Mayweather vs. McGregor – The Two Titans in Combat Sports

 Whether you deem it fight or farce, you're going to watch.  It will resemble an over-the-top, circus like event more than a legitimate combative sports contest; and you're still going to watch.  This Saturday, August 26th, when Floyd "Money" Mayweather (49-0, 26 KO's) squares off against "The Notorious" Conor McGregor (21-3, 18 KO's, 1 submission, 0-0 in boxing), casual and hardcore fans of pugilism, mixed martial arts and sports in general, will all watch.  The festivities will be held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and broadcast live, to an anxious, salivating worldwide audience on Showtime Pay-Per-View.

Few bouts have checked as many boxes for pre-fight controversy and debate worthy elements, as Mayweather vs. McGregor has.  Boxer vs mixed martial artist; check.  Arrogance; check.  Money; check.  Race; check.  Sex, lies, video tampering, nationality, taxes and sundried other juicy side bars have conspired to make Floyd vs. Conor a front-page story since it was first made official. 

From a competitive standpoint, this affair makes little sense; at the elite level, a mixed martial-artist has no business stepping into a boxing ring, just as a boxer has no business stepping into an octagon.  Analogies abound; water polo player racing Michael Phelps, ping-pong champion facing Roger Federer on a tennis court, long-distance runner sprinting against Usain Bolt.  Slice it, dice it, entice it all you want, McGregor is faced with an uphill battle of the highest order.

Make no mistake, Floyd “Money” Mayweather is far and away the best boxer of his era. Whether he’s actually “T.B.E.” (“The Best Ever”), as he’s labeled himself, is certainly up for debate, but there’s no argument whatsoever over him being a first ballot hall of famer and quite possibly the greatest defensive fighter in the history of the game. Born into boxing, “Money’s” father and uncles boxed professionally. Uncle Roger was a former world champion at two weight classes, and nephew has elevated the family business to an unforeseen, unprecedented level.

Just two years after receiving a bronze medal at the ’96 Olympics, Mayweather was a world champion at 130 pounds and RING Magazine’s “Fighter of the Year”. He would go on to win titles at 135, 140, 147 and 154, running through a laundry list of top-shelf names in the process. Diego Corrales, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Oscar Dela Hoya, Ricky Hatton, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao, most notably. Floyd shoulder rolled his way past them all, losing only a handful of rounds in the process.

The “Money” character, concocted by Floyd, has rubbed people the wrong way, but his wallet and bank account is oblivious to any criticism. The top three pay per view events in combative sports history all featured Floyd Mayweather (vs. Pacquiao, Dela Hoya and Canelo). Despite Mayweather’s lofty pugilistic pedigree and the absence of one in McGregor’s case, common sense makes no sense in this particular case. Based on intangibles, Mayweather-McGregor makes all the cents in the world, which is precisely why the bout is happening.  And there’s very little doubt it’ll top the all-time list of pay per view sales, once the receipts have been tabulated.

Since Muhammad Ali, no fighter has talked more shit, backed it up, gotten under opponent’s skin, singlehandedly taken their chosen profession by storm and resonated with their own people quite like “The Notorious” Conor McGregor has.  For better or worse, he is the Muhammad Ali of Ireland and come fight night, those unbeknownst will be hard pressed to tell if the bout is being held in Vegas or McGregor's homeland. 

From the instant McGregor signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) he boldly wore Irish pride on his sleeves, defiantly declaring, “We’re not just here to take part, we’re here to take over”. And as it turns out, Conor wasn’t lying. He predicted the rounds his bouts would end and stayed true to his word, barnstorming thru UFC’s 145 pound division, culminating in a 13 second KO of reigning champion, Jose Aldo. When Aldo backed out of their previously scheduled title bout, McGregor fought anyways, KO’ing late replacement and # 1 ranked Chad Mendes in two rounds.

McGregor moved up to challenge for the 155 pound belt, but when the titleholder pulled out due to injury, Conor didn’t bat an eyelash. Instead, he did the unthinkable, moving up and additional fifteen pounds, on eleven days notice, to face Nate Diaz. McGregor subsequently lost that bout, but avenged that defeat in an immediate rematch. In his last bout in UFC, Conor destroyed Eddie Alvarez for the 155 pound title, becoming the first fighter in mixed martial artist in history to hold two world titles simultaneously.

Like Mayweather, McGregor’s historical and financial impact on his sport is undeniable; not only do the three highest selling pay per views in mixed martial arts history belong to Conor, he’s also responsible for four of the top five such events. Quicker than you could say “ch-ching”, the idea of matching boxing’s top draw against mma’s top draw was whispered.

Even then, the pairing was rightfully considered a mismatch until the four-city press tour. McGregor’s gift of gab carried the occasion, and his advantages in size, strength and youth inexplicably convinced gamblers to lay money on him. Releasing snippets of a sparring session with two-weight former world champion, Paulie Malignaggi, only heightened optimism for McGregor’s chances.

But once the opening bell rings, reality will set in. McGregor believes in himself, he’ll come to win, but unless Mayweather is completely shot, he’ll easily offset McGregor’s aggressive advances and patiently break him down. Whether the referee stops the fight, Conor retires on his stool or Floyd ends him outright, it’s hard imagining this affair going more than 7 rounds.

In the ongoing war of Boxing vs. Mixed Martial Arts, Mayweather simply cannot lose to McGregor. Our sport can’t afford it, just as mma couldn’t withstand a boxer entering the octagon, with no experience to speak of, taking out an all time mma great.

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