Just two days to go until the fight everyone is talking about. The fight that looks to smash every pay-per-view record and make Mayweather and McGregor a minimum of nine figures each. The biggest star in boxing will face the biggest star from UFC in front of a packed T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas.
Following months of speculation as to whether this fight would ever take place, the build-up has had everything from hostility to outright madness. On one side we have the greatest boxer of our generation, with wins against Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez and Oscar DeLahoya amongst many other future hall of fame names that comprise a perfect 49-0 boxing record. On the other we have an Irish fighter who has never taken part in a professional boxing fight.
A money-spinning abomination certainly but also a fight that many won’t be able to resist watching. In some ways it’s a shame as the fight has taken the spotlight away from great upcoming fights coming up such as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs. Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez for Sor Rungvisai’s WBC junior bantamweight title. And who can forget the fight of the year coming up on September 16th between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez for Golovkin’s WBA/IBF/WBC middleweight title.
Even a fight on the Mayweather McGregor undercard between Nathan Cleverly and vs. Badou Jack should prove more competitive. But money talks, as the betting markets show….
McGregor opened at about 10/1 and is now as low as 3/1, which is absolutely bewildering. The incomprehensible nature of this betting pattern can only be explained by people backing the UFC star. But isn’t that the key point? He is a UFC star. Not the greatest boxer of our generation.
The other explanation is that people are reading heavily into the recent change of gloves. Originally the combatants were set to use the traditional 10oz boxing gloves but against safety advice, they have been reduced to 8oz. The Irishman has declared that this is ‘only half a fight’ with limited rules and he has mocked the boxer for being totalitarian in having everything his way but ‘Money’ has appeased the UFC star in this aspect.
Conversely, as someone who has followed Mayweather’s career closely for around 15 years, it is fair to say “Money” (or formerly “Pretty boy in his Super-featherweight days) is always in control. He has a consummate and unparalleled belief in his own ability such that a 2oz gloves difference shouldn’t deter this.
McGregor is a skilled Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, who to be fair excels at stand up punching more than any of the other disciplines that make up MMA. However, he isn’t even the best “boxer” within the UFC brand of MMA. Masvidal, for one, has a superior left hook and jab. Garbrandt is probably the best pure boxer in MMA right now.
Excellent footwork, unreal head movement and really tight hooks. The square-on MMA stance is very different from the boxing one as you have to defend kicks and take downs, not just punches, and your weight is proportioned slightly forward so that you can spring back more easily. There is also a lot less standing up close up “In-fighting” as MMA fighters rarely have to adjust their weight on the inside. So you have all of that adjustment on one side and on the other side you have Floyd Mayweather- a man without a weakness in the squared circle.
A victory for Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) would eclipse the revered record of Rocky Marciano, who retired as heavyweight champion in 1955 with a record of 49-0 and 43 knockouts. Critics of the fight, focused exclusively on McGregor’s lack of professional boxing experience, have labelled it a circus and claimed it should be considered an exhibition match rather than a sanctioned fight.
In fact, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has been widely panned for approving the match up between the greatest boxer of his era and one making his boxing debut with many labelling it as an exhibition” match. Amongst them is Rocky Marciano Jr., the son of the late legendary heavyweight, quoted as saying “No matter what happens, I don’t think it should go towards Mayweather’s professional career [record], win or lose.”
I can’t recall giving a fighter such little chance in a fight of this magnitude but the fact remains there is ALWAYS a chance. My hero Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston in 1964 when Heavyweight champion Liston had a record of 35-1 and was a brutal physical presence in the ring, registering 15 knockouts in his previous 17 fights. Ali (Clay at the time) was a 22-year-old and first-time challenger; a heavy 7-1 underdog going into the fight. The fight ended with Liston bowing out on his chair between the sixth and seventh rounds.
A bigger upset and perhaps the biggest ever in a boxing ring occurred when James “Buster” Douglas beat Mike Tyson in 1990. Tyson was in imperious form, undefeated in 37 fights and holder of the WBA, WBC and IBF titles, and the most feared man on the planet. Bar none. Tyson got knocked out. Would a victory for McGregor surpass the Tyson upset? The fact that this is McGregor’s professional boxing debut means is has to.
After a couple of months of pretending the fight didn’t exist I’ve given up and no doubt, as so often before, I’ll be staying up bleary eyed until the early hours of Sunday morning to watch live. That part of it is a conclusion I’ve already fully accepted. The result is also already a foregone conclusion.