Last year, it was the presidential candidate who spewed the most vulgarities and instigated the most provocations, who owned the thinnest resume, who won it all. So it’s feeling almost like an era of the stuff, when you look at what boxing is giving us this weekend.
Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor, set to air Saturday on Showtime Pay-Per-View, is all spectacle and no substance. Let’s back up: The fight itself isn’t even the main event. It was, instead, the series of press conferences and interviews, where McGregor repeatedly hurled racist invective at fellow provocateur Mayweather, who was somehow the least inflammatory of the two but still managed to throw a “faggot” into the mix.
All of that, somehow, will provide more entertainment — if you can call it that — than we’re likely to get Saturday. And not for lack of effort to convince us that somehow this won’t be a one-sided blowout. Mayweather usually throws money around and boasts about how much better he is than his opponent on the principle that “making a bunch of people hate me and pay to see me lose and/or being flashy for the audience that cares about such things” will move more units than “selling the public that my opponent has a chance.” This time, he’s talking up the reasons he might lose: he’s 40, he’ll tell you; he hasn’t fought in two years; he has lost his competitive zeal; McGregor is naturally bigger; McGregor is undefeated “standing up” trading punches as a mixed martial artist.
McGregor has seized upon the same arguments, but while he’s carried his end of the press tour, he has done a lot less to actually make anyone believe he has a chance. His sparring footage is pathetic. His shadow boxing and heavy bag work evokes chuckles; he looks like the amateur he is, what with this being his pro boxing debut, and probably not the kind of amateur who would do very well in an amateur tournament, either. His best advertisement? A few seconds of video of him punching Paulie Malignaggi, a retired boxer turned commentator who hadn’t been training and came in for a sparring session.
It’s such a mismatch ringside physicians don’t think it even should have been allowed. With events like this, people try to convince themselves — lubricated by the promotion — that it might be competitive. But it’s the best boxer of his generation against a guy from another sport making his debut in the boxing ring. Even at 40, even out of the ring for a while, Mayweather has always stayed in superb condition and there just aren’t enough miles on the odometer to make it so this defensive master will struggle with a big, slow, awkward-punching boxer.
If you’re a boxing fan, this is the kind of fight you buy when you’re a Floyd Mayweather fan or the kind of viewer who tunes in for pretty much everything. If you’re an MMA fan, who knows, maybe you’re a McGregor fan or maybe you’re hoping he can pull off the miraculous upset and have bragging rights about which sport has the truest fighters. Those two audiences would be enough to make this a money-printing factory.
But it’s the casual or non-fans who are going to push it over the top. They’re the car crash neck-craners. They’re the people who watch something because everyone is talking about it, and don’t want to miss the water cooler talk at work on Monday. They’re the sadists who heard all the nasty trashtalking on the media tour and want to see one guy or the other get bashed. They’re the rubes who somehow have been made to believe this fight will be competitive or entertaining.
All of them — all of us — are going to get what we deserve: A bad, meaningless freak show. We’re the ones who are going to throw our money at this grotesquerie. The difference between Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor and the 2016 election is that it won’t be close or dramatic, and the guy with the thinner resume in his newly-adopted field won’t defy all the pundits and win.
(LONDON: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor during the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Conor McGregor World Press Tour at SSE Arena on July 14; Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)