McGregor vs Mayweather: Should it Happen?
MCGREGOR VS MAYWEATHER: This match may well be responsible for one of the biggest changes in fight promotion history since Mixed Martial Arts entered the combat sports arena. We ask not whether this bout will happen (It’s happening!) but whether it should.
As the relatively new sport of Mixed Martial Arts worked its way up the media ladder and challenging the undisputed supremacy of professional boxing as the world’s #1 fight sport, there have been many flash points where the two sports have clashed. It seems the old guards of boxing now feel the threat of the young upstart, MMA, to its once unassailable crown. The fact MCGREGOR VS MAYWEATHER is now happening, presents some very interesting questions around the sports of boxing and MMA.
While boxing debates whether such a bout will be good for the sport, dignitaries such as Oscar De La Hoya in an open letter to the boxing community, asks to boycott the event, calling the event a “circus, farce and money grab.” Sports writers all over the world, seemed somewhat split on the merits of what will be an incredible spectacle of the world’s two highest paid fighters, in their respective sports, squaring off in a true boxing match. However in boxing, at least they seem unanimous in the belief that this is a battle unwinnable by the Irishman McGregor.
What no one seems to be asking, well at least publicly, is what it would mean for the two sports should McGregor win?
This is an unthinkable situation for boxing as a sport and the feeling is echoed across every plaudit in boxing. However in a recent interview on the subject, UFC president Dana White (see the interview here) stated some simple facts:
“The Great thing about fights is you never know who’s going to win…”
“If Floyd was guaranteed to win, no one would pay for it. Conor’s 27, Floyd’s 40. Conor’s the bigger stronger guy, he has knockout power, it’s an interesting fight”.
In recent years boxing as a sport has regained some of the ground that MMA had taken. From its PPV rival at a grass roots level and in the world’s top bouts, names such as Gennady Golovkin, Carl Frampton, Canelo Alvarez and Kell Brook are all becoming household names in the sport. The recent heavyweight thriller between Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua was a huge event watched by boxing fans worldwide, and therefore it is certainly perceivable that the upcoming bout could be damaging to the sport overall. Certainly should the unthinkable happen, and the debut professional boxing bout of the “Notorious”, result in a victory against arguably the greatest boxer of his generation.
Perhaps the basic philosophy of the two sports is one of the reasons why the fight may be seen so differently by both the establishment of the respective sports and the fans.
Style versus Style: The Boxer Versus the Modern MMA Fighter.
So in writing this section I must start with this: I love boxing! In fact of all the sports I’ve been involved with, boxing in many ways my favorite but I’ve sat in the MMA camp for a long time and over the years, have seen a shift in thinking from both sports. With every serious MMA team now employing a straight up boxing coach, there has certainly been an emphasis on building genuine boxing skills in mixed martial arts fighters. However I still see old the old rivalry between the purist boxing community and MMA. Read on!
In the early 90’s the Ultimate Fighting Championship came forward asking the age old martial arts question, whose style is the greatest? The fledgling UFC organization brought competitive martial arts to the world’s television screens pitting Karateka versus Judo, boxer versus wrestler, Muay Thai fighter versus Jiu Jitsu, all in a scene reminiscent of Roman gladiatorial combat. Before too long, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts had the world’s attention for both the right and wrong reasons.
During the next twenty years around the world, there was a somewhat arrogant denial from the boxing community still maintaining their skill sets, they would beat any challenge from the upstart MMA fighters in a “fair” fight. However the records will show, that in any confrontation between a boxer and MMA fighter, where the rules allowed a mixed martial artist his full tool kit, the boxing fraternity has to date been generally on the losing end of any such bouts. With the notable exception of Ray Mercer knocking out former UFC champion Tim Silvia, in 9 seconds with his devastating right hand but had earlier lost to Kimbo Slice. It stands to reason though simply put, mixed martial arts has more options tactically, so why would a mixed martial arts fighter battle a boxer on his own terms?
The concept of a fair fight has also been somewhat skewed, at least from the boxing fraternities point of view. Fair for boxers, has always meant two things:
- The fighters would be in their prime as athletes
- The rules for such a fight would be basically those of boxing
This concept has never sat well with me. In the old days MMA fighters were rarely in the condition physically of their boxing counterparts. But certainly since the early 2000’s, that began to change. In the modern era, MMA athletes are at least equal in conditioning terms to boxers. To fight in the rules of boxing seems unfair as a boxer is a specialist, while an MMA fighter has had to learn skills from multiple disciplines to win in any situation. While boxing skills in mixed martial arts has certainly been improving rapidly in the last few years, few honest MMA fighters would argue they were equal to a boxer in that arena—with few exceptions. Stand up styles such as Karate and Muay Thai are severely limited if their kicks are removed. So only an all-out battle between the two styles has ever made sense. However we might look to this McGregor-Mayweather fight as the growth in confidence of a sport that now believes itself superior in every discipline.
Historically no boxer in his prime would ever to date, have wished to risk fighting in another sport and having simply too much to lose financially. In the same breath, no MMA fighter would ever have been accepted into the professional boxing arena. Even as a style versus a style Superfight match, boxing’s culture is that of a pure sport. It has taken two superstars, in their respective sports, to bring an MMA fighter and a boxer into an arena where both the rules and the history really favors the boxer.
A fight between McGregor, the UFC’s current biggest star and Mayweather, boxing’s greatest fighter of the last decade, in my opinion is more than just a spectacle. It could be a cornerstone moment in both sports.
A loss for the MMA fighter would mean little for either sport. The rules simply favor the specialist and MMA would accept that McGregor was fighting at a disadvantage from the outset. However a win for the Irish MMA star could rock the foundations of boxing as a sport.
Let’s face it, Conor McGregor is not going to win on points. His cerebral coach John Kavanagh, Ryan Roddy and the team of specialists he’s employed for his camp know this all too well. Their plan will be to finish the fight which means KO or TKO. Anyone with a knowledge of the fight game will understand that using McGregor’s superior punching power, unusual movement and simply his youth, all give the Irishman far more than a punchers chance to win.
Finally the one factor no one has accounted for is simply put McGregor is a winner.
Mayweather has proved his elusive movement and tricky ringcraft more than frustrating for inferior opponents. But seeing how he copes with a fighter who may not play the games he’s used to, could throw elements into the fight he’s never had to deal with before. The fact McGregor is not primarily a boxer could be more to his advantage than anyone thinks.
Finally, the one factor no one has accounted for is simply put, Conor McGregor is a winner. People said he couldn’t beat Jose Aldo and 13 seconds later, the world’s mind changed. Eddie Alvarez believed McGregor could not walk into his weight class and defeat him, but the Irishman destroyed him in style. Nate Diaz proved a tough cookie but McGregor came back and avenged his only recent loss. Betting against the Irishman seems to be a hazardous game and one that perhaps the boxing community, especially the media, should heed carefully as I believe there may be more than money at stake.