The maelstrom of misgivings circling the upcoming McGregor-Mayweather bout is certainly spectacular, but it is also misplaced.
Many call it the biggest test of McGregor’s fighting career, while more still label him a total no-hoper. This is, lest we forget, irrefutably the greatest boxer of his generation fighting someone who has not once partaken in a professional boxing bout. McGregor is of course mesmeric within the Octagon, but his surroundings come August 26 will be different.
It is Roger Federer trading his Wimbledon whites to duel with the best in the world of badminton, Michael Van Gerwin bidding adieu to the razzmatazz of Alexander Palace to joust with javelin’s brightest lights. Geniuses all, but not when competing in alien arenas.
Indeed Mike Tyson’s quip that ‘McGregor is going to get killed in boxing’ succinctly encapsulates the mind-set of many.
This is, however, to entirely miss the point. While the upcoming bout is undeniably the biggest test of his career, it is also a test of his promotional prowess rather than his boxing backbone.
Tyson said what most people are thinking: McGregor has zero chance of actually defeating Mayweather, to the majority of observers anyway. Once he enters the ring the tactics available to him number many, although in truth only a limited few are within his grasp.
Fewer again, entail causing Mayweather undue stress, let alone knocking him out.
Ducking through the ropes will be his ’60 Gs Baby’ moment because success, in this instance, will not be measured by knock-outs, submissions or a judge’s decision. It will be decided by cold hard cash.
August 26 is not to be a test of his boxing ability, those initiated in boxing’s nuances have long been convinced of its inadequacies. The bout is the sternest test of his ability to sell a fight, and already he’s proving spectacularly successful.
Mayweather’s 2015 bout with Manny Pacquiao is to date the most lucrative fight in history, comfortably. The PPV sales to see Mayweather easily weather Pacquiao’s storm of fury was an astounding $455m and it’s easy to see why.
The fight’s appeal went beyond the undeniable quality of both fighters on show. It contrasted Pacquiao’s perceived sanctity with the villainy which has blighted Mayweather’s life.
Pacquiao’s ferocious firepower against the defensive prowess of Mayweather. The sides from which to sell the fight were endless but the most enduring aspect of the clash was that nobody knew who would win.
Cogent arguments were made on both sides and while Mayweather’s sublime composure ultimately won him the day, the ease with which it did came as a surprise to most rather than as a sickeningly inevitable finale.
Few such story-lines can be attributed to the August 26 bout.
McGregor’s naivete in the boxing ring means no defined style can be attributed to him, and, while his life hasn’t been blotted with unlawful misdemeanours a lá Mayweather, he’s hardly the picture of probity Pacquiao provided.
And most importantly of all, a Mayweather triumph is all but assured.
And yet, the revenue the fight will generate is staggering. Mayweather v. Pacquiao generated $445m in PPV. Fans Stateside are being asked to pay up to $99.95 for the privilege of watching the fight, and the resultant PPV sales could end up being in the region of $475m.
Given that Mayweather has done little at each press conference than shoulder abuse from the baying crowds and try to get McGregor in the background of his selfies, its easy to see who is generating the hype, and ultimately the revenue, for the fight.
As McGregor jetted from LA to Toronto, New York to London last month, he surely could scarcely believe how easily he verbally battered his opponent.
Each press conference was so grand they were more akin to concerts than pressers – McGregor was the headline act.
He effortlessly revolved from launching bombastic tirades at Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza, to arousing the crowd to frenzied contempt for his adversary. Chants of ‘Boo’ and ‘F*** Mayweather’ soon became commonplace and when he wasn’t orchestrating the crowd to his tune he was slapping Mayweather across the head and riling up Mayweather Snr for good measure.
Mayweather, for his part, looked unperturbed but the crowd didn’t seem the care. It wasn’t he who they had come to see.
They were there to bask in the reflected glory of UFC’s brightest light, to be able to say they saw the Conor McGregor in the flesh. And it’s that same pull that will make them buy PPV, or even attend the fight itself with tickets costing up to $10,000.
The fight itself could easily be a disappointment, but McGregor’s expostulations mean that its an event worth watching. And that’s the best success McGregor could aim for.
Colm Egan, Pundit Arena