As the next great scam begins to gather speed – 40-year-old Floyd Mayweather vs. inked-up MMA creation Conor McGregor – let us take a lesson from history.
Back in 1976, Muhammad Ali, eight months removed from the last great fight he’d wage - the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier - he stooped to the “New Low in Tokyo.”
And stooping was an actual necessity in this one.
When Ali entered a ring against Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki, he offered the first glimpse to the farce that is the intersection of boxing and any other combat-related activity that isn’t boxing.
The amalgam of “rules” in play for that one allowed Inoki to go nearly the entire 15 rounds – they fought longer then – on his back, kicking at Ali. For the length of the fight, Ali was able to throw but five punches. Judged a draw, the encounter ended with angry Japanese fans showering the ring with trash and chanting, “Money back! Money back!” No refunds were offered.
More than 40 years later, the principle at work then is still in force: If a matchup sounds like a silly, contrived money grab, it probably is all of that and less.
They say that if Mayweather and McGregor do meet, it will be as a pure boxing match. So, at least in theory, there would be no kicking or choking or noogies allowed. They would be encased by ropes not a cage. That’s something, I guess.
But considering that McGregor never has purely boxed in his life and he would be facing a boxer of such superb skill that he spent the bulk of his career as untouched as the Mona Lisa, how competitive could this possibly be?
Alas, such is the state of boxing now that the prospect of this farce now dominates the conversation. (There’s actually a real fight coming Saturday at Madison Square Garden – real boxers with fascinating backgrounds – when Gennady Golovkin meets Daniel Jacobs for a variety of middleweight titles).
All the signs point to this happening. Mayweather has emerged from “retirement,” saying he wants McGregor if a nine-figure payday is out there. UFC honcho Dana White said he thinks the two will meet. All the usual insults, designed to gin up interest, have been hurled.
All that’s needed now is a signed contract and an interpreter for McGregor so the American audience can appreciate all that spews from the Irishman’s mouth.
The suckers who made the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao the richest pay-per-view fight in history – and what they got in return was a concentrated dose of pugilistic Ambien – now have a chance to double down on their disappointment.
What a great idea: Let’s match two patently unlikable characters in a fight that would be intriguing only if it took place in a back alley under Marquis of Thunderdome guidelines.
And on that future day while you’re ordering Mayweather-McGregor, you might as well also include your Social Security number, bank-account numbers, all your passwords, and make the con job complete.