49-0 against 0-0. 26-0 in world title bouts against 0 professional bouts in the sport. Perhaps the greatest fighter of this generation against a newcomer to the sport.
Use these numbers in almost any context and people are scratching their heads in confusion or rolling on the floor laughing. Yet for some reason, the August 26th matchup between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor has drawn interest at an almost unparalleled level. Now obviously, these aren’t your average combat sport figures, these are two of the most prominent names we have ever seen on the marquee in their respected sports. But what does name matter when the bout begins? While McGregors Irish heritage and fanbase somehow transform him into a world class boxer simply because both men are set to earn seemingly 100 million dollars minimum each for this spectacle?
Would people be rushing to drop 100 dollars to see Floyd enter the Octagon and challenge for McGregor’s LightWeight title, searching for any ridiculous reason as to why he can win? Of course not, but yet here we are now, breakdowns and whats-ifs becoming as common as actual combat sport news. Over the past few days, since the fight became official, many have taken to the internet to post their “thoughts” on the bout, looking for comparisons to rationalize their pick of McGregor. Perhaps the best comparison I have seen was to the great Usian Bolt and current world record holder in the mile, Hicham El Guerrouj. Sure, both compete in similar sports, but Usian is build for speed off the blocks, where El Guerrouj is about the steadiness and pace.
Put Bolt in a race over a mile, and of course he has a chance due to his skill, but his skill is at 100 and 200 metres, not long distances. The same can be said for El Guerrouj, he may upset Bolt in the 100 metres, but who is seriously picking anyone to beat Bolt at this distance, nevermind a runner who has never competed in an event like this? These comparisons between MMA and boxing have merit, but this is not like McGregor can suddenly turn his MMA striking into a world class boxer in less than a year and upset a fighter the caliber of Mayweather. There is a reason why these are separate sports, and why you cannot simply decide to be something. While I hate using any tragedy to further a point, the horrible circumstances which ended the life of Tim Hague this weekend shows the difference between a professional fighter and someone who wants to box.
The odds of any fighter dying in the ring or cage is always slim to none, but as we witnessed with Hague, the talent gap between two fighters can be deadly if not appreciated properly. Obviously, there appeared to be more in play then just Hague’s inexperience in the ring, but as many have said following his death, you do no play boxing. You do not enter the arena with only dollar signs in your eyes, ignoring the serious ramifications of being outclassed simply due to self confidence. McGregor does believe he can win, as he always does, but 49 other men who entered the ring against Mayweather did as well, and if fighters who have spent a lifetime mastering their craft cannot do it, why do people buy that someone like McGregor can?
Take any other UFC champion now and place them in the ring with even an average fighter in their weight class and see what happen. Stipe Miocic against Dillian White, or Demetrious Johnson against Scott Quigg would end with both boxers hand raised very relative ease. This can be said with confidence simply because it would happen the other way as well, if said boxer entered the Octagon to challenge an average fighter. MMA does showcase a wider variety of skills, but boxing is more then just hitting your opponent and winning. The angles, the footwork, the pace of the bout, all play into the outcome. These are things that most MMA fighters have yet to see beside in some sparring sessions with professional boxer, and we all know sparring is not a legitimate argument to gauge success from.
Now before anyone mentions it, there has been an instance of a boxer entering the MMA world and emerging victorious. In 2009, former Heavyweight champion (1991) and title challenger (2002) Ray Mercer entered the cage to battle former UFC Heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. While this bout was eventually sanctioned under MMA rules, twice it was shut down as a boxing match, as both New Jersey and Alabama refused to sanction the bout under boxing rules. In only 9 seconds, Mercer was able to knockout Sylvia and become the first man to finish Sylvia via knockout in 30 professional bouts. Oddly enough, the man to defeat Mercer in his only amateur bout, Kimbo Slice, might be the one MMA fighter to somewhat translate his skill to the boxing world successfully.
Slice ran up a perfect 7-0 record between 2011 and 2013, but none of his opponents can be viewed as anything special within the world of boxing. Other MMA fighters such as Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort have competed in boxing matches, but were generally one offs at the beginning their careers, and were similar to Slice in terms of opponent. Former kick boxer Chris Algeiri made the jump to boxing in 2008 and found modest success, beginning his career 20-0 before losing 3 of his next 4 bout, and its not hard to see why. Losses to Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Errol Spence Jr. sat outweigh his 21 professional victories, and showed the difference between a possible contender and and true professional.
This is the history that will follow McGregor from now until August 26th. Sure, he will bring in a life changing payday for any effort he puts forth, but is that what the combat sports world is now? Not caring about winning or losing, but about how much you can make regardless of the outcome? Had McGregor left the MMA world to pursue a boxing career, a case can be made this his skill would grow over time and may lead to a profitable, successful career, even if it didn’t end with a world title. But to enter the ring immediately against someone like Mayweather just for a payday is laughable in any light you chose to view it in. All the talk about having a punchers chance is fine, but when your saving grace is having a chance because anyone does, is that really a progressive move forward confidence wise?
Why anyone cares about the possible profit and paydays stemming for this matchup is confusing, simply for the fact that why do people care about the money being made? You as a fan aren’t making a penny, nevermind a dollar, from this, yet excitement over the payouts is reason to spend your hard earned money? Who goes to an NFL game because two guys making 30 million a year are playing against one another? Do people hit up a Cleveland Cavaliers game because Lebron James is damn near a billionaire, and wanna spend money to say they saw said billionaire beat up on a defenceless Philadelphia 76er’s squad? So why does the financial aspect of this matter to anyone besides the parties involved?
Just in the MMA world, how many times have we heard the same “they have a punchers chance” argument, and how many times have we truly seen it happen? Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn, the list can go on and on of top tier MMA stars, and perhaps a handful of these “punchers chance” moments have truly happened, but this is what the MMA masses are hanging their hats on for a McGregor win? And even then, in MMA, all fighters generally train in the same discplines, and have for many years. This is a newcomer looking to take down perhaps the greatest defensive fighter ever on the premise that millions of dollars will come your way and you have a punchers chance.
If you are even the most casual boxing fan, this fight should be looked at as nothing more then an exhibition with a hefty price tag. Think Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki in 1976 with a bigger PPV price attached. Hell, go back even a few years ago to Mayweather vs. Pacquiao for proof of letdowns with massive prices attached. The world could not wait for this fight, yet when it ended, lawsuits and tremendous blowback and negativity followed, citing the fight was a disappointment because it didn’t live up to unrealistic hype. Yet here we are in 2017 replaying the scenario all over again on a much lesser talent, much larger hype scale. And this fight has almost no expectations besides a way to clear your bank account of 100 dollars to see a chance happen.
Maybe Bryce Harper should sign with a professional cricket team because he can swing a bat well. Or New Zealand All Black Kieran Reid should be snatched up by an NFL team due to his legendary status on the rugby field. Pete Sampras vs. Lin Dan on the badminton table anyone? Skills can just translate because people have hope, right?
I know where I will be on August 26th however, which is tuning in to see the return of Miguel Cotto, live on HBO. Me and my hundred dollars will be fine with this. I can catch an exhibition match on YouTube for free.