It's fight week... fight day in fact. Happy fight day! If you've been living under a rock, tonight is the night of one of the most anticipated boxing matches in modern memory as the undefeated, 49-0 living legend that is Floyd Mayweather Jr faces off against one of the most controversial and outspoken men in MMA history - "The Notorious" Conor McGregor.
Why is it significant? Well, strictly speaking, it's kind of a freak show. Technically speaking, it's Conor McGregor's debut boxing match - which doesn't bode well for him right? From a layman's perspective, absolutely. Conor is fucked. Not a cat in hell's chance. Unless you look into what he can actually do in his own sport.
For those who don't know, whether it's through inexperience or ignorance, Conor is arguably the best MMA fighter in the world right now. MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, is a mix of loads of fighting disciplines - grappling, submissions, kicks and notably, boxing. McGregor fights in the UFC where he's a multi-weight World Champion and the most watched guy in their history (based on their Pay Per View buy rates). In fact, four out of the five most watched PPVs in UFC history have had a Conor McGregor main event - which is the reason that Floyd "Money" Mayweather has come calling.
For those who aren't in the know - Boxing is hurting right now. There aren't any "stars", as has been the criticism for a few years now. If we take the current "best" pound for pound fighter Andre Ward (The Ring Magazine) as an example and pit him against Conor in a purely PPV business sense, you get some pretty damning reading. Ward's last two fights, both versus Sergey Kovalev, drew 165,000 and 125,000 PPV buys respectively. If we move to Conor's last two, he fought Nate Diaz to avenge his previous loss and it drew 1,650,000 buys, with a follow-up bout against Eddie Alvarez drawing 1,300,000. The numbers look roughly the same for ticket and gate revenue too - Boxing is hurting, which makes it all the more baffling to read some of the comments from both former and current boxers on this fight.
I've read many, with terms like "farce", "showbiz" and "mismatch" being thrown around - but my favourite one that stuck out was this peach from former Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis: "I wouldn't count a fight like this as a 'fight'". The reason for his comment seems to come from a lack of trust, and even respect to a degree: "Is McGregor going to throw a kick because obviously when he resorts to boxing and realises he is no match for Mayweather".
First and foremost here, let's start way back at the beginning - Conor McGregor started life as an amateur boxer. I say that to say this - so did Lennox Lewis. So did Mayweather and so did every other professional boxer to step into the ring. If you believe that success in any discipline comes from a combination of hard work, raw talent and ability, then Conor is on equal footing with anyone else who steps into a boxing ring at the point of his debut. This isn't some dude off the street - this is a multi-weight fighting World Champion. It's a different sport, but it's as valuable here as anything else.
In an alternate timeline, Conor could well have been a boxer. He played football too - he could've done that... but Conor saw the chance to make his mark in a growing sport and decided that MMA was for him. Now, I'm not saying for a second that Conor McGregor would've been a World Champion in the boxing world, but the disrespect that he is being shown by that world is staggering. This idea that boxing is this protected discipline is staggering. If we're calling a spade a spade here - if this fight was as much of a farce as it's being claimed from that side, then the Nevada State Athletic Commission would not have sanctioned it. Boxing is complicated, but they trust that Conor has the ability to defend himself without being seriously hurt.
Finally, there's a wildcard thrown into the mix. Conor McGregor is known as a power puncher in the UFC - he's a counter-fighter, but he has the power in his left hand to do some real damage to anybody - and he'll be wearing 8-ounce gloves. This is an interesting choice, with boxers at this weight usually having to wear 10-ounce gloves. Now, two ounces likely isn't going to make any difference to the conditioning of the two, but it's closer to a 4-ounce glove that Conor is used to. It also provides less protection when the fighter lands a punch - and Floyd Mayweather has had issues with broken hands in the past. Granted, he always fights through and granted, Conor will actually have to find him in order to hurt him, but the fact remains that if Conor comes at Floyd in a way that he's not seen before, it could be interesting.
Now obviously, the build-up has been pure pantomime, but they've built it to a point where there are an estimated 50million people ready to watch - it's going to break all records and it's potentially the shot in the arm that boxing needs... to a point. See, regardless of the result, the boxing world falls into another bind after this. The biggest commercial boxing match in history will have been put on by two men who likely have no intention of fighting in this arena again. Win or lose, Conor will slip back into his role as the UFC's biggest star and Floyd will go back to his day job as a rich, big time baller.
So, when the spotlight finally falls onto the ring in the T-Mobile Arena tonight at Stupid O'Clock (for me, being in England), and the talking is all done, there's a good chance you're going to see something out of this world. What will Conor have planned? How long will it go? Will Floyd want to dominate and outclass him? Will Paulie and Lennox Lewis be making their money off Conor? Fuck knows, but I'm putting a tenner on McGregor winning by Knock Out.