Mayweather vs McGregor – Smile and the world smiles with you…

In a little over a week, one of the most anticipated boxing matches in history is due to take place.

Initial estimations are that this fight could be the most watched in history. The 4 stop, 3 country press tour filled stadiums at every venue. TV stations and websites around the world are reporting on any tidbit of information, from their clothes to the size of their gloves. I even saw a recent article on a movie website invoking the fighters in an attempt to sell the new Bruce Lee biopic.

No – it isn’t between the sports two greatest current stars in their sporting prime, there are no belts on the line, and one of them has never even boxed professionally before.

Yes – unless you are either completely devoid of sporting interest of any kind, or you live in an internet/TV free cave somewhere, you know this fight is between UFC Lightweight Champion, Conor McGregor, and potential boxing Greatest Of All Time, Floyd Mayweather.

Orbiting this behemoth of a fight is one that hardcore fans have been clamouring for since early last year, between Gennady Golovkin – the WBA, IBO and WBC champion and Canelo Alvarez, the Ring champion and holder of the lineal middleweight championship. Combined their record is an unholy 86-1-1. The fight, scheduled for September 16, has barely moved the dial comparatively in terms of google search figures and mainstream media attention.

How can a fight between the boxing GOAT and a fighter with literally no professional boxing experience even compete with the blue ribbon fight in its shadow?

Hardcore boxing fans are not happy.  Serious boxing journalists are not happy.

The obvious answer, as far as I can tell, is the majority of people who are buzzing about the fight are not hardcore fans, and they don’t really care what serious boxing journalists have to say. People will shell out for something that stirs their imagination, something that seems like fun.

As a fan of any and all fight sports, I am excited by both. As a boxing fan, I am a little bit sad that GGG v Canelo isn’t a bigger deal to the mainstream, but I can certainly see why it isn’t.

With all the power in the hands of promoters, and many competing organisations with a multitude of “World Titles” and “Super Champions” etc., how is the general public supposed to take any belts seriously? How is Joe Average to know that the WBA belt is worth more than the IBO? For which weight class? Whos undefeated record is padded and whos isn’t?

Before the recognised global belt was split amongst the various private offerings, it was easy for Joe Average to know who the best boxer in the world was – the narrative was uncluttered and simple to understand. To be acknowledged as the best, you had to beat the guy with the belt. Boxing has become a sport that only the hardcore fans can truly understand, because they are the ones who could be bothered to dig a little bit beyond the hyperbole to uncover the true narrative.

Meanwhile, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has grown from strongman contests of the early 90’s to a global phenomenon. Leading the way from the very beginning has been the Ultimate Fighting Championship. They have aggressively bought out any serious competition – attracting the very best fighters in the sport to their promotion and exercising complete control over who fights for their belts. In this way, with varying degrees of accuracy, the narrative is much easier to sell to the general public. The UFC champions are generally acknowledged by fans and Joe Average as being the best MMA fighters in the world. You don’t have to be a hardcore fan of MMA to understand the narrative at a glance.

The Mayweather v McGregor fight is so incredibly popular because more than anyone in the recent history of boxing, Floyd Mayweather has managed to earn himself the reputation as the very finest boxer of his age. Anyone with even a cursory interest in boxing is aware of Floyd Mayweather, and rightfully so. He might very well be the best boxer in history. Conor McGregor has likewise earned himself a formidable reputation in MMA, understanding very well the power of his own brand, and the machinery of hype, he has become the first person to hold belts in two different weight classes concurrently and has become, by far, the biggest PPV draw in MMA history.

Joe Average is well aware of both combatants. He knows that Floyd is the best boxer, but that he is old, he also knows that Conor is in his prime and has a history of knocking people out on his feet. While boxing and MMA are vastly different sports, Conor has shown a proficiency of striking skills that has kept him at the top of two different weight classes – not any of the other myriad skills that make up a modern MMA champion.

For some reason, this fight is offensive to many serious boxing journalists and hardcore fans. Take a look at the outcry from a bit of Conor McGregor’s warmup routine.

I have to admit that I found David Haye’s lampooning hilarious, but really – boxing royalty are going to mock Conor McGregor’s warm up? His method of shoulder loosening is somehow proof that he will be destroyed by Mayweather?

Again, as a boxing fan I am disappointed. Many segments of the boxing fraternity are wasting energy crying about the fight despoiling a sport that has 68 “world titles” covering 17 weight divisions, not to mention the 9 divisional “Super Champions” of the WBA.

How can a fight that guarantees millions of Joe Averages pouring their hard earned money into an event that will most likely see boxing’s best defeat the upstart MMA champion, be worse for the sport than the continuing world title farce?

I would love to see McGregor defeat Mayweather, not only because Mayweather is a piece of human garbage  – but because in the lead up to this fight hardcore boxing fans and media have made themselves out to be old fashioned elitists, complaining about this fight while ignoring the real, systemic issues with the professional sport.

At the end of the day I really don’t care about the outcome. This fight is fun. Professional fighting is entertainment, and entertainment is subjective. I enjoy a good contest between a sports brightest stars and for that reason I will be watching GGG v Canelo, but I also don’t mind fighters who have the guts to strive for greatness, to test themselves against the best, even though the rest of the world thinks they will lose. For that reason I will be watching Mayweather v McGregor.

I will finish with the following line from Jonathan Snowden’s excellent article on the fight

“Fans and media will have two choices about how they respond to this fight. They can either cross their arms, harrumph and write a series of grumpy tweets complaining about the sanctity of legalized fist fighting, or they can take a deep breath, smile and enjoy the show.

I’m grinning already. “