LATER this year, in the space of three weeks, we will bear witness to everything that is right and wrong with boxing. In the blue corner we’ll have Canelo-Golovkin. Opposite, in the red corner, will be Mayweather-McGregor. The victor in this clash for our attention will vary depending on what you put value in.
In terms of sheer numbers and money generated, Mayweather-McGregor wins with ease. For all its flaws – and there are many, many flaws – it is disgustingly good business. Despite having been retired for the best part of two years, Mayweather is still the biggest name in boxing and he knows it. Over the past four years, McGregor invaded the UFC and captivated audiences with his inimitable character and undeniable talent. He is now, by a country mile, the company’s biggest asset.
The fight – or sideshow, your call – will break pay-per-view records and generate more money than Mayweather’s one-sided win over Manny Pacquiao in 2015. Everyone involved will make lots of money. Like Donald Trump’s ascent to power, there were rumblings it could happen but it just seemed too bat-s*** crazy to ever occur. Then it did, and here we are, scrambling to make sense of it all.
On the other hand, in terms of significance and legacy-building, Canelo-Golovkin is a behemoth. This is a fight we have yearned for over the past couple of years, and both men’s profiles have only expanded since this was first floated. They may not be as big as Mayweather and Pacquiao were when they finally decided to meet, but they are undoubtedly closer to their respective primes and it is a deliciously difficult fight to predict. They are two of the finest fighters on the planet and some of the most brutal knockouts in recent years have come from one of their four fists.
As Golovkin himself recently put it: “I think people understand. True fight? Boxing fight? It’s mine with Canelo. Or big show? Funny show? Everybody knows Conor is not a boxer, just a showman, if you want to watch a true fight, watch my fight.
“This is business, I think Conor with Floyd is not a boxing fight. Money fight? Ok. Show fight? Ok.”
To see Canelo and Golovkin in the same room, head to head, makes you want to kneel in awe of just how captivating boxing can be when it gets things right. Mayweather-McGregor – interestingly, like Golovkin against Kell Brook or Canelo against Amir Khan last year – incites the same grotesque curiosity that has you looking at a car crash for longer than you should.
As the two middleweights have flown to London, New York and Los Angeles to promote their clash, McGregor made more headlines by standing in front of a mural on his gym wall depicting him punching Mayweather. That probably sums this whole scenario up: instead of looking at the real thing, we’ll focus on what could be (and for the record, there is scant chance of Conor landing a meaningful shot on Floyd).
We’ve already seen that the promotion for Canelo-Golovkin will be simple and muted: it is a stunning match-up that sells itself.
Admittedly, despite all the false promises and empty threats that will be thrown around, the Mayweather-McGregor build-up will be unmissable. McGregor, an astonishingly good self-promoter, wraps his mouth around words as if he owns them and he will steal the show at every turn. We will hear that Mayweather is old, inactive and struggles with southpaws (which he doesn’t).
When it comes to it, on August 26, Mayweather-McGregor will disappoint. As a spectacle, it will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen but the fight will be one-sided and it could be dangerous. It will leave a bad taste in the mouth, like Mayweather-Pacquiao did, but then just three weeks later Canelo and Golovkin will take their positions at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and provide us with a sweet nectar that should wash away the remnants of Mayweather-McGregor.
There is every chance Canelo-Golovkin will be a great fight. Mayweather-McGregor will hog the headlines and draw in the crowds – it will win this round, but it won’t win the fight. Eventually, it will be condemned as a footnote, a strange anecdote to tack on to Mayweather’s Hall of Fame career and McGregor’s unprecedented UFC exploits. Canelo-Golovkin, however, will have its place in the history books. It will be remembered.