Although boxing is still the world’s number one combat sport, bit by bit mixed martial arts has been creeping up on its legacy and converting fans. There are still pugilist purists who take pride in the rich history of their sport and have no interest in any sort of hybrid fighting, but even those people have had the world of MMA forced upon them.
It seemed like pure delusion when Conor McGregor first suggested a bout with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather, but then the talk turned serious. Now the pair will square off on August 26th in what will surely be the fight game’s biggest pay-per-view smash of the year.
McGregor, a zero bout novice in the professional boxing ranks, will meet a man many consider the greatest ever at 49-0. It was a bout that many battle-hardened and worthy ring technicians would have given anything to have, but it went to a UFC champion.
Because he talks the talk. We’re not sure if he walks the walk yet. Glimpses of training footage have surfaced which include him having a reasonable run of things against a former world champion in Paulie Malignaggi, but that doesn’t correlate to doing it in the ring against Mayweather.
At this point, Floyd Mayweather is interested in retiring at 50-0, and adding 8-figures to his net worth. It would see him surpass Rocky Marciano at 49-0 without having to go against one of the bigger threats, but it also makes him considerably richer than any of the other alternatives.
McGregor has almost single-handedly lifted the profile of the UFC and has dominated the MMA PPV market over the past couple of years. Other than Mayweather, no boxer draws in the same amount of sales. The constant dollar signs in ‘Money’s’ eyes saw the biggest cash pot coming from an adversary who would pull his weight in selling the bout alongside him, regardless of merit.
You only have to look in the boxing media to realise how this bout has taken over. A legitimate middleweight title fight between Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin (37-0) and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (49-1-1) takes place in Las Vegas a matter of weeks later, yet the column inches still focus on McGregor – the ins and outs of his camp, his fallouts, his wisecracks.
— Canelo Alvarez (@Canelo) June 6, 2017
That’s because, as legitimate as both ‘GGG’ and ‘Canelo’ are, neither have the public output or personality that the charismatic Irishman brings to the table. Humble, hard-working champions, they don’t make the brash statements or goad their opponents in the same way. Time after time, the comparison site Oddschecker tips them to finish solid opponents and they deliver. McGregor’s name shouldn’t even feature in their lexicon given how high they are flying in the boxing world, but ahead of their much-anticipated contest, neither can field an interview without ‘The Notorious’ being brought into the equation.
“If that miracle was to happen, then we can talk,” Alvarez was forced to comment when asked if he’d be interested in a fight with the SBG man if he somehow managed to get past Mayweather.
The agitation with which his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, tried to get the subject back on track spoke volumes.
“We have the real fight and the real event,” he said, but they don’t have the headlines, and they won’t have the PPV sales.
The softly-spoken Kazakhstan fighter Golovkin has given his thoughts on the spectacle, calling it merely a “funny show”, something almost any boxing fan would agree with.
“Everybody knows he is not a boxer, just a showman,” he stated, with all parties keen to assert that they’re the legitimate contest.
As correct as that is, the boxing world cannot sit by and idly watch as Conor McGregor shows them how to bring eyeballs to a bout, a bout he talked himself into and, in terms of credentials, surely didn’t deserve. Instead of fighting a constant battle to downplay the McGregor show, they should be taking a leaf from the book.
It’s been years since Mayweather had an exciting bout, but still people will tune in in their droves. Like Mayweather, McGregor commands a huge audience built up of those that love him, and those that love to hate him. Either way, their dollars filter into the pockets of the two stars.
The entrance of ‘The Notorious’ into the squared circle has brought a new, modern fight-loving audience to boxing, as well as the longstanding fans that have lived through the heydeys. Now they are watching, it’s up to the other athletes to keep them there.