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The ‘Money Fight’ broke the bank — but at what cost?

 

If you’re reading this — it’s too late. The Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor circus has come and gone. And like a ferocious storm leaving devastation in its wake, we’re left to sift through the detritus.

Whether you found Mayweather’s predictable battering of the game McGregor, en route to a 10th-round TKO, a satisfying spectacle or not is besides the point.

It’s you who plunked down your hard-earned dough for the much ballyhooed pay-per-view. Or, on the off chance you believed this mismatch could deliver, forked over astronomical sums for a ringside seat. Which means it isn’t for us to decide.

What can’t be argued, though, is that this so-called “fight” — pitting Mayweather, the now 50-0 boxing savant, against McGregor, a formidable mixed martial artist who entered the ring with a 0-0 boxing record, in an official boxing match — should have never been signed to begin with, let alone sanctioned.

So why was it?

 
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There’s the obvious: greed.

Nothing generates the big bucks like boxing on its grandest stage. And once the controversial Mayweather — whose pugilistic virtuosity had previously enabled him to punch his way to $700 million in career earnings — and trash-talking McGregor — the UFC’s charismatic, highest-grossing attraction — expressed their intent to stage a cross-sport showdown, those associated saw a license to print money.

According to ESPN, when Mayweather-McGregor got made in June, Nevada betting was projected to total at least $30 million. Ticket sales? $77.1 million. Pay-per-view? $475 million. Sponsorship and merchandise? $22 million and $2 million, respectively.

All told, a $600+ million heist — and keep in mind, this preliminary estimate will surely swell as the revenue continues to funnel in — for what never promised, or turned out, to result in a remotely competitive affair.

Make no mistake, everyone involved in the transaction is laughing their way to the bank. Especially Mayweather and McGregor themselves, who were guaranteed $100 million and $30 million apiece — figures expected to triple in accordance with the event’s gargantuan success.

 
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This is why they dubbed it the ‘Money Fight’. Although, perhaps what the unlikely fruition of Mayweather-McGregor really proved was that you can’t predict, or subsequently halt, public demand.

No, Conor McGregor hadn’t earned the massive payday as a boxer. But he is a star — and stardom has its privileges. So the moment fight fans, and mass audiences at large, began banging the drums for the outspoken Irishman to face Floyd Mayweather, no matter how implausible or irresponsible the idea originally seemed, there was no turning back — for better or worse.

Despite its foregone conclusion, some likened Mayweather-McGregor to an Evel Knievel jump — more overhyped stunt than ‘fight of the century’, as advertised — where you couldn’t resist tuning in to witness whether Knievel would make it across the canyon or not.

Others equated the duel to an accomplished marathon runner racing the world’s most elite sprinter in a 100-metre dash, only with fisticuffs at play. Who was going to prevail?

Regardless of the comparison, this was one of those transcendent, once-in-a-lifetime sporting events that didn’t just move the needle, but captured collective consciousness en masse. It was MMA’s biggest taking on boxing’s best. It was Bruce Lee challenging Sugar Ray Robinson. It was King Kong against Godzilla.

Everybody wanted to see it, and nobody dared miss it.

Suffice to say, Mayweather-McGregor delivered. If not exactly inside the squared circle — unless you count McGregor lasting more than a couple rounds as a moral victory — then at the box office where it counted.

Boxing’s all-time PPV record currently stands at a titanic 4.6 million buys for Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015. Well, Mayweather-McGregor is on track to rival or even eclipse that, with early forecasts pegging the buyrate anywhere between 4 and 5 million. 

Not bad for a “fight” where one guy’s chances were perceived as non-existent from the get-go.

What’s that familiar old refrain? Give the people what they want…?

 
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Now that the dust has finally settled, the remaining question is this: at what cost to boxing did the Mayweather-McGregor farce truly come?

The Nevada State Athletic Commission allowed a boxing contest — where participants exchange savage blows — between an undefeated veteran and a guy possessing zero professional experience. Dangerous precedent. The NSAC should thank their lucky stars that the novice McGregor didn’t get seriously hurt.

The Mayweather-McGregor promotion itself placed greater emphasis on vulgar, below-the-belt barbs and vitriol than credible athletic fare. Not a strong look for a sport the majority of spectators already perceive as damaged.

Upcoming matchups that represent all that’s right in boxing — such as the Canelo-Golovkin battle for middleweight supremacy on September 16 — had their mainstream spotlight irrevocably diminished. Don’t kid yourselves, they warrant the attention.

And maybe most damning of all, Mayweather cemented his legacy as a fighter whose sole incentive is the bottom line. Then again, when your nickname is ‘Money’, and you stand to make over $300 million for what turned out to be just 28 minutes and 5 seconds of easy work — can you blame the guy? Hey, it’s called prizefighting for a reason.

 
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Sadly, it’s not the first time boxing’s powerbrokers have shoved the long-term health of the sport aside for shortsighted profit. Nor will it be the last.

The sweet science will live to fight another day, however. It always does.

If boxing can get back on its feet after Muhammad Ali’s ‘phantom punch’ knockout of Sonny Liston, or a trespasser in a powered paraglider descending upon the ring during the middle of a heavyweight title fight, or Mike Tyson taking a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear — and the list goes on — it will surely recover from the sideshow that was Mayweather-McGregor.

Like iconic HBO analyst Larry Merchant once said best: “Nothing will kill boxing, and nothing can save it.”