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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor: Boxing super fight or a circus?

Floyd Mayweather’s bout against Conor McGregor is being billed as the ‘Fight of the Millennium’, but will it live up to the build-up?

other-sports Updated: Aug 26, 2017 15:17 IST
Leslie Xavier
Leslie Xavier
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) of the US will aim to extend his undefeated streak to a record 50-0 when he faces UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor of Ireland at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) of the US will aim to extend his undefeated streak to a record 50-0 when he faces UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor of Ireland at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday.(REUTERS)

Is it a spectacle, the biggest show in history, the ultimate unifying bout or just a circus?

As things edge closer to the bell at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the super fight -- between UFC champion Conor McGregor and the undefeated former multiple world boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- we are still finding it hard to define the ‘Fight of the Millennium’ and its significance, repercussions rather, for pro boxing as well as mixed martial arts (MMA).

READ | Conor McGregor edges Floyd Mayweather in weight and support

Mayweather, on more than one occasion during the promotion tour, has said he doesn’t understand any number other than money, staying true to his nickname, “Money”. While McGregor seems to be on a mission to prove he is the best fighter in history -- the huge paycheck is surely a priority for the Irishman too.

Now that we all know the fight is all about dollars, and hundreds of millions of it, let’s get to the punching part of it.

Come Saturday night (Sunday morning in India), two of the best fighters the world has ever seen are going to step into the ring and will try to punch the hell out of each other.

READ | Amir Khan fears for Conor McGregor in Floyd Mayweather bout

A fight is surely on, but the question is, will the fight itself do justice to the mega billing -- just like how the build-up tour and trash talking did.

This writer was present at the arena in Stockholm when McGregor made his UFC debut in 2013, and has closely followed his climb into superstardom. And, over the years, it was a pleasure enjoying Mayweather’s ring craft, even as boxing was increasingly becoming a hide-and-seek game where stars avoid stars.

And going by what one has seen of both the fighters, there is no way McGregor could pose a challenge to a dancing Mayweather. Of course, Mayweather has to dance first, and at 40, his fitness is indeed a bit suspect.

Dancing Mayweather

Calling a bout has its risks as fights can be very unpredictable. However, this super fight seems like an easy bet and could follow the script in which McGregor, known for his aggressive approach inside the UFC Octagon, would go on the offensive, trying to unsettle Mayweather’s defense.

But, there is a catch. Even the best in the boxing business -- the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Oscar de la Hoya and many others -- have had trouble landing a punch on Mayweather. And we are talking about a multiple-division world champion, Pacquiao, and an Olympic and world champ, De La Hoya.

READ | Conor McGregor takes dig at FLoyd Mayweather Jr., calls himself ‘new god of boxing’

So what could McGregor, an amateur boxer who is prone to getting hit himself, do while facing the famed shoulder roll, the counters including the side-stepping leaning right, and the slap hooks that Mayweather employs. The American does that with so much ease that one gets the impression he is dancing around the opponent, fading or ducking away from punches before moving in to sting.

Up close and personal

Then there is the ring dynamics -- the boxing square is a much smaller, and as fighters sometimes say, a suffocating place, compared to the large Octagon in the UFC. MMA fighters are not used to close proximity exchange of blows as they maintain distance to counter kicks and takedowns.

Boxers, on the other hand, thrive at close quarters. Mayweather is a master in fighting on the inside, employing his forearm crunches, wily pushes and grabs, before delivering hooks and upper cuts while almost breathing down the opponent’s face.

McGregor’s boxing skills are the best in the UFC, without a doubt. But it can never match the ring craft developed during a career of over two decades and a 49-0 run. Especially since the Irishman’s stand-up style is littered with holes, including the fighting stance where he moves in with arms extended outwards.

The super fight, in all its glory, looks set to be a lopsided encounter and McGregor could end up getting a lesson in real boxing. He would definitely be richer after that lesson, quite literally as well.

However, will pro boxing survive this circus act? That will be the real worry.

First Published: Aug 26, 2017 15:16 IST

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