CONOR McGREGOR is in talks to box Filipino Manny Pacquiao in January in the Middle East. The same Conor McGregor who’s not boxed since losing his debut to Floyd Mayweather in August 2017 and the same Manny Pacquiao who’s won world titles from flyweight all the way up to super-welter. That’s right, Pacquiao vs McGregor (Pac-Mac to the cool kids) looks like it’s on its way.
McGregor, 32, has fought twice in MMA – the discipline that made him a superstar – since being stopped in 10 largely one-sided rounds by Mayweather. A 2018 loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov generated worldwide headlines before he knocked out Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds in January this year. He hoped to fight in the UFC again in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic threw his plans, and the whole world, into chaos.
McGregor took to Twitter on Friday night and explained his absence to his 8.2m followers before he dropped the Pacquiao bombshell in true pantomime style.
“I was pushing hard for the [UFC] season,” McGregor explained about his desire to fight again this year. “Multiple opponents, multiple dates offered throughout. All to take place back to back. Then when covid hit and the talk was that I would have to wait for crowds again, I walked away from the situation. I was waiting long enough at that stage.”
McGregor continued: “Anyway all water under the bridge who gives a fook. I’m boxing Manny Pacquiao next in the Middle East.”
It seems this is not just another attention-seeking, name-dropping exercise. Boxing News understands that talks between Team McGregor and Team Pacquiao are at an advanced stage. The pens are not quite crossing t’s and dotting i’s, but they’re at a point where you should brace yourselves for the circus approaching.
CNN Philippines reported Pacquiao’s office have confirmed the negotiations and the 41-year-old intends to donate a ‘huge portion’ of his purse to his country’s pandemic response. “Our lawyers are finalising all the confidential details, but both fighters are getting ready for this one epic last boxing fight,” a statement read.
McGregor’s manager, Audie Attar, told ESPN that the Middle East is one of a few locations under consideration to stage the contest and the UFC will support the Irishman’s latest expedition into boxing. Attar said McGregor would return to UFC in 2021, after taking on Pacquiao.
Should a location be found that can safely home thousands of fans in the current climate then there will be further details to iron out. Like their respective weights. McGregor tipped the scales at 170lbs (a little over the super-middleweight limit) in January which is a hefty 25lbs more than welterweight Pacquiao weighed for his most recent contest, a July 2019 points victory over Keith Thurman. McGregor weighed 153lbs when he lost to Mayweather three years ago.
McGregor surprised some seasoned observers with his showing against Mayweather but from our ringside seat in Las Vegas, Boxing News believed the American toyed with Conor before applying the finishing touches. Talk that Mayweather planned to finish matters in the ninth (one round before McGregor was rescued) was rife in Las Vegas in the days before that particular contest. So too were suggestions that if Mayweather-McGregor was deemed competitive, a money-spinning rematch would follow. Thankfully, not even Floyd Mayweather could cast that spell – even though he was still trying as recently as January to generate interest in a sequel.
No matter, the event drew astonishing interest and cash, and a showdown with Pacquiao – an altogether more aggressive beast than Floyd – would undoubtedly do the same at a time when the sporting world is on its knees craving a mega event.
CAN McGREGOR WIN?
Yes, he can win. In the same way that you and I can win because we have two arms and legs and a head and a torso and are therefore equipped to take on Pacquiao because he too has two arms and legs and a head and a torso. Anything can happen, we’ll be told.
Taking that logic further, McGregor is trained in the art of fighting (albeit in a different sport) at a high level so therefore has an even better chance of beating Pacquiao than you and I. Now to grab that optimism and run with it: Pacquiao is 41 years old, has a long and punishing 25-year career behind him, his reflexes are fading and he’s naturally the smaller man. McGregor is not only bigger, he’s younger and fresher and has nothing to lose.
But let’s not allow ourselves to go utterly mental here. McGregor has completed one training camp as a professional boxer. One. After losing to Mayweather, McGregor – rich beyond his wildest dreams – went off the rails before returning to UFC. For this bout against 62-7-2 (39) Pacquiao, McGregor will have to start all over again when it comes to boxing.
In boxing terms, McGregor is coming back after a three-year layoff and going straight in with Manny Pacquiao. For further context on that, the hugely talented Tyson Fury understandably decided he needed a couple of Sefer Seferi-type outings before challenging the best after his hiatus. Even Muhammad Ali opted against leaping into a super-fight with Joe Frazier in 1970 before he’d had chance to dust off the cobwebs. Yet Conor McGregor – one fight, one loss, out of the ring since 2017 – is apparently ready for Pacquiao. Even if Mayweather returned to take on Pacquiao there would be plenty who would deem it a risky move. But this isn’t 50-0 Mayweather coming back and fighting Pacquiao, it’s 0-1 Conor McGregor.
There’s more bad news for Conor: Pacquiao will not allow McGregor’s one genuine advantage – size – to be a factor. Expect this bout to be made at 150-154lbs, tops. Conor, then, will not only have to teach himself to box again, he’ll have to lose significant weight again. Though that’s achievable, it’s beyond the realms of all logic to suggest this will have a positive effect on the outsider’s already miniscule chances.
BUT PACQUIAO IS WASHED-UP, RIGHT?
Perhaps, but conjecture is the only way to put such a label on the veteran. It’s inarguable that he’s many years, perhaps even a decade, past his peak.
But consider this: Since McGregor lost to Mayweather, Pacquiao has knocked out Lucas Matthysse, dominated Adrien Broner and in impressively decisioning Thurman, he became the first man to beat him. Though Pacquiao is fading, on the latest evidence he remains one of the very best of them all. Throw in his years of experience in a boxing ring, his haul of various claims to world titles in eight divisions and what you have here is yet another grotesque mismatch masquerading as a genuine fight.
SO WHY IS IT BEING SANCTIONED?
In a word, money. Whichever governing body sanctions this bout will make whopping returns for giving the bout the green light. The city in which it takes place will also reap in the big bucks. Everyone involved gets rich – it really is as simple as that.
Conor McGregor is the master of the social media generation. Like him or not, he deserves credit for that. As a fighter, he has zero business taking on Pacquiao. As a commodity, he has every right. Because in boxing, fame sells.
It should be noted that at the time of writing, the governing body set to win the lottery is yet to step forward, but once Manny and Conor are happy with the terms and conditions, it’s a mere formality.
WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING?
That really depends on what you like.
In terms of their respective styles, Pacquiao vs McGregor is more appealing than Mayweather vs McGregor. Even before that one started there were (partly realised) fears that Mayweather would not exert himself any more than he had to. In that regard, it’s difficult to imagine Manny carrying McGregor in the way Floyd did. It’s certainly fair to suggest that if Mayweather came out in round one or two and gone all out to end matters he would have done.
Pacquiao may well have the seek and destroy mindset. Even at 41, the manner in which he puts his punches together could see this one finishing quickly. And for those us who are sick and tired of this kind of nonsense, that really is a huge plus.
Another reason boxing fans can be cheerful is the odds. Plenty of punters who didn’t buy into McGregor’s chances took advantage of the generous odds (made even more generous by the daft amount of cash being laid on the underdog) and pocketed some serious wedge by going big on Mayweather.
The early odds suggest there is some money to be made with this one, too. The early prices, according to Forbes, are as follows: Pacquiao is -450 (approximately 2/9) which means a wager of £450 will see you win £100. For those who didn’t learn their lesson last time, McGregor is priced at +325 (13/4) so a stake of £100 will earn you £325 should Conor raise his professional boxing record to 1-1.
All we need now is McGregor to record a few seconds of him looking decent in sparring against an established boxer (ala Paulie Malignaggi) then launch the footage on social media, the lunatics to emerge and regurgitate stats that prove McGregor landed more punches on Mayweather than Pacquiao managed in 2015, and the odds should get even more inviting.
See, it’s not all bad.