ELVIS PRESLEY’S long and winding residency in Las Vegas concluded with him dying on the toilet floor, his swollen body bathing in his own vomit. By the end of his career he was unrecognisable to the superstar that came before, a parody of himself, almost, regurgitating his old classics in a manner that would likely have repulsed the younger, fitter, King.
But in Sin City, anything goes. A walk down the Strip, through the hotels, casinos and theatres, proves that. Stars of yesterday are repackaged as can’t miss attractions of today, their appeal frozen in a curious, gaudy time warp. Musicians, magicians, comedians – and Floyd Mayweather – are drawn into the mayhem only by the incredible sums of money being thrown at them.
Mayweather’s act is different to anything else on display – he’s a prizefighter after all – yet he too has been given license to do as he pleases for a long time. The last five years of his career were stacked in his favour, and in fairness produced masterclass after masterclass, but like the other stars of Vegas, once you had witnessed one of his performances, you had witnessed them all. While parading as the best fighter in boxing (which he undeniably was), Floyd became ingrained in the showbiz of his town.
And, it seems, the show will go on. Next up to the circus could be UFC megastar Conor McGregor, in what would be a mismatch of epic proportions. The reason it appeals to the fighters requires no explanation, and judging by the sums of money being mentioned (upwards of $100m for Floyd), neither should be criticised too heavily for instigating this event.
In fact, as a Vegas exhibition, I have no problem with Mayweather and McGregor sharing a stage. Let’s face it,
the build-up would entertain the masses, and there would be soundbites and laughter aplenty as the two went head-to-head. But we’re told this is to be a sanctioned boxing match. One that will go down in the record books as Floyd’s 50th professional fight – and McGregor’s first. Even by Vegas standards, it’s grotesque. Anyone who thinks McGregor has even the faintest hope of winning is not only barking up the wrong tree, they’re in the wrong field. While the charismatic Irishman has proven his worth in the Octagon, boxing and mixed martial arts are two different disciplines. Those who say, ‘You wouldn’t pick the best squash player in the world to beat the best tennis player in a game of tennis’, are exactly on point, but we should remember this isn’t just about who wins, this is boxing, and safety must be paramount. It’s a dangerous game. It’s the hardest game.
Sadly, the uneducated will likely lap it up. And as was the case after several Mayweather outings, most memorably vs Manny Pacquiao, fans will scream robbery after paying handsomely to watch a one-sided contest. This will be one-sided to the extreme. It’s true that the exposure will be immnese, but the volume of the disgruntled voices will do the sport no favours.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission should not sanction this fight. McGregor – who last boxed competitively at Novice level as a teenager – might well be fit and able to fight, but a journeyman would have more chance of winning, and can you imagine the uproar if William Warburton was matched with Mayweather? Perhaps it’s a ludicrous comparison, but just because McGregor is more famous doesn’t make it a fairer fight, and just because someone can box at a certain level does not mean they should be unleashed at the absolute highest.
Not only that, there is the small matter of history. Mayweather’s record currently stands at 49-0, a golden and admirable tally that underlines his greatness. It’s a record he famously shares with Rocky Marciano. To beat that record by thrashing a novice like McGregor would be a disgrace. To accept this as a viable fight is an insult to boxing, and to his legacy.
Unless Mayweather is willing to come back and fight the best challengers available, he should be judged as nothing more than a Vegas sideshow, just like Presley