On the Saturday of the Mayweather-McGregor fight, we turn the controls over to SportsChannel8’s senior boxing correspondent Brenden Whitted.
You can find Brenden on Twitter @WBHUAlum, or as one-third of the mighty #LeaguePassLair.
Here’s Brenden with a few thoughts on tonight’s fight and how it relates, more broadly, to the current state of boxing.
Turn on the radio and you’ll likely hear plenty of rap music that isn’t technically the best, but the industry has pushed this artist or this type of flow; and as a result, the casual fan thinks that’s what comprises the entirety of the art.
Boxing is experiencing a similar bottom-up cultural push. Despite earlier great fights by Terrence Crawford (holder of the unified 140 pound and a top five pound-for-pound fighter in the world) and Keith Thurman (who beat the previously undefeated Danny Garcia on cable television) this year, the Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight will likely be the most viewed/promoted fight of the year.
Hell, Anthony Joshua and Wladmir Klitschko had the best title fight at, historically, the most important weight class (heavyweight) in the last ten years, and many casual boxing fans still aren’t even aware of it.
Mayweather vs. McGregor isn’t the problem with boxing; it’s a symptom of the disease tearing at the underbelly of the sport.
Floyd Mayweather is one of the best boxers ever; he will be fighting someone that has never fought a professional boxing match. McGregor hasn’t gone 12, three minute rounds before. He’s never used these sized gloves in a fight. Even the ring size will be different from the Octagon — with which he is accustomed. While McGregor has been improving in several different styles of fighting for years, Mayweather has been honing his craft of boxing since before his Golden Gloves championship in the early 1990s.
Simply put, every time someone places a bet on McGregor, Malcolm Gladwell breaks out in cold sweats.
In a little over two weeks: Gennady Golovkin (GGG) will face off against Canelo Alvarez for the lineal middleweight championship of the world. GGG and Alvarez both contain explosive punching power and a fierce desire to engage with whomever they find themselves in the ring.
It’s a fight that is perfect for the more casual fan. It will be action-packed and feature two prominent boxers. It’s the fight that needs Mayweather-level promotion for the health of the sport. But because it will be only two weeks after a $100 PPV buy-in, the anticipated fight will be less appealing.
Combine that with the likely unentertaining McGregor/Mayweather fight, and the sport will almost assuredly lose the fan that’s tepidly interested in becoming a consumer.
While the talent in boxing is apparent, getting the fights that fans want to see can be difficult.
Promoters frequently don’t get along and refuse to work with one another (Promoters Bob Arum of Top Rank and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions have only recently become cordial). Or worse, they’d prefer to only use boxers that they promote — so that there isn’t a second promoter with whom to split the revenue.
Moreover, in part due to Mayweather’s immense popularity in the sport, fighters (and more importantly their handlers) are so protective of their records, that fans are deprived of some of the better fights. A perfect record is now a destination in a way that prevents the sports from advancing.
An additional hindrance to the sport is the multitude of governing bodies. Whether it’s the WBO, WBC, IBF, IBO, etc. there are a different set of rules or judges that the organizations like to use. The hydra of organizations makes continuity in boxing a near impossibility. Now when there is a lineal or undisputed champion, it’s a true rarity. Compare it to the world of mixed martial arts, with one main governing body (UFC) and one clear set of rules. There aren’t multiple number one contenders, making keeping up with the sport far easier for fans. Plus, with one governing body there is accountability and transparency — which makes bewildering decisions like the one Manny Pacquiao received on ESPN less prevalent. Boxing has been ruled by corruption and ineptitude for too long. A strong, central governing body would cure a lot of ills.
Boxing is the Wild West and always has been; but if it wants to grow, it needs real leadership. Instead, boxing fans will likely have to suffer through more taunts about how the sport is no longer enjoyable, or doesn’t have the talent of decades past.
Ironically, it’s the sport’s inability to roll with the punches and give its best shot that undermines it.