Saturday, September 2, 2017

Was Mayweather-McGregor A Win For Boxing?

The night of August 26, 2017 was highlighted by an event that was heavily criticized throughout the Boxing world. An event known as “The Money Fight” Mayweather vs. McGregor. All the negativity that surrounded the encounter between the former multi-division Boxing world champion Mayweather and the two-division MMA world champion McGregor did not stop the questions of what may or may not happen from developing a legitimate curiosity among the public.

Curiosity that not only attracted the interests of fans and experts of both the sports of Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), but perhaps more importantly the casual sports fan for whom observing combat sports is an occasional occurrence. The curiosity of course was whether McGregor, a veteran of twenty-four MMA fights, who has held world championships in both the Featherweight and Lightweight MMA divisions, could compete effectively in a Boxing match against a fighter of the caliber of Mayweather. What made the curiosity/question of how McGregor would fare against Mayweather, a future Hall of Famer who entered the bout unbeaten in forty-nine professional fights, was McGregor was facing him in what was his first fight as a professional boxer.

A fact that drew the ire of many throughout the Boxing community, who called the fight everything from dangerous, to a mismatch, to an outright fraud. This observer was himself critical when the fight was announced because although it was not unprecedented for fighters throughout combat sports to venture into a sport outside of their primary discipline, most fighters who venture into Professional Boxing begin their careers competing in bouts scheduled for a four or six round distance. This fight would be fought at the world championship distance of twelve rounds.

It was understandable based on this how some would expect the opposite of a competitive fight when Mayweather and McGregor did battle at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. As is often the case in combat sports however, no matter what one might expect prior to a fight, a wise approach is to “Expect The Unexpected.”

The primary question I had going into this fight was essentially the same as most previous Floyd Mayweather fights. How would the opponent deal with Mayweather’s precision timing, incredible defense, and hand speed? After all, many world-class professional boxers, some of whom are either already enshrined in or are destined to be in one of the sport’s Halls of Fame have been bedeviled by Mayweather’s Boxing style. It was a fair question to ask of a fighter who was competing as a professional boxer for the first time given that even the best of the best have been unable to solve the puzzle that is Floyd Mayweather.

In previewing this bout, I stated that it appeared McGregor was facing an uphill battle on paper due in large part to Mayweather’s credentials and the fact that McGregor was making his pro debut. McGregor however, had shown throughout his MMA career that he was more than capable of using his hands having scored knockouts in eighteen of his twenty-four career wins and was undefeated in fights that ended via knockout. This observer also stated that McGregor needed to show early on that this was a fight and not an occasion in the history of the sport that would be known more for “The Event” and also needed to show that he could land punches more than occasionally against a fighter who at his best is one of the most elusive fighters in the history of the sport. A task that has proven to be difficult for many opponents throughout Mayweather’s career.

McGregor showed from the outset that he had come to fight. The primary thing that stood out was McGregor’s awkwardness in that he seemed to use a wider stance than is the custom in Boxing. This allowed McGregor to throw punches from awkward angles and Mayweather appeared clearly bothered by McGregor’s approach early on in the fight. It was this approach that allowed McGregor to get the better of the action for much of the first three rounds.

What impressed me in particular about McGregor’s performance was the relative calm he had as the fight progressed in being able to dictate the combat behind a consistent jab, but also how he frequently switched between an orthodox and southpaw stance. This along with varying his attack and changing angles posed an interesting challenge for Mayweather, who unlike many fights throughout his career was more willing to engage with his opponent and was not as defensive-minded. An approach Mayweather would state following the bout that was due to his wanting to give the public an entertaining fight.

Although Mayweather gradually increased his activity as the bout progressed, McGregor did have success making him miss and even was able to score periodically with counter punches. Despite all the criticism and hyping that took place prior to this encounter, if one chooses to look at the fight objectively it would be clear after four rounds that this was not the mismatch and not as damaging to the sport as some had predicted. Much like many fights throughout Floyd Mayweather’s career, this was a tactical chess match that went from being a curiosity to an intriguing battle.

After six rounds, I had McGregor ahead four rounds to two on my scorecard. This was due largely to the way McGregor was able to control the tempo of the combat early in the fight as well as Mayweather not being as active with his offense particularly in the first three rounds. It is important however, to remember that Mayweather is a fighter who typically takes a few rounds to study his opposition before gradually stepping up his pace.

For a fighter in McGregor, who was more or less dismissed by some prior to this fight, his performance throughout should be viewed as validation of his credentials and what he did bring into the fight. The ebb and flow shifted in the second half of the fight as Mayweather found success landing his right hand on McGregor.

It should not be overlooked that this was also a fight that saw some roughhouse tactics where McGregor did land some punches to the back of Mayweather’s head periodically that could be described as the Boxing equivalent of an MMA “Hammer Fist.” Mayweather also did a lot of bending down and periodically turned his back to McGregor, perhaps a tactic by the veteran boxer in an attempt to get McGregor frustrated to a degree where he would revert to fighting in a manner he would if it were an MMA fight.

Although Referee Robert Byrd would admonish both fighters throughout the fight, there were no points deducted from either man. Despite putting on what was an impressive performance and one that was well paced, McGregor seemed to be fighting fatigue during the second half of the fight. This could be attributed to the fact that McGregor is used to going the championship MMA distance of five, five-minute rounds for a total of twenty-five minutes if a fight goes the distance as well as being asked to go far beyond a distance where most fighters make their Professional Boxing debuts.

It was perhaps because of this fatigue that McGregor became increasingly susceptible to being hit by Mayweather’s right hand as the fight went on. By the tenth round, McGregor badly fatigued was unable to avoid much of Mayweather’s offense and it was a flush right hand to head that set off a flurry of punches by Mayweather and resulted in Referee Robert Byrd stopping the fight.

Even though the end result of this fight was what most in Boxing expected, it was still a very competitive fight that frankly exceeded expectations. As there always seems to be in Boxing however, there was a segment or more of an element of “Controversy.”

Some of the “Controversies” that emerged from this fight ranged from those who felt the fight was prematurely stopped by Robert Byrd, to those who felt that the fight was “Fixed” to go Mayweather’s way, to a legitimate “Controversy” of those who were unable to access “The Event.”

Although I do not intend to address every one of these “Controversies” that have emerged in the one week since the fight took place, I will instead offer readers brief observations on some of the more “Controversial” elements that emerged out of this fight. The first thing that stood out was the criticism that some pointed in the direction of Referee Robert Byrd and the way he officiated this bout. In listening to and reading some of the reaction of fans shortly after the fight it appeared that some felt Byrd’s pre-fight instructions were in their words biased due to his appearing to focus more of his instruction in McGregor’s direction rather than focusing on both fighters. There were some who also questioned why Byrd did not penalize Mayweather for periodically turning his back over the course of the fight as well as some feeling that his stoppage of the fight was quick.

It is important to remember that McGregor was competing as a professional boxer for the first time. Despite his experience as an amateur boxer, McGregor was out of his element and I feel Byrd’s pre-fight instruction was an effort to ensure that rules and regulations were explained as clearly as possible the same as one might expect a referee who primarily officiates a different combat sports discipline such as MMA to explain the rules to someone who is competing for the first time.

In regard to the stoppage of the bout, I felt that it was a little quick, but was the appropriate call. Conor McGregor had put forth a great effort in this bout, but by the tenth round was suffering the effects of fatigue and was unable to intelligently defend himself. This along with appearing to be out on his feet gave more than enough justification for the bout to be stopped in my eyes. It is also worth noting that there have been times where there have been accusations made of fights being stopped quickly in MMA as well. The one constant in both Boxing and MMA is when fights are stopped it is done to protect the fighters from sustaining long-term damage.

Robert Byrd is a Hall of Fame referee who is regarded as one of the best referees in the entire sport. Although it can at times be tempting to say that a referee stopped a fight too soon, it is important to keep in mind that combat sports have obvious dangers attached to them and a referee should never be criticized when he or she only has only two objectives. To make sure rules and regulations are followed and to above all look out for the safety of the fighters who are competing.

The more legitimate “Controversy” in this observer’s eyes as far as the fight itself was in the official scoring of the bout in that two judges, Guido Cavalleri and Burt Clements each had Mayweather ahead in the fight by a margin of eight rounds to one at the time of the stoppage. Although it is no secret that there has been a rivalry between the sports of Boxing and MMA for many years with key figures in both sports criticizing the other sport, scores of eight rounds to one for either fighter was not an accurate depiction of what took place in this fight in my eyes and could leave the door open to questions of potential bias and/or corruption.  This is due largely to Mayweather not stepping up his pace until the midway point of the fight, which allowed McGregor to seemingly get the upper hand by being the more active of the two fighters even though he did not always land cleanly with his offense.  Only Judges Cavalleri and Clements can comment on what they based their scores on, but I felt McGregor got the upper hand during the first half of the fight. It is indisputable however, that by the time the fight was stopped the momentum was in Mayweather’s favor and he should have been ahead on the official scorecards.

Much as was the case with Floyd Mayweather’s fight with Manny Pacquiao in May 2015, there was also an issue with pay-per-view outages with various cable and satellite providers, which caused a delay before Mayweather and McGregor could get in the ring. As was the case in the fallout of Mayweather-Pacquiao, there was a class action lawsuit filed earlier this week by angry consumers.

Unlike Mayweather-Pacquiao however, the lawsuit that was filed concerned the OTT streaming feed of the Mayweather-McGregor card from consumers who purchased the fight from Showtime Networks’ and the Showtime PPV app, who could not access the Mayweather-McGregor bout or bouts that took place on the undercard due to issues with the stream of the event including grainy video as well as video and buffer error messages. The lawsuit filed in Oregon as reported by several outlets including USA Today alleges that Showtime engaged in unlawful trade practices and unjust enrichment. The lawsuit filed by Zack Bartel, who purchased the event via the Showtime PPV app through iTunes is seeking $200 in statutory damages or actual damages for each person in the class action lawsuit, whichever is greater. The price of the pay-per-view event on both cable/satellite providers as well as, the Showtime PPV app, and UFC.TV was $99. 

For their part the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), who was not named in the lawsuit stated shortly after the lawsuit’s filing that they would issue refunds to customers who purchased the event through the UFC.TV platform. In a statement released to media outlets as well as the UFC’s social media platforms UFC President Dana White stated quote “We always try to put on the biggest and most exciting fights, we want our fans to have the best experience when watching our events. Unfortunately, we didn't deliver the way we wanted to on Saturday because of NeuLion's technical issues on UFC.TV. As usual, we always take care of our fans and will fix this. We have started processing refunds immediately for anyone that could not access the fight after purchase.

It should be no secret to regular readers and those who follow this observer on social media that I am a big supporter of Over The Top (OTT) streaming technology and am on record in stating that it is my opinion that OTT digital distribution is the future of television consumption. Readers may recall a column I wrote here on The Boxing Truth® on December 17, 2015 titled “Is It Time For “Big Time” Boxing To Go Over The Top” where I discussed the evolution of what we know as “Pay-Per-View” in the sport of Boxing, the general decline in pay-per-view buys for a majority of Boxing events in recent times, and the rise of Over The Top (OTT) television as a distribution model and the success of subscription-based OTT services such as the UFC’s UFC Fight Pass service as well as WWE Network.

Although my stance on the benefits of OTT technology as well as my opinion as to where television consumption is heading has not changed, I do believe that perhaps some fans who purchased Mayweather-McGregor via Showtime’s website, the Showtime PPV app, or UFC.TV would not have been as angry if lifetime on demand access were offered with purchase of the event instead of simply a live feed as is the norm with traditional pay-per-view television offered via cable and satellite providers for most major Boxing events. The UFC offers on demand access of their pay-per-view events on their Fight Pass service, which cost $9.99 a month on a delayed basis. Subscribers to WWE Network meanwhile are offered on demand access immediately after a pay-per-view/network special event airs on the network’s 24/7 live channel for the same price. It is unclear as of this writing if the UFC will offer the Mayweather-McGregor event as part of it’s Fight Pass service after a certain period of time.

Although there will be some who will remain angry for a time about not being able to access the Mayweather-McGregor event in full or at all due to the various streaming issues or issues experienced via the cable/satellite medium, this could be something that may convince promoters as well as premium networks that have dipped their toes into OTT distribution for pay-per-view events to offer lifetime on demand access to those who purchase events via OTT platforms as not only an incentive to order via the OTT medium, but also by offering lifetime access to a purchased event as is offered by some OTT digital network platforms such as Fite TV for pay-per-view events, it could prevent instances like the litigation that took place following Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015 as well as the pending lawsuit over Mayweather-McGregor.

The potential for technical difficulties always exists whether one purchases an event via the cable/satellite medium or via an OTT platform. OTT technology however, has the advantage of being able to archive events via various methods that the traditional cable/satellite medium cannot do and I feel that it is time for promoters to think of a contingency plan so that in the future consumers are not left with anger if in the event technical difficulties occur during an event such as Mayweather-McGregor.

As for the fight itself, I spent much of the last week quietly observing what folks had to say not only about the fight, but also the issues experienced by some who were unable to access Mayweather-McGregor and decided to take some time before sharing my own thoughts.  If one views things objectively, Mayweather-McGregor as a fight exceeded every expectation that was hyped up by “The Event.” 

It remains unclear as of this writing as to how well the event did on pay-per-view across both the traditional cable/satellite medium as well as OTT platforms, but excluding the technical issues experienced by some, for an event that consumers were asked to pay $100 for, the fight lived up to the hype and it should be viewed as a win not only for the sport of Boxing, but also for the sport of MMA as Conor McGregor more than held his own against one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport. 

As for what’s next for both fighters, the forty year old Floyd Mayweather stated after the fight that this was his last fight as was the case after he defeated Andre Berto in September 2015.  Obviously, one could assume that if the right offer came along that Mayweather, who advanced his record to 50-0 with his win over McGregor, would consider the idea of another fight, but the question would be against who would that fight be and how much would be on the table for Mayweather after making an estimated nine-figure payday against McGregor. Mayweather has definitely earned his place in Boxing history and outside of something that would be worthy of a label of a “Super Fight” that would attract the interests of the masses including the casual sports fan, he has nothing more to prove as his name sits along with a select group of fighters who have retired undefeated.

For the twenty-nine year old Conor McGregor it is logical to assume that the two-division MMA world champion will return to MMA in the near future as UFC President Dana White stated he would prefer McGregor to do at the post-fight press conference.  McGregor however, proved to many including this observer that he could hold his own in a Boxing ring and it would not surprise me based on his performance to see McGregor compete as a boxer in the future.

With Mayweather-McGregor now in the books, Boxing now awaits it’s next big “Mega Event.” In an era where pay-per-view prices are ever increasing and where more often than not no matter what happens in the ring, fans are left unsatisfied, it is my hope that the next “Mega Event” will not be marred by technical issues and will be a fight that will be worthy of being the type of event that garners the attention of the masses and an event that will benefit the sport in the long-term.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved,

Follow Beau Denison on Twitter:

No comments:

Post a Comment