Column: Mayweather vs. McGregor? Sure — there’s too much money out there for it not to happen
This will happen. This really will happen.
Maybe this year, maybe next year, or maybe the year after that, but at some point in the relatively near future, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will slap around mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor in a boxing match that will be as lucrative as it will be lopsided.
It’s only a matter of time before the fight takes place, and if you don’t think so, it’s because you’re unfamiliar with the way boxing works.
In a modern era in which the boxing landscape has been largely devoid of top-caliber athletes, the sport has survived not by making the best possible fights, but by pandering to the basest instincts of its audience.
There is no central authority or league whose image has to be protected, and boxing has taken advantage of this freedom by appealing to the darkest corners of psyches. The kind of rhetoric that was heard in the most recent presidential election has long been commonplace in boxing.
Though the idea of a potential boxing match between Mayweather and McGregor has been mocked by pretty much anyone with a clue — McGregor wouldn’t be permitted to kick, elbow or take down Mayweather — the reality is that it has remained a talking point for about year.
Perhaps it’s because of Mayweather’s and McGregor’s loudmouth personalities or because of the overwhelming curiosity to see a mixed martial artist attempt to box.
Whatever the case, our primal instincts have overtaken our collective common sense. This is what made Mike Tyson a greater attraction after his release from prison. Or what transformed the defense-minded Mayweather into an unlikely pay-per-view attraction. Or why an upcoming showdown between Canelo Alvarez and an unworthy Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will likely be the most viewed fight of the year.
There is now simply too much money to be made for this fight not to happen. Mayweather is claiming to be content in retirement, but even he wouldn’t turn down an easy $100-million payday. McGregor stands to make several times more than he’s ever made in an MMA fight.
In this pretty-much-anything-goes environment, state commissions are expected to play the role of the adults. Except that isn’t always the case and it won’t be the case here. McGregor has never boxed professionally, but Lance Pugmire of The Times has reported that two top Nevada sports officials would be inclined to sanction a fight between him and Mayweather.
The only real obstacle that remains is the UFC, the mixed martial arts organization with which McGregor has a contract. UFC has little to gain by allowing its most popular fighter to be embarrassed in a boxing ring, but has only the power to delay the inevitable.
Once McGregor has fulfilled his contractual obligations, he would have a green light to go on with this farce. Mayweather will be two or three years older by then, but anyone who would pay to watch a 40-year-old Mayweather would probably pay to watch a 42- or 43-year-old Mayweather. So UFC has a choice: Be part of the promotion and share in the profits or force McGregor to wait and receive nothing.
This fight would solidify Mayweather’s place as the greatest snake oil salesman in a sport run by snake oil salesmen, as the former pound-for-pound champion already tricked more than 4 million households into paying for a fight against Manny Pacquiao that was well past its expiration date. Mayweather would probably welcome that distinction. He calls himself “Money,” after all.
The unfortunate part of this is that Mayweather the carnival barker will be remembered more than Mayweather the fighter, who was once legitimately great. That was when he was at 130 pounds, where he started his professional career. He was lightest on his feet at that weight class and possessed enough power to hurt his opponents. He won his first title at 21 by whipping longtime champion Genaro Hernandez into retirement, and his destruction of then-undefeated Diego Corrales a couple of years later was arguably the finest boxing exhibition of the last three decades.
Early in his career, Mayweather had talked about going after Joe Louis’ record of 25 consecutive title defenses, which would have required him to spend his prime at his optimal weight class. Instead, he gave the public what it wanted, moving up in weight and playing the part of a villain. What the public wants now is a fight with McGregor, and history indicates Mayweather will make it happen for the right price.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.