Floyd Mayweather helped put boxing in the international spotlight Saturday night. He also might be responsible for its pending demise.
The 40-year-old capped a perfect career by defeating Conor McGregor via 10th-round technical knockout in the UFC star’s professional boxing debut at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The fight resulted in huge paydays for both Mayweather and McGregor and is expected to smash records as the most-watched pay-per-view event of all time. For Mayweather and the sport of boxing, Saturday night was the pinnacle.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that, barring a miracle, it might be all downhill from here.
Consider first the absurdity of Saturday’s outcome: A man who had exactly zero experience as a professional boxer entered the ring with arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the history of the sport and more than held his own. In fact, McGregor appeared to be winning the fight in the early rounds before Mayweather wore him down and roared back to score a TKO in the 10th round. Even if that was Mayweather’s plan all along, McGregor at least put up as good of a fight — if not better — than many of Money’s other victims. That’s not the best look for boxing.
Then again, one could argue McGregor was a worthy opponent. Boxing is a major component of mixed martial arts, and The Notorious arguably is the best in the UFC business. He’s certainly no stranger to boxing techniques. He also had a weight and reach advantage on Mayweather, who out-dueled his larger opponent with a more efficient fighting style.
But that argument doesn’t address a much more important question: Who is boxing’s next star? Mayweather’s career is over (barring unfathomable amounts of money thrown his way for another fight), and boxing’s other big name, Manny Pacquiao, has faded away from the sport. Boxing does have talent, which fans will witness firsthand when Gennady Golovkin takes on Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 16 in a highly-anticipated middleweight title bout. Neither Alvarez nor Golovkin are Mayweather, though, and the fact remains that there’s now a significant star power void in a sport dependent on it.
That’s why this fight was so important for UFC — it solidified McGregor’s status as a major draw, no matter what arena he’s in. The brash Irishman only is 29 years old, and his next UFC fight should draw even more eyeballs to a sport that’s rapidly taken over the fighting landscape in recent years.
Mayweather vs. McGregor undoubtedly was a boon for boxing, as the sport has dominated the national conversation over the last 24 hours. Fans might want to enjoy the moment while it lasts, though, because an event like this might not be duplicated.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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