The big announcement happened, finally, officially, late Wednesday: Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fight Conor McGregor on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. The news was “big” only as it related to the hype sports fans will endure over the next three months. The bout will carry news cycles, print money for participants and take over an already hostile Twitter. What it won’t be is interesting or close.
Let’s be honest. This isn’t about Mayweather improving to 50-0, a mark he has long coveted that would give him one win more than the great undefeated heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano. This isn’t about McGregor becoming a two-combat-sport star, the MMA/boxing version of Deion Sanders. This isn’t even about boxing.
This is about money, the bricks of $100 bills that Mayweather likes to post on Instagram, the nine-figure payday that awaits him. I don’t blame him for taking this fight. That’s his choice. It will require an oversized check to fit that many zeroes and the man who calls himself Money Mayweather will cash that bad boy whether the bout is a joke or not. He’ll make real money for what amounts to a glorified exhibition.
I won’t fault Mayweather for seeking the highest payday. Or for buying his 79th sports car, a second private jet or immortality, whenever one can purchase a life that never ends. That’s America. He’s got bills. He’s allowed to have nice things. No, the fault here lies in the idea of the fight itself, the notion that McGregor has a chance, that the hype will be good for boxing, that this won’t be a real-life version of Rocky Balboa vs. some wrestler known as Thunderlips. None of that is true.
If Mayweather-McGregor has been inevitable since at least February, then the next most-inevitable thing is what will take place on Aug. 26. If you’ve seen Mayweather fight, you already know: defensive brilliance, tactical precision, hype, hype and more hype, followed by a 12-round unanimous decision. Mark it down. I just saved you $70.
At some point, the sport’s caretakers have to care about more than just money. Mayweather banked some $250 million to fight Manny Pacquiao in May of 2015. Sports Illustrated rented a house in Vegas and covered the fight for a month. When it unfolded with a thud and ended in a UD for—you got it!—Mayweather, that hurt boxing. It didn’t help. Here was the only sport where the ideal, transformative event, took place six years later than it should have. Like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning squaring off in the Super Bowl in 2022.
If anything, Mayweather-McGregor is worse for boxing, in every sense except a monetary one. At least Pacquiao was also a transformative talent, an international star. After this announcement, the Las Vegas SuperBook posted odds on its Twitter page, with Mayweather at -1100 and McGregor at +700. Those are at once bad and way better odds for McGregor than most boxing insiders expected.
The shame of it is that boxing is having a great spring/summer. Anthony Joshua’s knockout of Wladimir Klitschko was the best heavyweight clash in years. Welterweight champ Errol Spence Jr. has positioned himself as the heir to Mayweather’s throne. From Vasyl Lomachenko to Keith Thurman to Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, the sport is chock full of young champions who are starting to engage in the most difficult kinds of fights. This weekend, Andre Ward looks to defend his controversial split-decision victory over Sergey Kovalev, a light heavyweight brawl that has been criminally undercovered (by SI, too). And in September, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin will meet Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. That’s a mega-fight. To call Mayweather-McGregor the same is a disservice to the sport, to those kinds of fighters, unless all mega-fight means these days is that everyone involved will buy yachts and vacation homes.
What’s happening in boxing now is what the sport lacked when Mayweather reigned: the best fighters, fighting the best fighters. I always thought Mayweather took too much criticism who he fought and when. He took on more champions than given credit for, was bloodied by Miguel Cotto and staggered by Shane Mosley and had to two close bouts with Marcos Maidana.
His record was a lot easier to defend than his choice to engage McGregor in a something that’s less of a boxing match and more of a spectacle, a farce. Someone needed to stop Mayweather from himself, but if you know Mayweather, you know he alone makes most of his decisions. There’s no one around him to say, this is a bad idea. That’s his choice and he is allowed to make it. But man do I wish this column was about Kovalev-Ward and a fight that’s real. A fight that means something.