Friday, August 25, 2017

Mayweather-McGregor: A Curiosity

One of the biggest stories throughout all of combat sports in recent months has been the showdown between future Boxing Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather and two-division MMA world champion Conor McGregor. An encounter that will take place in a Boxing ring and under Professional Boxing rules.

A fight that has frankly morphed into more of an event that is expected by some to break existing pay-per-view records. What makes this unique is this is a fight between two elite fighters in their respective sports, but a scenario where McGregor, the current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight world champion, will be competing for the first time as a professional boxer. The idea of a fighter who is making his professional debut stepping in and competing against one of the all-time greats of the sport of Boxing does seem like an unlikely scenario.

It is however, a scenario that is not completely unprecedented. There have after all been several fighters throughout combat sports that have ventured into Boxing and/or MMA from a primary discipline and have been able to have success in a combat sport that is out of their element.

Some might remember Troy Dorsey, a former world champion kickboxer, who went on to win two world championships in Professional Boxing, most notably winning the vacant IBF Featherweight world championship in August 1991 by scoring a first round knockout over Alfred Rangel. Dorsey would go on to become a two-division world champion by winning the IBO Jr. Lightweight world championship in October 1996 with a stoppage of Jimmi Bredahi. Fans who are familiar with the more recent eras of the sport may be familiar with former WBO Jr. Welterweight world champion Chris Algieri, who before embarking on a career as a pro boxer was a two-division world champion in Kickboxing.

There have been fighters such as former Professional Boxing world champions Ray Mercer and Holly Holm, who have ventured into MMA and have been successful and former Elite XC MMA world Lightweight champion KJ Noons, who had a short, but successful career as a pro boxer having won eleven of thirteen professional fights. There have also however, been fighters whom were not successful in an attempt to transition from one discipline to another when at UFC 118 in August 2010, former multi-division world champion pro boxer James Toney was quickly submitted in his one MMA bout at the hands of two-division MMA world champion and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Although the Couture-Toney bout at UFC 118 may serve some as a cautionary tale for fighters who are considering venturing into MMA from another primarily combat sports discipline, it is important to note that in the case of the Couture-Toney bout, Couture a fighter who was a former collegiate and Olympic alternate wrestler prior to his MMA career immediately took Toney, a fighter who had no experience in grappling or submission fighting down to the canvas not allowing Toney to use his hands where he would have theoretically had an advantage and scored the victory.

Even though Connor McGregor, who has a 21-3 record in MMA, has some Amateur Boxing experience, what he will be attempting in his first fight as a professional boxer against a fighter in Floyd Mayweather, who is undefeated in forty-nine professional fights in Professional Boxing, who was considered the best pound for pound fighter in the world prior to his retirement in 2015, will be facing what appears on paper to be an uphill battle. McGregor however, has quick hands and has shown in his MMA career that he is capable of scoring knockouts having scored KO’s in eighteen of his twenty-one wins.

McGregor’s extensive MMA pedigree notwithstanding, it is important to remember that this will not be a fight fought with MMA gloves and will be fought with Boxing gloves. Whether or not the change in sport and gloves will have an effect on McGregor’s punching power remains to be seen. The one factor that McGregor can point to as a sign that fans and more importantly Mayweather shouldn’t underestimate him is he is undefeated in MMA fights that have ended by knockout.

Another factor that the twenty-nine year old McGregor may point to is he is facing a fighter in Mayweather who is nearly two years removed from active competition and is now forty years old.  Mayweather, who last fought in September 2015 scoring a one-sided twelve round unanimous decision over former two-time Welterweight world champion Andre Berto, is known as one of the best defensive fighters in the history of the sport.

In quietly watching all the events that have taken place to hype this event, this observer has thought of what is likely to take place when Mayweather and McGregor do battle on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Simply put McGregor must show early on that this is a fight and not an occasion in the history of Boxing that will be known more for “The Event” rather than as a competitive contest and must show he can land punches on Mayweather more than occasionally.  This is of course, easier said than done against a fighter of Mayweather’s caliber and experience. Mayweather meanwhile, despite what he has said in the build up to this encounter about wanting to give fans a show is likely to implement a similar strategy as he has done throughout his career by setting traps and looking to counter his opponent’s mistakes.

A question that those who don’t believe McGregor has much of a chance in this bout might be asking is if the opportunity presents itself will Mayweather go for a knockout. Although Mayweather is not known as a fighter who scores knockouts having scored KO’s in twenty-six of his forty-nine career wins and has not scored a knockout since a controversial, but legal knockout of Victor Ortiz in September 2011, he is a fighter who has shown when he wants to be aggressive that he can end fights rather than winning fights on points by what more often than not have been convincing decisions.

What this observer is interested in is to see if the fight is lopsided in Mayweather’s favor as some expect whether he will try to score a knockout or if he will elect to simply out box McGregor to a unanimous decision.  Given that this fight, much like Mayweather’s mega fight against Manny Pacquiao in May 2015 is being sold to the public on a pay-per-view basis for the exact same price of $99.95 and seeing the litigation that followed from disgruntled fans who filed suit alleging fraud due to the fight not living up to expectations, it is fair to ask whether or not a similar situation might occur following this fight regardless of what happens in the ring.

“The Event” featuring a clash between an elite level future Hall of Fame boxer, who is out of retirement for what he insists is a one-time appearance against an elite level MMA fighter, who can also make a case as being a future MMA Hall of Famer has certainly sparked fans and experts of both respective sports curiosities. The fact is no matter what one thinks prior to this fight, no one knows what will happen and despite all the hype that has preceded this “Event”, the one thing that is real is the “Curiosity” of the public.

Although this observer has covered many “Big Events” over the years that failed to live up to expectations and left the public feeling disappointed and/or outraged, it is my hope that at the end of the day Mayweather-McGregor will be remembered as being a competitive fight that exceeded expectations rather than the “Black eye” some in Boxing have predicted. If a good or even great fight breaks out when Mayweather and McGregor square off it will ultimately benefit both Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts in the long-term even with the public being asked once more to pay an inflated fee to see "The Event" take place.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Mayweather vs. McGregor takes place tomorrow night (Saturday, August 26th) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas NV. The fight can be seen on a pay-per-view basis on cable and satellite throughout the United States and Canada for $99.95 HD/SD as well as online via and www.UFC.TV. The fight can also be seen at select movie theaters. For more information on theater locations please visit: Check your listings internationally.

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