The Fight of the Century…it is only 2017, people need to calm down. There may be a great fight coming up in 2067 that will definitely be the fight of the 21st century. I feel like you should have to at least wait until 2090 to start deeming what was the fight of the century. Anyways, that is not the point of this post. I figured today would be a good time to talk about the Mayweather/McGregor fight. I should warn you: I am not an expert (when has that ever stopped me from giving my opinion on anything) on MMA or really up on current boxing (I used to be a huge boxing fan). Also, I did not watch the fight, I followed along on Twitter (thanks to social media, everyone suddenly becomes a play-by-play person), then watched the highlights on ESPN this morning (more on that later). I have also been following a bunch of different conversations about the fight via Facebook, from people who know much more than me.
Before the fight, I had a few conversations with friends about this fight. The main thing I kept hearing was from MMA fans who felt that this was going to mark the end of boxing. They reasoned that if McGregor won (which they all felt he had a pretty good chance), then boxing would just die. If he made it a close fight, it was still a win for MMA. Basically, the only chance boxing had was if Mayweather knocked him out in thirty seconds. Anything after that and they saw it as a guy with no boxing experience lasting against the best in the world. Kind of unfair for boxing. I mean, Floyd Mayweather is not really a devastating hitter, who has been known throughout his career for first round knockouts. He is a defensive/technical master. He does not make mistakes, he has a strategy, and it works for him. That was on full display last night.
It is funny hearing different takes on the fight from the different fan-bases (you would think MMA and boxing would have a huge overlap in fans, but that really does not seem to be the case). The MMA fans say it was a close fight, that it should not have been stopped by the referee, and that McGregor could probably compete in boxing if he trained more. Boxing fans…well they are not in agreement. They say that Mayweather owned the fight and that McGregor, while he put up a respectable effort, would not fair well in the sport against some of the younger, heavier hitters. After watching the the highlights of those first few rounds that McGregor won, it seemed to me that Mayweather was just testing his opponent and once he saw/felt that McGregor’s best was not really all that effective against him, he just allowed Conor to tire himself out, knowing that those punches were doing nothing. Floyd Mayweather is also a showman and he wanted to put on a great show for people. Once he learned that there was basically nothing McGregor could do to really hurt him (obviously he could have connected with a temple shot and knocked him out, but Floyd plays defense enough to avoid that sort of thing, you do not get to 50-0 by being an idiot in the ring), he gave the fans their money’s worth. But from what he saw, he was never in trouble and even when it looked like McGregor was doing well, you could just tell that Floyd was in control. And yes, I realize some people will disagree with that, but my blog/my opinion.
Now the other thing I keep hearing is from people who seem to think it was rigged because the ref stopped the fight. Being a referee is not easy. You have to make a decision based on everything you are seeing whether or not a fighter can continue. It always sucks when it is your favorite fighter and the ref says “he is done.” However, the ref saw something in McGregor’s movements, eyes, etc. that warranted him stopping the fight. Put it this way, if he allowed it to keep going and Mayweather connects like four or five more crushing head shots and McGregor ends up never fighting against because of some brain injury (unlikely, but possible), people would be freaking out as to why the ref allowed it to go on so long. It is a no win situation for that referee.
As to whether or not the fight was rigged…well that depends on what you mean. Was the pre-fight shit talking and hype a little much? Probably. I have a feeling Conor and Floyd are actually cool with each other. I have no clue if it is real or not, but I saw a picture of them in a private jet together going to the weigh-in or press conference. So in a sense, I feel like some of animosity was a bit rigged, however it sells tickets, so it obviously worked. The entire fight reminds me of the movie The Great White Hype. I highly recommend going out and watching it. For those that do not know, the movie is about the heavyweight champion (Damon Wayans) needing an opponent that people will come out to watch. His promoter (Samuel L. Jackson–who is definitely doing a good Don King) says they need a white heavyweight (to which Damon Wayans says “white heavyweight, that is an oxymoron, like black unity”…ahhh, such a funny movie). They discover that even though Wayans is undefeated as a professional, he was beat once as an amateur by a white kid named Terry Conklin. They find him, he is out of boxing and a musician. They convince him to fight. They play up his Irish heritage (even though he has none) and he trains really hard for the fight. Damon sits around watching movies, smoking cigarettes, and eating ice cream. There are lots of really cool things throughout the movie (even though it is a comedy, I think it really nails the shadiness of professional boxing, especially during that era). Anyways, I am going to spoil it, so stop reading if you plan to go watch it. The fight finally happens and Terry Conklin comes out and hits Wayans a bunch, he connects on an overhand right and….well it pissed Wayans off. I think he says something like “are you trying to make me look bad?” Then proceeds to knock Conklin out in like 20 seconds. I highly recommend the movie. The below video starts at the beginning of the fight…
Anyways, this entire definitely felt like that movie. Boxing needed a way to reach those MMA fans. Conor McGregor wanted a serious payday…so out come the hype machine.
Speaking of hype. I never watch ESPN anymore. But I turned it on this morning to see the highlights. I assumed that would be the lead story on Sportscenter, right? Nope, preseason football. The coverage of this fight was pretty spotty and it was then discussed by their MMA analysts who seemed to think that it was a very close fight. Was ESPN hyping it up before the fight as McGregor having a good chance? I got that impression when they were talking golf. The host made fun of the golf reporter for picking McGregor. He countered that he definitely bought into the hype he had been hearing. So I am asking, was ESPN really pushing this idea that McGregor could win the fight? To what end? Does ESPN show MMA fights? I remember last winter there being a story on HBO about MMA fighters and cases of domestic violence (apparently the statistics are worse than the NFL and boxing) and at the end of the segment, Bryant Gumble mentions that Dana White would not comment because he believes HBO has a vested interest in making the UFC look bad, since HBO shows boxing. Is there an aspect of this with MMA/ESPN?
So what is next? I heard McGregor said he is open to boxing again. Here is what I think he should do. He should have Floyd Mayweather and his team train him for like a year. Then challenge Canelo Alvarez. Mayweather already beat Canelo, but this could be like a rematch. Mayweather could hype it up as “hey Canelo, I can train this guy who basically has no boxing experience to beat you.” Mayweather as a promoter would actually be a pretty good idea.