Although the popularity of sports is cyclical, we are unlikely to again become a country of boxing fans. We once were; in the 1950s the most popular sports in the U.S. were baseball, horse racing and boxing. American Gladiators didn’t make the top 10.
But on Saturday night we became fans of boxing, mixed martial arts and spectacle. I went to Harris-Teeter for fight supplies and it was jammed. “Do you think this is all because of the fight?” asked the woman in the self-service checkout line.
Some of it was. Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor generated more money than any fight in combat sports history. Mayweather the boxer is expected to make $100 million for his work, McGregor the martial artist $30 million. And that’s before their share of the pay-per-view money is included.
I was prepared to be disappointed. But I was willing to spend $99.95 to watch it on TV. I wanted see the fighters walk to the ring. I wanted to hear the reaction of the Las Vegas crowd as they did. And I wanted to see how the right would begin. How often is a sporting event unique? This was unique.
McGregor won, I think, the first four rounds, and in doing so he landed some solid shots. He was the aggressor.
The theory that Mayweather simply gave away those rounds doesn’t work. Mayweather is a brilliant defensive fighter. But he gives nothing away. McGregor’s long arms and tricky footwork were unconventional but effective.
This was the first time I’ve pulled for Mayweather in my life, and he was losing.
Mayweather’s offense the first four rounds was respectful. May I hit you? No? OK.
Although Mayweather did little offensively, he made McGregor miss. And miss. And miss. In Ultimate Fighting, the mixed martial competition in which McGregor thrives, championship fights are five rounds, and each round is five minutes.
Boxing rounds are three minutes, and 12 were scheduled. In round five, Mayweather remembered who he was, and began to make the fight his. The older he gets (Mayweather is 40), the more he relies on his sneak right hand. He eventually stopped sneaking it. McGregor couldn’t stop the punch.
As the fight wore on, McGregor wore out. Mayweather is far from a knockout artist, but in round 10 he was close to finishing McGregor. (I had predicted Mayweather would win in nine, not that I want to make a big deal of it.) Mayweather drove McGregor to the ropes with two left hooks.
McGregor could no longer defend himself, and the referee appropriately stepped in to stop it.
A rematch would be foolish. Let McGregor return to his world, and let Mayweather, who retired two years ago, return to his. McGregor had the guts to do this, and the guts to fight aggressively. Meanwhile, the skills that enabled Mayweather to win have faded. He’s won 50 fights. He’s had a great career. Time to go home.