“That fight,” says Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the recent celebration for his 40th birthday, “makes a lot of sense.”
Interesting statement. The “fight” Floyd refers to is the one proposed and much discussed between himself and mixed-martial arts fighter Conor McGregor, a match which, in fact, from a sporting perspective, makes no sense whatsoever. And not that we didn’t already know this, but what Floyd means when he says “a lot of sense” is that it’s the fight that represents the biggest payday for the least amount of risk. As we all know, Floyd Mayweather, as talented and skillful as he is in the ring, remains a businessman first, and a pugilist second.
Despite the fact that numerous roadblocks appear to be frustrating a Mayweather vs McGregor clash, everyone knows better than to count this match out until Floyd says otherwise. If the erstwhile “Pretty Boy” says he’s open to the fight happening, then it remains a distinct possibility for sometime down the road. And the reasons why are, as stated, very obvious: money, and almost zero serious competition.
Let’s be honest: Conor McGregor has no chance whatsoever of winning a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. None. Zero. In an octagon under MMA rules, he has plenty of chances, but in a boxing ring, forget it. McGregor did do some boxing as a teenager and of course he spars as part of his MMA training, but this is not nearly enough preparation for him to even compete with a mid-level contender, let alone a boxer of Mayweather’s talent, experience and skill. Even a 40-year-old Floyd would toy with an opponent who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t know how to box.
But Floyd insists that this match “makes a lot of sense.” In addition to the reward vs risk equation informing that statement, the other thing it reveals is Mayweather’s attitude towards pugilism, the sport which has made him a very wealthy man. By seriously entertaining a total joke of a fight with McGregor and asserting that it makes sense, Floyd is showing once again how little regard he has for the sport to which he owes so much.
It seems silly to have to point this out, but all sports rely on meaningful competition to be relevant. This is why team sports have play-offs and then championship games, and why amateur sports have tournaments to determine through elimination who are the very best competitors. But over the last decade Floyd has been the biggest offender in terms of the trend of champion boxers denying the sport and its fans the most challenging, interesting and significant bouts.
Back in 2007 Mayweather reached the absolute pinnacle, defeating Oscar De La Hoya in a massive “superfight” to take the title of the number one boxer on the planet, both in terms of supremacy and drawing power. And ever since, Floyd has been indifferent to actually testing himself, or to giving the most deserving rivals the same chances he got to achieve greatness and make big money. His activity rate, a schedule which was never exactly hectic, plummeted as he continued to avoid the most dangerous matches, and as he ducked a fight with Manny Pacquiao for five long years.
Why rehash this again? To make a point that needs to be made: contrary to what the two potential participants may say, a Mayweather vs McGregor fight does not make sense and would represent another blow to what little integrity boxing has left. Further, it would be nothing more than a swindle, as promotion of the match would necessitate proffering a falsehood. Let’s be blunt: to say a Floyd vs Conor boxing match represents any kind of serious competition is a flat-out lie.
But Floyd says “it makes a lot of sense” and his statement reminded this writer of when Andre Ward campaigned for a match between himself and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. a few years back. After defeating Edwin Rodriguez in 2013 he proclaimed that a match with “Son Of A Legend,” a match that would, let’s face it, be barely competitive, “should” happen, implying that the fight was attractive and that boxing fans wanted to see it, which was completely untrue. Everyone knew that Ward would box circles around Chavez Jr., a fighter who had recently been extremely lucky to get a decision win over journeyman Bryan Vera, but Chavez represented the biggest payday for the least amount of risk for Ward, so why not call him out?
You know, it may be difficult for some to recall this, but there was a time when boxers blatantly calling out low-risk opponents while avoiding tougher challenges would have been called what they are: cowards. But it seems our world is too tame and ‘PC’ for that kind of talk now. We might be more polite and call them “opportunists” (i.e. persons who exploit circumstances to gain immediate advantage rather than being guided by consistent principles), but that’s about as harsh as anyone will get. Instead people will tip their hats to Ward and Mayweather’s supposed business acumen, while turning a blind eye to the damage done to boxing.
And now we have Ward reportedly getting set to retire instead of manning-up and fulfilling his contractual obligation to give Sergey Kovalev a rematch. Forget for the moment the undeniable truth that most observers thought Kovalev clearly deserved the nod over Ward in a competitive and entertaining battle this past November; the simple fact is “Son Of God” agreed to a rematch clause when he signed to face “Krusher.” But just watch: when he retires, Ward, instead of being criticised for his failure to live up to his commitments or for his lack of competitive zeal, will be praised for his sharp business sense. “He’s holding out for more money,” his apologists will say. “He’s letting a rematch marinate. Smart move.”
In other words, Kovalev vs Ward II does not, to use Floyd’s term, make “a lot of sense,” while Mayweather vs McGregor does. Add in Tyson Fury having some kind of breakdown instead of fulfilling his obligation to rematch Wladimir Klitschko, Canelo Alvarez ducking Gennady Golovkin, and a bunch of so-called champions avoiding Guillermo Rigondeaux, and it’s impossible not to conclude that boxing is suffering through an unprecedented epidemic of gutlessness. As Donald Trump would say, “Sad!”
— Robert Portis