I’ve come to the conclusion over the last few days that Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor is our version of Brexit.
In the world of combat sports, in the same way that you were either Remain or Leave, you are either Mayweather or McGregor: There is no sitting on the fence and no room for complacency.
Almost exactly a year ago I voted to remain in the European Union. I was totally convinced, and still am, that I was right to do so and I was equally convinced that the vast majority of people in the country would do the same. The former conviction is a matter of opinion (the point of this comparison is not to incite political debate, I think we’ve had enough of that recently) but with regard to the latter I was proven beyond all doubt to be wrong.
I was shocked.
How can this have happened, I wondered, when everything I’ve read, heard or seen has told me that it wouldn’t? When nobody I’ve spoken to has disagreed with me?
But in the days following the referendum I realised that I’d answered my own question. I’d been existing, willingly, in a pro-Remain state, in a place where all my news sources were telling me what I wanted to hear and where everyone I spoke to thought the same as me. And that’s dangerous because it breeds complacency.
Mayweather vs McGregor is a similar scenario.
I am a boxing man and I believe 100% that Floyd Mayweather will beat Conor McGregor. For me, the idea that McGregor, exceptional martial artist though he is, could best Mayweather in a boxing ring is utterly laughable. Nobody can convince me otherwise. But then that’s hardly surprising because I’m not allowing anyone to try; all my media on the subject is pro boxing and everyone I talk to about it is, like me, a boxing fan, and thinks the same as I do. I’ve never even watched a McGregor fight in full, apart from the one that lasted 13 seconds.
Once again, I’m living on an island but this week for the first time, and really by accident, I stepped off the island.
I was on twitter, where almost my entire feed is boxing, when I came across a friend, and old colleague of mine from my Talksport days, boldly and confidently predicting that McGregor would win. No question about it, he said. In his opinion there was no possible way Mayweather could stop McGregor because he hasn’t stopped anyone since forever and that as a result the Irishman would have 36 minutes to land a big left hand, which he inevitably would at some point, knocking the American cold.
I could hardly believe my eyes because this is someone whose opinion I respect; who, whilst more of a UFC fan, knows his boxing and who really knows his sport having spent years following his football club all over Europe and considerable amounts of money attending all sorts of sporting events all over the world. What on earth has happened to him since I last saw him, I wondered. He’s clearly gone completely mad but, not to worry, I can talk him down from his precipice and make him see reason before he gets carted off to the asylum. And so I replied, stating quite simply that Mayweather would be able to hit McGregor basically whenever he felt like it due to the fact that he was a boxing novice and that if the finest pugilists of the last two decades hadn’t been able to lay a glove on Floyd then an MMA fighter certainly wouldn’t be able to. As arguments go it was flawless and foolproof I thought, and nobody in their right mind could possibly disagree. I was basically doing my mate a favour here. I was saving him from himself, educating him if you will. My altruism truly knew no bounds, and I should really get some kind of award, a medal maybe, for services rendered to the dangerously deluded.
He wasn’t having any of it. Not a word. But I couldn’t leave it so in the end we settled on a friendly wager; £100 to be paid by the loser to a charity of the winner’s choice, all methods of victory counting but in the event of it going to points we’d both pay up.
It was an enlightening exchange because it had the effect of ridding me entirely of my previous disinterest towards the fight, a disinterest that I realised afterwards was fuelled almost entirely by my own complacency regarding the outcome (the prospect of having to part with £100 honestly has no bearing here).
If you’d asked me before I saw my friend’s tweets how I felt about Mayweather vs McGregor I’d have told you that I didn’t really care, that it was a mismatch and that I probably wouldn’t even watch it; and I’d have meant it.
But not any longer. The realisation that there are people out there equally sure that their man, who is not my man, will win cannot help but make me wonder. Just because you yourself don’t think something will happen, that doesn’t mean it can’t, the referendum taught 48% of us in Britain that very lesson. The unthinkable and the impossible are not the same thing, and that knowledge makes me slightly nervous.
I have no personal allegiance towards the self-proclaimed TBE precisely because he does things like bestowing meaningless titles upon himself in the most self-regarding way imaginable, but in this instance he is representing the sport that I love, the sport that provides me with a living and it is critical that he wins because if he doesn’t what will that say about boxing? If McGregor can just pull on a pair of gloves, step into an arena that is not his own and beat its leading inhabitant of the last twenty years it will be a huge blow for the sport.
Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not wavering in my conviction that Mayweather will win, not at all, but my advice to any boxing fan out there who thinks that this fight doesn’t matter because the result’s a foregone conclusion, is to take a walk over to the other side of town, to a McGregor neighbourhood, and see what they’re saying over there because it’s the opposite to, yet exactly the same as, what we’re saying over here.
They’re backing McGregor, we’re backing Mayweather, each with equal vigour.
Two fighters representing two tribes and there can only be one winner.
It matters, whether you like it or not.