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The Duel: Floyd Mayweather Vs. Conor McGregor

The flamboyant Irishman [Notorious] is stepping out of the UFC for the first time to box the best pound for pound American [Money.]

Well, I was wrong. I’m not perfect, and I’ve been wrong many times before. Once, I made a wrong turn at a yield spot, I didn’t think a reality TV star would become president, and I thought Stone Cold Steve Austin would win the first blood match at the King of The Ring in 1998.

But, when I penned a column a few months to explain why the super fight of Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor probably wouldn’t happen, I thought it was a relatively safe assumption with valid reasoning behind it. Still, those reasons continue to be valid. “Money” Mayweather, no pun intended, was “notoriously” difficult to negotiate with during the peak of his boxing career.

However, I’m happy to say that I was wrong, and it was announced via a conference call last month that boxing’s biggest star of the past decade, Floyd Mayweather has officially signed to fight MMA’s biggest star today, Conor McGregor in a boxing match on August 26th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

Floyd, a masterful defense man, garnered a professional record of 49-0 during his career, a mark that tied the undefeated steak of the legendary Rocky Marciano. Smart enough to know that a main stream persona translates to more revenue at the box office, “Money” Mayweather enjoyed the role of the villain during the second half of his career, often flaunting his wealth with an arrogant attitude. Ironically, along with the disdain that the general public had towards his brash ways, he also gained a following because of his lavish life style. Either way, it made no difference if the public paid to see him artfully dodge his opponent’s punches, or wanted to see him get KO’ed, the point was, fans paid to see him fight. Unfortunately, Floyd’s antics extended beyond his on-camera persona. He was charged with domestic violence several times within the past 15 years, including when he served two months in jail in 2011 after a plea bargain was made to drop the felony charges against him.

Despite those cowardly acts, he maintained a loyal fan base around his “Money Team” brand, which promotes other fighters and includes a variety of merchandise. As mentioned in the previous article, as Floyd was on pace to reach Marciano’s record, pay-per-view buys for his bouts diminished, mostly because fans began to realize that Floyd carefully chose his opponents to protect his record, and weren’t going to pay to watch glorified exhibition fights. In fact, Show Time actually lost money on a few of his fights prior to the Pacquiao contest because the buy rates didn’t cover his hefty guarantee, which is what finally allowed the “super fight” with Manny to materialize. Despite being five years too late, the Manny/Floyd fight took place and set the all-time pay-per-view record with over 4 million buys for an estimated revenue $400 million in PPV alone. The disappointment of the “super fight” and the debacle of the aftermath was discussed previously so there’s no reason to repeat that, but it undoubtedly signaled the conclusion of Floyd’s mega paydays in boxing. After Manny was dropped from his HBO contract, Floyd fought Andre Berto in what was advertised as his retirement bout, drawing a dismal 350,000 buys that put it among Mayweather’s lowest offering in the past decade. Clearly, the ripple effect of the Pacquiao/Mayweather contest soured many fans on the fighters that cashed in before the demand to see the fight declined.

Were there still challengers for Floyd Mayweather in boxing? Absolutely, he could’ve signed to fight Gennady Golovkin before he “retired” in 2015, but Triple G is regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the sport, and that was a risk Floyd wasn’t going to take.

So, why did the McGregor fight only take a few months for Floyd to sign the contract?

Mayweather stalled the Manny negotiations for years to maximize his portion of the earnings, an amount that eventually totaled more than $200 million. However, mixed martial arts is a different dynamic, and Conor McGregor is the current UFC Lightweight champion, a title he has yet to defend in the octagon. Conor is at the peak of his MMA career right now, but a devastating KO would drastically effect his drawing power to those outside of the MMA fan base. Would he continue to be a major star for the UFC? Sure, but his only losses in MMA are submissions. If a boxing fan sees a clip of McGregor KO’ed in the octagon, why would they think he has any chance in a boxing match? Conor currently has more people following his career than at any other point during his UFC run so there’s no reason to jeopardize the marketability of the Floyd fight. If Conor gets KOed in the cage before he steps into the ring with Mayweather, who knows if the demand is still there from the general public?

As far as the actual bout, there’s no realistic reason to expect that Conor Mcgregor will win this fight. Some naive fans might tune in thinking that his MMA background will somehow confuse the boxer, but it won’t happen. In reality, I wouldn’t be surprised if McGregor gets KO’ed in two rounds. Full-time professional boxers at a championship level haven’t been able to defeat Floyd, and McGregor is literally an amateur in terms of boxing experience. Again, there’s no realistic argument to be made that Conor can win. However, the Irishman is actually in a win-win situation. If he gets dropped to the canvas, he will do it for a record paycheck, and he doesn’t even have to necessarily win the fight to leave the ring victorious. If the UFC Featherweight champion somehow makes it to the final bell against an undefeated boxing champion, the moral victory alone will elevate his status. Remember, Rocky didn’t have to beat Apollo to become the hero of the film.

If Conor somehow lands a fluke punch and defeats Floyd, it will be perhaps the biggest upset in sports history. Nobody expects McGregor to win so there’s really no pressure on him ahead of this bout. As the media tour kicked off this week, the spectacle began and it was incredibly entertaining to see Floyd subjected to an athlete that can verbally spare with him. Along with the hype for the fight, a somewhat bizarre story surfaced recently as well. Floyd Mayweather filed for an extension to pay taxes that he owes from 2015. The IRS filed a tax lien against him for a reported $22 million debt, which is only the latest lien against him, as he owed taxes several times in the past.

Considering the type of businessman that Floyd is and the millions he made in his career, it’s almost unbelievable to think that he signed to fight the UFC champion because he needs the money. In fact, “Money” Mayweather probably has enough money to pay off the debt without any effect on his lavish life style. However, it certainly doesn’t speak well in terms of smart business when a fighter that made $200 million in his last fight asks for an extension to pay a tax debt.

With a price tag of $99.99, this bout will probably rank among the top three highest selling pay-per-view events in sports history. While it’s doubtful that it will exceed the record of Pacquiao/Mayweather, this clash of combat sports athletes will translate to money for everyone involved. Is this really a contest of boxing skill? No, but it’s a spectacle that will be tremendously entertaining, and if there’s major money on the table, it’s a smart decision to make the fight happen. culled

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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