People have talked about the end of boxing as a mainstream sport for decades. Detractors have speculated that it couldn’t survive another death in the ring or the type of controversial ending typical of the big fights in the late 90’s and 2000’s.
If you were to listen to sportswriters, who have traveled the boxing circuit for years, boxing is not how it used to be…fighters are not made of the same stuff as the champions of yesteryear.
Thriving on this climate of apathy, mixed martial arts (MMA) gained a foothold in America, as the UFC franchise implemented its plan to reinvigorate MMA as ‘A-force-to-be-reckoned-with’ in sports entertainment.
Remember, though, that sport is a subculture of society. While there are wars and internal conflicts happening in many parts of the world, with despicable human beings committing atrocious acts of hatred on humanity, boxing and fighting will always have a home. As a society, we witness something tragic and compartmentalize it, if we’re not directly affected by it. We move on, we get on with our lives. Somehow, someway, we find the drive and the purpose to keep moving forward.
Similarly, with boxing, no matter how many black eyes it gives itself, the sport finds way to survive and to thrive. So, if the public doesn’t get the blood and thunder it wants from this bout, it won’t be long before their juices are flowing in anticipation of the next big fight … you have to marvel at boxing’s resilience.
Now to the big fight … the first point to stress is this. I’m ecstatic that boxing is the A-side with this bout. Mayweather, the champion and the best fighter of his generation, has been tempted out of retirement by the lure of bright lights, big money and, on paper at least, an easy night’s work. I mean, surely, even with the weight advantage and Conor being a novice boxer at best, the MMA star cannot live with the man they used to call #prettyboy?
The reason for my elation is based on the fact that, in the past, a plethora of professional fighters have stepped into the octagon to compete with disastrous results. Future Hall of Fame champion James Toney, former heavyweight champion Ray Mercer, Ricardo Mayorga, even the GOAT Muhammad Ali all participated in MMA contests that played out unsatisfactorily.
Likely the most damaging contest for boxing took place in 1991, when former heavyweight champ Trevor Berbick, who lost his WBC belt to Mike Tyson in 1986, fought Japanese MMA star Nobuhiko Takada. The mixed martial artist kicked, punched and chastized the bigger Berbick around the ring. Berbick complained non-stop about the rules being broken, as he didn’t sign up to kicking, and decided enough was enough. He jumped out of the ring in the 1st round much to the amusement and anger of the local crowd in Japan.
That’s the expectation when you see a boxer fight in the octagon. The learning curve is too steep … learning how to defend yourself against a choke-hold, or any number of takedowns an MMA fighter can employ, is impossible to figure out in a full twelve-week training camp.
The only professional fighter to rip up that script and succeed in the octagon was Holly Holm, who dented the stature of the last marquee UFC commodity, Ronda Rousey, who caved under the power of Holm’s perfectly timed left high-kick around her chops. Holm is truly the exception to the rule. Because she was successful in so many other forms of fighting before professional boxing, her transition was an easy one to make.
So, what have we here? Likely for the first time, this is a famed and accomplished MMA fighter stepping into boxing’s playground against a champion. While, admittedly Floyd hasn’t been active lately, in terms of boxing class and ability, he really shouldn’t have to shift out of first gear.
How much training does he needs to beat a novice?
Famed street brawler Kimbo Slice enjoyed some success in both disciplines, using mostly boxing strikes to pulverize his opponents. Actually, in terms of media awareness, Conor McGregor has built a similar following from the ground up since his introduction to UFC in 2013. And like Kimbo’s was in his time, his name is everywhere.
Nevertheless, this is still The Floyd Mayweather Show. In terms of who will bank the most money and who will win the fight … come on, people, we cannot seriously think a novice can outwit and outfight the best fighter of this generation. I know you don’t really think Conor has a chance!!!
No matter how steep Conor's learning curve has been, there is no way he can accumulate the finesse and grounding needed to make it competitive.
Similarly, there is no way a boxer can learn how to grapple effectively during one training camp. There is no easy way to attain the level of accomplishment and greatness Floyd has. It can only come through time, learning, training, HARDWORK and accomplishments.
But I take my hat off to Conor, Dana and the UFC billion-dollar franchise. You have to hand it to them. In their wildest dreams, they never actually believed Floyd would dust off his gloves for one final rodeo … they aimed at Everest and landed on the moon.
Despite the naysayers hating, the interest in this fight has forced people worldwide to sit up and take note. It’s actually my 12th wedding anniversary Saturday and, if it weren’t for my two kids and their sporting commitments, I would be in Las Vegas watching it live. Instead, I'll be in Los Angeles watching it at a movie theater before hitting the town for dinner.
The mainstream press is frowning at both Mayweather and McGregor for their brashness and past misdemeanors, but it’s worth a reminder that Floyd Mayweather epitomizes the American dream, something etched into the heart and soul of America. Work hard, dream big and build your own empire, taking no prisoners.
In his own way too, though, Mr. McGregor has applied the same hustle to his castle. And he’s to be commended for it.
This fight has captured the world’s attention and I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Enjoy the fight … Conor will go down fighting, as he’s already won J
(As his hometown of Crumlin, Dublin sits up through the night to cheer him on)
Peace and blessings,
Audley A-Force Harrison