The Fight Game’s Final Fantasy: Mayweather-McGregor Preview
Ronnie McCluskey previews the so-called “orgy of excess”, the Mayweather-McGregor fight that everyone’s talking about.
hen Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather started jawing about fighting each other last year, the punters shook their heads. Surely such a freak show would never come to pass. UFC poster boy vs boxing’s undefeated king: it would do massive numbers at the gate but it was illegitimate, a con, a cheap bibelot wrapped in shiny paper.
As with the rise of Trump, the punters got it wrong. There was far too much money on the table. Floyd and Conor failing to agree terms would’ve been like two ski-masked bank robbers exiting the vault sans loot.
I wasn’t gonna write this article. Last time I previewed a Mayweather fight, I spewed superlatives in anticipation of #MayPac, the “biggest fight in boxing history.” What seemed destined to transcend the sport turned out to be a dud, a 12-round chess match that made a mockery of the pre-fight hype. This one could make that anticlimax look like the best orgasm ever.
What can be said about this showdown that hasn’t already? In today’s Daily Telegraph (which I’m reading cos it came free with an Evian at Glasgow Airport) Oliver Brown dubbed it “fake sport” and invoked Marx’s “opium of the people” line to describe the gaudy stage show. The wider boxing press have reported the bout with a mixture of amusement and deprecation, while the UFC beat have given their talisman a faint glimmer of hope.
Mayweather turned 40 in January and last fought two years ago, a forgettable decision over Andre Berto in an ignominious swansong. McGregor is 29, slap-bang in his athletic prime. As the only man in UFC history to hold simultaneous world titles in two weight classes, he is the big fish Floyd came back to catch. He is also the only opponent who guaranteed a nine-figure payday.
And that’s why the fight’s happening: money.
Mo money, mo problems
Make no mistake, Mayweather and McGregor are elite fighters; but they are also moneyed megalomaniacs. The buildup has been an orgy of excess, a profanity-laden procession through a Trumpian landscape of boasts and bloviation. Has there ever been two fighters possessed of such outsized egos? Has there ever been such a materialistic twosome?
From the get-go, this was billed as an event more than a fight. Like Freddie vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, it unites successful and bloody entities. It’s the same fantasy it always was, the “what if?” factor giving ballast to the promotion, the soundbites and quips meriting column inches.
It’s also – lest we forget – a fight.
Ignore the naysayers; McGregor has a chance. He’s young and ambitious and awkward; unlike past Floyd opponents he does not fight in a conventional manner. He also carries serious power and is physically stronger. And though his myriad martial arts skills will probably be worthless, he could spring a surprise in the clinches. One thing McGregor knows how to do is manipulate space and his opponent’s arms.
Many claimed it was disingenuous, but we should take Mayweather at his word when he admits to not being the fighter he was ten, five, even two years ago. He must’ve felt his age returning to the Vegas pavements to complete runs in the glow of the streetlights. Working with guys half your age is bound to make you feel old – even if your last loss came when Bill Clinton held office.
Ultimately though, Floyd should win and win well. His whole life has been punching; McGregor’s has been punching, wrestling, “bouncing shinbone off cheekbone.” Conor is the best striker in the UFC, but how does that translate into the world of professional boxing? The conventional logic says: it won’t. At all. And the UFC’s golden boy will be embarrassed.
I don’t know about embarrassed – the word doesn’t exist in the Notorious lexicon. The conviction, you sense, is real: he truly believes he will smash through Mayweather’s “small torso”. He sees himself as the hot-shit gunslinger rolling into town to shoot down the big cheese. And you’ve gotta love that attitude.
The worlds of UFC and boxing clash on Saturday night. Call it freak show or farce, but don’t pretend you won’t be watching.