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Mayweather-McGregor: History’s most lucrative freak show?

Floyd Mayweather Jr

By Adam Godfrey: In Victorian times the general public may have been entertained by such novelties as a bearded lady, or a man with a head resembling that of an elephant. There was nothing admirable or scientific about the desire to see these oddities, merely pure, unadulterated shock and awe that such a thing could exist in the first place.

People would often be horrified what was presented to them, but would pay good money to come back a second time for an equally fascinated gawp. These kind of freak shows are thankfully less common nowadays, although two gentlemen who go by the name of Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are seemingly intent on bringing something equally as vacuous and meaningless to the masses.

Of course there is nothing ‘freakish’, in a negative sense at least, about either man, although the ability of both to promote themselves could be termed as such. Both are the handsome faces of their respective sport with minds and mouths that work on a different plane than can be said of most of us. They are also both extremely rich, and regardless of your thoughts about either as fighters or ambassadors of their sports, have worked extremely hard to reach the top of their trades. The spectacle of their potential dust-up, however, is as close to the essence of a traditional freak show as you can imagine. Completely unnecessary for any reason other than to line the pockets of those involved to the detriment of those enthralled, it is questionable that this fight has any chance of justifying its inevitably overinflated price tag. There are more reasons than not to suspect that the paying pubic could be in for a damp squib, with one fighter utterly dominating the other. Having said that, should the fight be confirmed it will be at the forefront of the attention of anyone who follows combat sport whether they approve of the fight or not. This fact may grate on many, but so it shall be.

The crossover between boxing and MMA has some recent precedent. On 28th August 2010 former three weight World Champion James ‘Lights Out’ Toney fought ex Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion Randy Couture. The duel was a disaster for the boxer, with Couture securing a simple first round submission win. Former WBO Heavyweight champ Ray Mercer also fought a couple of MMA fights, losing to perpetual joke Kimbo Slice via submission before beating Tim Sylvia with a huge right some 9 seconds into their duel. However, decorated former Welterweight World Champion Holly Holm demonstrated by far the most successful transition from boxing to MMA. She kick-boxed beautifully against Rhonda Rousey before finishing the job with a devastating kick to the head that rendered Rousey knocked out and severely concussed. Holly clearly had polished MMA skills and demonstrated impregnable defense, but it was her striking skill that was the clear difference between the two fighters up until the knockout. But, and let’s be honest here, women’s combat and men’s combat are entirely different kettles of fish, and many feel that Holm merely exposed Rousey for the hype job that she is, blinded by her own ego. While there have been some successful and not so successful moves from boxing to MMA, it is noticeable that there is not a single high profile example of an established MMA star moving over to boxing and becoming a success. Consider this; Boxing is a part of MMA, but there is nothing of MMA in boxing. You cannot wrestle. You cannot submit an opponent. You cannot hit a downed foe. Jujitsu is useless to a pugilist. MMA fighters are drilled and train in a different way to boxers, for a different kind of fight, and one can imagine that it is difficult, if not impossible, to suppress the urge to fight in an MMA manner inside a boxing ring. When/if McGregor fights Mayweather he will have suddenly shifted from a man who can use absolutely any part of his body in almost any manner of his choosing to hurt his opponent, to one who has but three tools at his disposal; his fists, his movement and his mind. The carnage that will ensue should McGregor lose his discipline and knock Mayweather out with a kick to the head will be catastrophic. Ask Victor Ortiz how frustrating fighting Floyd Mayweather can be. A Mayweather win by disqualification is the second most likely outcome of such a fight, closely behind a Mayweather win by points. This thought alone should raise suspicions about how intent the organisers of this battle are about putting on quality entertainment, and not just making a buck or hundred million.

Thus far there is a sense amongst the boxing community that a Mayweather win in a boxing match is essentially a given, but is this fair on Conor McGregor? ‘Everyone has a punchers chance’, we are told. I would love to offer a perspective where McGregor has any chance at all. But I can’t. There isn’t one. A Mayweather win by points is almost as inevitable as the rising of the Sun, or Canelo taking on somebody smaller than him for his next fight, whichever is more likely (you decide). Conor McGregor might possess excellent punching power, but so did Manny Pacquaio, Andre Berto and Saul Alvarez. None were able to land a telling blow on Floyd’s chin, and they all have the benefit over McGregor that they have been boxing all their lives. Shane Mosley, Marcos Maidana and Zab Judah all managed to land significant shots, but none were able to knock Mayweather out. Floyd’s defense more than likely remains impeccable, despite his rapidly advancing age. Quite how a man with zero experience boxing professionally can be expected to even be competitive is beyond reasoning. A ring rusty Floyd will be too wily and quick for McGregor. If there is one miniscule gleam of hope for McGregor, it rests on his ability to move around the ring in a way that confuses Mayweather, as it does to Conor’s MMA opponents. If Conor can find angles that Floyd has not had to defend before, he may just be able to find a way to connect. But I feel that any success McGregor enjoys will be down to more luck than judgment, and will invariably be short lived.

Questions about what will happen in the ring are but details. They are almost inconsequential when compared against the bigger picture. What is more important is the political and business context in which this fight is being discussed and may occur. Is it right that many boxing fans feel so strongly against the prospect of a Mayweather v McGregor fight? After all, if we don’t like it we could always, you know…not watch it. Nobody is forcing us to shell out $100, or whatever it is likely to cost to buy the PPV. This is a cop out of epic proportions. What it boils down to is that fans have simply had their fill of the sport they love being so cynically manipulated to benefit only the few at the pinnacle. Mayweather v Pacquaio was almost universally considered a let down, despite being dangled like a golden carrot in front of our noses for six full years before coming to fruition. The other biggest fight that the sport potentially has to offer at present, Golovkin v Alvarez, is disappearing into the sunset too. The best should fight the best. Nothing more, nothing less, and this is the way things should be. As of now there is no concrete deal in place for Mayweather v McGregor, but it seems to be only a matter of time. But a few weeks ago the PPV between these two was merely a pipe dream, now it appears more likely than not that it will indeed happen. The best versus the best my butt.

Business wise, this is an utterly genius move, a stone cold guaranteed golden egg for those involved financially. Conor McGregor will retire rich enough to never have to work again with little impact on his reputation, such are the overwhelming odds against him. Mayweather will retire for the umpteenth time being even richer than ever before and still undefeated. Unfortunately the credibility of boxing will be in danger of hitting an all time low if this is going to be taken seriously as a boxing match, and will have a much greater impact on Floyd’s legacy than it can possibly have on McGregor’s. Floyd is already labeled by many as a cherry picker, and while I don’t necessarily agree that this is true, perception is important, and this perception will only be reinforced after the conclusion of the fight. If this duel were to be looked at as an exhibition, an experiment to determine what would happen when an elite MMA practitioner takes on the best in the dominant form of combat sport, this would be an interesting, even honorable event. But we all know that this is not what Mayweather v McGregor is about. It’s about Floyd chalking up his 50th victory to pull one clear of Rocky Marciano as an undefeated fighter without breaking into a sweat, all whilst making an obscene amount of money. This is the most galling aspect of the whole freak show, and is the most pertinent indication of how cynical a proposition it is that’s being presented.

No, this is just not right. I could urge a boycott, but what would be the point? Hardcore fans ‘in the know’ will be boycotting already but the curiosity of the general public will render it a futile gesture. Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor? Nah, I’d rather my hard earned cash went into the purse of bearded lady any day, thanks all the same.

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