Welcome To The Circus

There is no reason for Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor to be fighting each other. No reason at all.

The mere idea of matching the semi-retired Mayweather and the UFC loudmouth McGregor was enough of a joke to keep us laughing every few weeks that we heard each man bring it up, especially as we knew that the powers-that-be would make such a farcical match impossible to happen anywhere except maybe the moon. Simply put, there were too many safeguards to prevent this match from happening, too many obstacles, and we could all laugh it off. But no one’s laughing anymore. Now reality has become more terrifying than fiction.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission, lauded in the past for holding back approval for matches they considered uncompetitive, have given the green light to one between a fighter making his professional boxing debut and a former world champion, one of the best boxers the sport has seen in the last 30 years, thus caving in to the financial jackpot that will pour into Sin City on August 26th.

Behind the scenes, Mayweather and McGregor stood firm that they would not fight again unless they fought each other, promoting the match in the background as the media and the public did the rest, making it a talking point and a hot button for everyone in combat sports, even though so many dismissed the idea that it could really happen. But now, like it or not, it’s really happening. And there is not a damn thing we can do about it. Welcome to the circus.

We can moan all we want about how terrible the fight will be, because anybody with a working pair of eyes knows that McGregor is way out of his depth as he now works to polish his boxing skills in preparation to face a master. And I use the term “skills” very lightly here. Outside of his UFC fights, we’ve seen videos of Conor clubbing a heavy bag with little coordination, sloppily shadow boxing, and then holding his own with pugilist Chris Van Heerden, though we now know the latter video was heavily edited and he was in fact getting handled with relative ease by the South African.

McGregor fails the eye test miserably and anybody giving him a chance to win is a victim of either being overly sentimental, Irish, or drunk — or maybe all three — before rendering their assessment. UFC fighters do not train for 36 minutes of stand-up and constant movement like boxers do, meaning it is very likely McGregor will either punch himself out by throwing bombs every chance he gets, or he’ll gas-out in the unsuccessful effort to somehow corner Floyd, all the while eating jabs and right hands. Conor has no chance.

Van Heerden and McGregor.

But already we are seeing a ripple effect with Kathy Duva complaining that the announcement of this bizarre match-up stole the the thunder from the Ward vs Kovalev rematch, which is convenient seeing that what should have been one of the biggest fights of the year looks like it will instead be, in financial terms, a total flop. Then there’s Oscar De La Hoya, whose long-running hatred of Mayweather, not to mention his likely disappointment that he couldn’t match McGregor against Canelo Alvarez, has led him to publicly denounce the spectacle and call for a boycott.

It’s understandable that the establishment and the boxing media are up in arms about Mayweather vs McGregor, mostly because there is little doubt about what is going to transpire on fight night. The contest itself will either be a repeat of Mayweather’s unforgiving beatdown of Arturo Gatti or, assuming some kind of gentleman’s agreement behind the scenes, Conor will get carried all the way to the final bell and an anti-climactic points defeat. Either way, there is no real intrigue outside of wondering how bad McGregor is going to get worked over.

Not only is this circus happening, but there’s little doubt in my mind that that this could be the biggest pay-per-view event for the next several years, while at the same time it will likely have zero long-term implications for either man, making it one big wash for both boxing and MMA. For what it’s worth, it is likely Mayweather neither cares nor desires for a standout win considering his massive guaranteed purse.

Will this be a repeat of the Floyd vs Gatti mismatch?

Now 40-years-old and out of the ring since beating Andre Berto in 2015, Floyd had said he would only be lured out of retirement for nothing less than a nine-figure payday and nobody, not even a rematch with Manny Pacquaio, would make that possible outside of McGregor. Not Gennady Golovkin, not Canelo Alvarez, not even emerging welterweight champions Keith Thurman or Errol Spence. The only one who can is the burly jackass whose ego gives Floyd’s a run for its money.

There is nothing to be happy about from many angles, but I would argue that there is a silver lining in all of this. Mayweather vs McGregor will bring a tremendous amount of attention to the sport of prizefighting. Despite what the purists may say, this is not a bad thing. Only in the sport of boxing is an event that can captivate the entire world be spun as “bad for business,” as if the sanctity of pugilism hasn’t been desecrated enough with poor officiating, terrible matchmaking, and the public at large being told by promoters and media that what they get is what they want, and not the other way around.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle that will likely never be seen again by so many people and it will bring massive numbers of casual sports fans to take in the carnage, which is exactly what it is intended to do. And despite what one may hear from their favorite writers on social media or their subscribed boxing groups, there is nothing wrong with being a “casual” boxing fan. Maybe the main event will indeed be a bust in quality, but the proposed undercard will bring the attention of millions to rising stars like Badou Jack and Gervonta Davis.

But beyond that the key thing is to recognize that this is less a sporting event, an athletic contest, than it is a circus, a one-off carnival, designed to generate huge amounts of revenue and nothing more. No one is being fooled unless they want to be, and the choice is yours whether you’ll pay attention or not. But the bottom line is this: Mayweather vs McGregor is happening. There’s not a damn thing we can do about it, so you might as well buckle up and enjoy what could be one crazy ride. Welcome, fight fans, to the circus.               — Danny Howard

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