The NBA and NHL just wrapped up their seasons and the focus will be on Major League Baseball until both of those sports open training camp next Thursday.
I’m joking. That was an exaggeration. Professional basketball and hockey won’t open training camp for at least two more weeks.
Professional football is about a month or so away from opening training camp — unless you’re in Canada and that case, the season is getting ready to open. Go Stampeders! High school football will be on us before you know it so while the focus should be on baseball, much of the national spotlight is on the upcoming Floyd Mayweather, Jr.-Connor McGregor fight.
I’ll admit it is an intriguing matchup.
Mayweather, who boasts a record of 49-0-0 (26 by knockout or technical knockout) with world championships in five weight classes (from super featherweight to super welterweight) will face McGregor, the MMA Lightweight Champion who has a professional record of 21-3 with 18 knockouts/TKOs.
To say Mayweather is a veteran is to overstate the obvious. He is 40 years old. In boxing years, he is downright ancient.
McGregor is a southpaw from Ireland and has a well-earned reputation for being tough as nails. At age 28, he’s scaled the heights of success in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He is also a former UFC Feartherweight Champion and the first fighter in UFC history to hold world titles in two weight classes simultaneously.
With an age and reach advantage of 77-inches to 72 inches, one would think McGregor might be a favorite or at least even-money to win. The truth is Mayweather is a heavy favorite and rightfully so.
The bout will not be fought under MMA rules, where chokeholds, kicks, and grappling are allowed. No, this bout will be a sanctioned boxing match.
It’s not a real bout, it’s a money grab.
No matter how much of a striker (upright fighter) the Irishman is, he is out of his league fighting a champion of Mayweather’s caliber. McGregor might knock over a lesser opponent but even an ancient Mayweather is more than he can handle.
It’s because they participate in very different sports.
Mayweather is a boxer and he will be participating in a boxing match.
McGregor is an MMA fighter who will be participating in a boxing match.
He is stepping into another sport.
This is not Bruce Lee facing various disciplines of martial arts. This is the best pound for pound boxer boxing against the best pound for pound MMA fighter.
Think of it this way: Lebron James is arguably the best basketball player on the planet. No one questions his skills on the court.
Put him in a home run contest with Mike Trout, put him in a passing competition with Tom Brady, or put him on a golf course with Rory McElroy — being the best in one sport does not translate to another.
Lebron might hit a few home runs, throw a few complete passes, or play well for a few holes but at the end of the day, he’s overmatched.
Put any of those three guys on a basketball court to face Lebron and see what happens.
They would be equally overmatched.
Mayweather would get crushed in an MMA fight because that isn’t his sport.
It reminds me of a story about Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown in the mid-1960s.
Shortly after Ali was stripped of the world title and banned from boxing for refusing to be drafted into the military, a young former federal attorney (and future boxing promoter) named Bob Arum came upon an idea. He could pit Ali in an boxing match against who was arguably the best athlete on the planet at the time — former Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown. Arum and Brown saw dollar signs and urged Ali to take the fight.
The three men met in a park and Brown, a friend of Ali, saw the fight as not only a way to make money for himself but also to help Ali through a difficult time.
When Brown asked why, Ali responded, “Jim, hit me in the face as hard as you can.”
Brown started a right cross but before he could get the punch close to Ali’s face, Ali hit him in the face three times.
Brown merely dropped his hands and walked away without another word.
He was a great athlete but he was out of his element.
McGregor is a great fighter but this isn’t a fight.
It’s a payday.
He will lose and so will MMA.
On the bright side for those of us who still appreciate boxing, it could be the biggest boost to the sport since the 1976 Olympics coincided with the release of the original “Rocky.”