amount of potential ammunition to use against Mayweather, and to be fair, he has used quite a bit of it. Conor has thrown out phrases such as, “he can’t even read,” referring to Floyd’s legitimate illiteracy, to referencing Floyd’s IRS issues by stating, “he’s in a f***in’ track suit. He can’t even afford a suit anymore!” McGregor has said he does not fear Mayweather, which McGregor claims makes him different from Mayweather’s 49 other opponents. Conor would go on to say, “This is a limited set of rules that makes this half a fight, a quarter of a fight. This isn’t a true fight. If this was a true fight, it wouldn’t even take one round,” making light of the differences between MMA combat and Boxing.
By no means does what I have just said about Conor McGregor imply that Floyd Mayweather is not adequate in the insult department. Going back to 2009, Floyd has made his opinions of MMA well known, stating, “It takes true skills to be in the sport of boxing. Mixed Martial Arts is for beer drinkers. Boxing is for everybody. You cannot take my shoes off and take my shirt off and just throw me in the cage. You do that with animals.” Additionally, Floyd’s overwhelming confidence is not a new thing, as his 2007 verbal spat with undefeated Ricky Hatton would show. Of Hatton’s equally perfect record, Mayweather would say, “he didn’t fight 43 Floyd Mayweathers, because if he did, he’d be 0-43.”
I don’t have a doubt in my mind that these two fighters, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, could get themselves out of any confrontation in life by using their words instead of their fists, and that’s knowing their fists could do all the talking just as well. To his credit, or perhaps the fact that McGregor is probably contractually obligated to avoid the subject publicly, Conor has not injected the press tour with some of the most damning parts of Floyd’s personal life. We have not heard Conor mention the domestic abuse, the IRS issues, or any of the other problems that Floyd has brought upon himself. Likewise, Mayweather has kept away from the low blows as well, but still got in his shots on McGregor being all bark and no bite, as well as the fact that Floyd makes hundreds of millions of dollars every time he fights while Conor makes substantially less per UFC match. Just think, if the fight these two men have is half as good as the verbal fights we have seen between Floyd and Conor, we could be in for a real treat!
IT’S FAR FROM DAVID V. GOLIATH
As I have mentioned before, Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather are primarily viewed as the bad guy in all of their respective fights, and quite honestly, it is a well-deserved distinction for both. However, if you look at it purely as a boxing match, it may seem like it is a matchup of David v. Goliath, with the role of David being played by Conor McGregor, while Goliath is being portrayed as Floyd Mayweather. Such a comparison makes sense if you think about it. Floyd is undefeated in the boxing ring, while Conor has never boxed professionally, though he does have some amateur boxing experience to his credit.
I cannot take such a view of this bout seriously. There is no David v. Goliath when it comes to Mayweather and McGregor. Granted, Floyd Mayweather may come off as a Goliath in this match. In 49 professional matches, he has defeated all 49 opponents he has faced. Mayweather is without a doubt the best defensive fighter of his generation, and is among the toughest men on which to land a punch in boxing history. His quickness and ability to counter-punch is unparalleled, and his charisma has drawn legions of fans, as well as detractors, in staggering numbers. Floyd may not knock you out, but he does not have to, because he knows he will wear you down, avoid your punches, and come out on top.
Conor McGregor is that loudmouthed boy in the school playground who thinks he is the smartest, thinks he is the toughest, and cannot wait to show the world just how smart, and tough he is. Floyd Mayweather is the money, walking around flaunting his gold, showboating his women, and bragging to the world how he is better than everyone around. In a shocking turn of events in the combat sports world, Conor McGregor more closely resembles the everyman in this fight; that is a distinction I never dreamed would be possible for the brash young man from Dublin, Ireland.
Say what you want about both Floyd and Conor, but this fight is no David v. Goliath. To make such a comparison discredits, I believe, the ability of Conor McGregor to put on a show and put up a fight, both of which I believe he can muster with the best of them. It is all a question of whether he can actually defeat the undefeated former champion, Floyd Mayweather.
Allow me, for a moment, to be frank about this boxing match. The entire pretense for this fight is an absolute joke and a complete mockery of the boxing world. Floyd Mayweather is retired, now at the age of 40, and is one of only two men to win 49 professional boxing matches without being defeated, a record he shares with the late Rocky Marciano. He has no business fighting a man who has never boxed professionally. Conor McGregor is a highly accomplished UFC fighter, and the reigning Lightweight Champion of UFC. However, he is not a pro boxer. He is a master showman and a talking genius, but a boxer he is not. He can fill an arena and sell Pay-Per-Views, but he has never boxed professionally, let alone boxed against one of the best to ever step foot in the ring. If Floyd wins this match, many, including the family of Marciano, will feel that this fight was not legitimate and will not see Mayweather’s 50-0 record as the real deal.
Here comes the fun part. What if Conor wins? Seriously, what if Conor McGregor pulls the upset of the century and defeats Floyd Mayweather. What does this do for MMA? What does this do for boxing? Does the world then see MMA as the truly superior form of combat sport in the world today? Is boxing damaged irreparably from a Mayweather defeat at the hands of McGregor? Does Conor McGregor become the most famous athlete in the world? Does Floyd Mayweather become a disgraced, formerly undefeated boxer and lose the mystique he has held so closely as the greatest defensive boxer of his generation?
What Floyd Mayweather faces is truly a lose-lose situation. If he wins the fight, he will receive little credit from his victory over a boxer in his first boxing match. If Floyd wins, he will have done what he is supposed to, and will likely have done it by decision and not by knockout, which has been the staple of every Mayweather fight going back several years.
Conor McGregor, on the other hand, cannot lose this fight no matter the outcome. He is not supposed to win, so if he does not, it is not a big deal. MMA will not lose any credibility from a fighter losing to the greatest boxer of a generation. With that said, if Conor wins, his star rises to heights we may have never imagined, and MMA will undoubtedly surpass boxing in both popularity and cultural relevancy. Even if he loses but makes the fight last for several rounds, Conor comes out of the fight looking strong and multi-talented, which will only add to his image and further enhance his tough guy persona.
So if you buy this Pay-Per-View, just know what you are getting into. You are getting into a boxing match that will not resemble any boxing match you have ever seen, nor may you ever see again. You will see an outspoken, arrogant, brash UFC Champion take on an egotistical, misogynistic, confident undefeated Boxing Champion in a Boxing Match. You will see Conor McGregor fight Floyd Mayweather in a bout that should not last more than 30 seconds before the supremely talented Mayweather makes a fool of McGregor. You will endure a cavalcade of verbal insults and awkward shouting matches between two of the biggest loudmouths in all of sports. No matter what, you will have the chance to see history as it is made.
Just do not expect a beautiful boxing match, because that is the farthest thing from what I expect you will see Saturday night.