Let’s get ready to sluuuuuuuuuuumber!
The most talked-about fight of 2017 is a go. Floyd Mayweather will dust off his retired gloves – they’ve been inactive for all of 21 months – and step into the ring against UFC champion Conor McGregor on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.
Yawn. Might as well put the ring in the middle of the railroad tracks, because this one has train wreck written all over it.
Here’s the cold, unassailable truth about gimmicks in sports – they never work. They’re messy. They’re contrived. And it’s next to impossible for them to live up to the hype.
When sports promoters and executives drop the world’s greatest athletes into a concocted competition for which they have no experience, the promoters marginalize those athletes and resort them to rookies. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Here’s an idea for you – Olympic champion sprinter runs against racehorse. Eighty years ago, that was a real thing. The great Jesse Owens, unable to pay his bills, took to staging races with four-legged equine competitors. He even won a few, as the horses didn’t generally seem to be too interested in the proceedings.
Skip forward 60 years. A fiery debate raged over whether Canada’s Donovan Bailey or the USA’s Michael Johnson held the title of “World’s Fastest Man.” Instead of allowing that argument to fester on the barstools and Internet chat rooms where it belonged, an ill-conceived 150-meter race was proffered. Yes, someone actually thought it was a good idea to put two guys on a track and let them race one-on-one – not a usual occurrence in the sport of track and field – at a split-the-difference distance.
The race fizzled under the build-up, as Johnson, well behind at the curve, pulled up lame with a quadriceps injury at the 110-meter mark. Such a circus added zippo to the lustrous legacy of MJ.
So now we stand here once again at the junction of great athletes and terrible ideas. Make no mistake – Mayweather is going to make McGregor look silly. The reverse would be true if the fighters opted to step into the octagon.
As a UFC champion, McGregor’s most potent weapon has always been his straightforward, often aggressive boxing. So it’s not like we’re asking a professional bowler to run a marathon here. Yes, McGregor knows how to box. He started training in the sport at age 12 under a former Olympic boxer, Phil Sutcliffe.
Yet that doesn’t alter this reality – MMA and boxing are two different animals. Against one of the most accomplished, most technical boxers in history, McGregor will likely end up embarrassed.
Pound for pound, Mayweather is not about to get pounded.
Put it this way – when the average fan tunes in to either boxing or MMA, he wants to see someone land a punch. Mayweather excels in not getting hit. If he played basketball, he’d be the Anti-Harden. He’d never get fouled.
Does that sound like the components for an interesting fight to you?
And, please, whatever happens, don’t believe any media pundit who declares this matchup as the fight “to save boxing.” That narrative is played out. Rumors of boxing’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It doesn’t hold sway over the American public as it did throughout much of the 20th century, but the top fights still command hefty paydays.
It’s transformed into a niche sport, but the fans of that particular niche remain passionate. For a matchup worth watching, they’ll happily shell out part of their paychecks for the pay-per-view package.
I have no doubt that Mayweather-McGregor will sell loads of tickets and PPV buys. McGregor is the all-time PPV king for the UFC. They don’t call Mayweather Money for nothing, because he’s far from hitting dire straits financially. Throughout his career, Mayweather has accounted for nearly 20 million PPV buys, more than the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Oscar De La Hoya.
So, yes, people will come, Ray. People (with fat money clips) will shell out $4,500 a ticket to buy a seat in the arena. Even more people will spring for the TV package, grill up some burgers and invite the buddies over.
But not because they expect greatness. It’s more morbid curiosity than anything. Or boredom.
Then they’ll wake up the next day and move on with their lives, never giving that forgettable gimmick another thought.
Call it the schtick-and-move.