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Boxing braces for the return of McGregor

Conor McGregor
Action Images/REUTERS/Mike Blake
Matt Christie contemplates the prospect of Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor II

IN the two-and-a-half years since Conor McGregor lost his professional boxing debut to Floyd Mayweather in 10 rounds, the charismatic yet potty-mouthed Irishman, 0-1, has fought twice in MMA (losing convincingly last year and winning convincingly last weekend), packed on some muscle, gone viral for separate misdemeanours involving punching a bloke in a bar and attacking a bus, grown his hair, greased it back, and declared that he will not only return to boxing this year but conquer it.

What he hasn’t done is give any indication that he has furthered his boxing education since he was pummelled by Floyd in 2017. Because if he was to have had any chance whatsoever of succeeding in the sport he would, at that point, have knuckled down and dedicated himself to it. With a knowledgeable and experienced team alongside him, some clever matchmaking and a willingness to compete at his own level, McGregor could be – considering the favours he’d likely be granted and the financial clout behind him – targeting domestic titles by now. But, of course, he didn’t and he’s not. 

If and when he returns to the vast talent pool of boxing, expect him to shout and scream and pick up speed and attention before bouncing into the air, curling himself into a ball mid-flight, and bomb straight back into the deep end. Waiting for him, we’re told, will be his old pal Mayweather, who will then playfully dunk his rival’s head underwater for a while before choosing the opportune moment to drown him again. 

Mayweather – rich, carefree and utterly shameless (lucky him) – will oblige 31-year-old McGregor with another chance because, bottom line, he’s not stupid enough to turn down the kind of payday that the wider public are stupid enough to pay for. 

The majority of eyes that witnessed the first ‘fight’ were woefully untrained. Within hours of Mayweather effortlessly moving up from neutral to first gear and running over his mismatched foe, there were punch stat comparisons being published and shared which suggested McGregor had given Mayweather a tougher fight than the likes of Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao. Yeah, OK.

Conor McGregor
Action Images

The narrative for the return has long been in place because of the cash to be made from it. If someone paid me enough, and I was that way inclined, I wouldn’t find it difficult to champion this rematch: I’d focus on Mayweather’s long layoff and advancing years, bang on about that uppercut McGregor landed in the opening round, say how wonderful it is that so many fans will be watching boxing and make a case for the legitimacy of it all. I won’t be doing that, obviously, but plenty will, plenty far more influential than I, and many more will believe them. 

We probably shouldn’t blame Mayweather for making the absolute most of the pantomime era we’re in the thick of. We can, however, lay the blame at his feet for the creation of it. A master of self-promotion, Mayweather showed a sport that was going brown at the edges how to thrive. More than anything he showed the boxers how to take some control and promote themselves. Difference between Mayweather and the vast majority was that he could always walk the walk, too. The Floyd Mayweather brand sold so well (and will continue to do so for as long as he busies himself with novices) because he was not only a manipulator of the microphone outside the ring, but bewilderingly good at boxing within it. And in Conor McGregor he spotted the greatest and easiest money-making opportunity of his entire career; like a filmmaker with one eye on a lucrative franchise, Mayweather ensured the first installment had just enough cinematic twists to make a sequel sellable.

What nobody should do is get this confused with reality. Mayweather – soon to be 43 and without a legitimate rival since Pacquiao five years ago – is not a leading boxer anymore. He has just as much business as McGregor telling the world otherwise. Let them get on with it and do your best to ignore them. Don’t waste your time getting irate. Just let it pass, like the bad smell that it is.

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