- Until now, 2017 was shaping up to be maybe the best year for boxing of the 21st century.
- All of that changes Saturday with the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor circus at T-Mobile Arena.
Until now, 2017 was shaping up to be maybe the best year for boxing of the 21st century. All of that changes Saturday.
No matter what happens in the T-Mobile Arena outside Las Vegas, the mega-hyped Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor circus almost certainly will thwart a year for the ages. McGregor not only doesn't belong in the same ring as Mayweather, but he also doesn't even belong in the same sport.
One of two things is going to happen in this fight: Either Mayweather will decide he doesn't really want to fight and plays pattycake all night, or he is determined to prove a point and dismantles McGregor.
Either way, it will be horrible. I for one won't be watching.
If McGregor is fortunate enough not to suffer any permanent injury, the willingness of one of boxing's greatest-ever welterweights to step into the same ring with him will inflict a deep and lasting bruise on a sport that always had lived on the periphery of respectability. Mayweather is a confirmed creep, but now he is shamelessly tarnishing his sport's reputation for the naked greed of another monster payday.
Being a boxing fan, as I've been since I was a boy, is tough. You're forced to withstand a legacy of fight-fixing, judging that is at times horrendous, and a cast of shady characters worthy of the tawdriest Mickey Spillane novel.
But the sport is also beauty, a marvelous spectacle of one-on-one fight-against-flight and a "sweet science" that demands a stunning level of skill and stamina, and occasionally some showmanship.
I don't mind the show. Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran and a host of other great fighters through history brought not only mad skills but also an ability to showcase them that made the sport exciting and fun.
But this is too much. McGregor may well be a tough guy and a premier MMA fighter. But he's not a boxer, and he has no idea what he's getting himself into. He's never been hit with the speed and ferocity that he's going to experience, and unless he chooses to run from Mayweather through the night, he's exposed to injury every time Mayweather takes a swing.
This fight never should have happened. In a piece Thursday, The New York Times cited the Association of Ringside Physicians saying Mayweather-McGregor never should have been sanctioned.
But what burns me as much as anything is the timing.
Boxing is experiencing a glorious year, with multiple worthy candidates for fight of the year: Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez's shocking, bloody loss to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai; Gennady "Triple-G" Golovkin's hard-fought win over Daniel Jacobs; a brutal battle between James DeGale and Badou Jack, just to name three.
Then there's been the sheer mastery of Vasyl Lomachenko, who after just 10 fights is making a case for best pound-for-pound fighter since Leonard. There is also the ring mastery of Terence Crawford and the resurgence of Mikey Garcia, who looks like he could beat just about anybody right now.
And then there's maybe the biggest story of all: the epic Wladimir Klitschko-Anthony Joshua fight, easily the best heavyweight championship bout since Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe squared off in the 1990s, a signal that the division could be back, or at least on its way.
Unfortunately, Mayweather-McGregor will sully all that.
The fight will fetch obscene pay-per-view fees and has bettors across the world going crazy. Paddy Power, a betting site based in Ireland, already has paid out on Mayweather wagers, bringing up memories of its foolish decision to do the same early on Hillary Clinton in last November's presidential election.
And money, for whatever reason, is flocking to McGregor, as if bettors somehow smell a rat in the fight and think he stands a chance.
Here's the news: He doesn't.
Ultimately, my prediction is that Mayweather will try to put on a show. He'll carry McGregor for a few rounds, hold fast to his usual defensive, counterpunching style, and realize he can't be hurt. Then, he'll take McGregor apart. If there's any mercy in that arena, hopefully it will be exhibited by the referee who will stop the fight before McGregor gets hurt.
But even if McGregor escapes, it's going to be a while before the sport of boxing gets up off the mat.