By now you’ve all heard the news. On 26 August 2017, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor will square off in Las Vegas. It’s the fight we’ve all been waiting for apparently; the most eagerly awaited bout of the modern era. Or is it? The promoters and publicists are queuing up to tell us how significant and historic this event is, so it must be true, mustn’t it? Actually no. This is more farce than fight. But how has such a worthless event (money aside obviously) come to pass? Have the sporting public suddenly succumbed en masse to gullibility and unquestioned hype? Or are we all merely being taken for a ride by two extremely smart, if controversial, sportsmen?
You see, the problem with this contest is that it has no substance. It’s the ultimate triumph of hype over real, substantive sporting endeavour and achievement. That’s why it must be resisted by genuine sports fans. Unfortunately, it won’t be. Both the antagonists are big enough personalities to ensure that bums are firmly welded to ludicrously expensive seats and sell enough pay-per-view subscriptions to justify the purse.
That’s not the point, though. Where is the merit, the logic, the justification for this contest? Hype and promotion aside, here are the facts. Floyd Mayweather is an accomplished, multiple-time world champion; unbeaten through an illustrious and unblemished professional career. The very embodiment of boxing class. Conor McGregor is a superb MMA fighter and the biggest name in his own sport, but the Dubliner has never laced a professional boxing glove in his life.
And we’re supposed to accept the claim that this is a mouth-watering and enticing contest? Give me a break! It all has a touch of the WWE about it. Only that’s doing the WWE a massive disservice, to be honest. If Vince McMahon was in charge of this hype-fest, he would at least ensure that the contest lasts more than a couple of rounds. Mayweather may be 40, but you don’t lose class. And where’s the real, reputational risk when your opponent is a complete and untested rookie? You don’t have to be Mystic Meg to work out how this one’s going to go. Maybe I’m missing the point, though. Maybe we should accept that this match-up is all about the money and rejoice in the unprecedented bounty both stars will glean?
There has been much talk about the obvious danger arising from a rookie stepping into the ring with one of the greatest boxers of all time. And yes, it was indeed one of my main concerns when I first heard that McGregor-Mayweather was a genuine prospect. However, danger is palpable and omnipresent any time a boxer climbs through those ropes. It’s the same with any contact sport. Both men are experienced and self-aware enough to know the risks. Moreover, any man is entitled to earn a crust in whatever manner he sees fit as long as no laws are broken. The astronomical numbers involved shouldn’t distract us from the fact that this fight is merely a professional engagement that suits the vested interests of both parties and their respective money men. Good luck to them, right?
While all the above is certainly true, we don’t, as consumers, have to buy it. Unlike the multi-millionaires involved, are any of us ordinary punters wealthy enough to justify spending our hard earned dough on a glorified circus? Surely, the integrity and legitimacy of professional sport is still something worth salvaging, even in this money-obsessed era? We can refuse. We can resist the hype and nonsense. Its consumption isn’t mandatory.
I’ve a lot of respect for the individuals involved. Which only makes me feel worse. As a boxing fan, I’m a long standing admirer of Mayweather and have nothing but deep admiration for his achievements in the sport. McGregor, meanwhile, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but his ascent to the top of MMA is an inspiration for the millions of young people who idolise him, both at home and abroad. And there’s no doubt that he’s put his home country on the international sporting map in a way few others have come close to emulating. The Irish always cherish their own.
For all that, I can’t get into this fight. It leaves me utterly cold and more than a little apprehensive. It’s rumoured that August’s super-fight could earn the boxers as much as $100 million. That’s a colossal figure and certainly makes the appeal of this bout easier to understand from a fighter’s perspective. But when did it become all about the coin? Surely professional achievement and reputation mean so much more? In the final analysis, what will either man gain from this flawed enterprise apart from vastly inflated bank balances? They’re already wealthy men, after all, and neither need the money. Maybe it’s a sign of our times. The almighty dollar transcends everything; meaning the most insubstantial contest can be sold to a ravenous public. It doesn’t make it right, though.
There’s even something a little vulgar about the way potential profits outweigh all other considerations in these matters. Mayweather calls his inner circle The Money Team and the former champion has proved to be a formidable businessman outside the ring. McGregor is no slouch himself in the world of self-promotion and sporting enrichment. There’s no doubt that this contest will fulfil a lifelong ambition by making him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. Fair play, I suppose. We can only hope and pray that neither man comprises his health or dignity in the process. Please God no-one gets hurt.
This isn’t really sport. It barely qualifies as entertainment. The wrestling angle is quite apt, because in preparing for this bout, Ireland’s most famous export might ask to borrow Vinnie Mac’s entrance music for the occasion. “No chance, ‘cos that’s what I’ve got.” Fingers crossed both men come through unscathed and we can all chalk this unfortunate episode down to experience. I’m sure plenty of eager fans will rise early on 26 August, keen to see sporting history made and having paid a pretty penny to do so. Unfortunately, I won’t be one of them. I’ve a prior engagement to watch paint dry.
By Julieb2768 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons