Sky Sports have been counting down to the “biggest fight of all time”. Tonight Floyd Mayweather, he of the perfect 49-0 record, comes out of retirement aged 40 to fight 29-year-old Conor McGregor, who has never boxed professionally in his life. It just doesn’t get any bigger than that.
The hype has been off the scale. Even if pundits don’t want to talk about it they have to talk about it because the people who decide what people want to talk about have decreed that the whole world is interested in Mayweather v McGregor.
The fighters have done their bit. Last month the pair of them took part in a four-day international media tour. They called each other “bitch” and “faggot”. McGregor called Mayweather’s African-American sparring partners “monkeys”. The Irishman then defended himself against accusations of racism by insisting that he was “half black from the belly button down”. What’s not to like?
This has been a toxic build-up to an event that should have never been allowed to happen. We should know by now that hybrid sport is bad sport. Commentary on the footage of Jesse Owens competing against a racehorse in Cuba in 1936 ends with the words “So what”. Muhammad Ali’s least memorable fight was in 1976, when he took on Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. Ali boxed, Inoki wrestled, the bout didn’t work and was declared a draw, as well as being a massive waste of time.
There is a freak show element to Mayweather-McGregor but this is on another level. Once they climb into the ring Mayweather shouldn’t have too much trouble with McGregor the cagefighter, the trouble comes from how the event has been sold. Hatred, bigotry and racism have been openly used to sell a fight for nothing other than curiosity and money-making. Should Mayweather, an undefeated boxer, win a boxing match against a rookie pro, it will advance his career not one bit. It shouldn’t even count on his record. If, by some miracle, McGregor comes out on top, what does it prove? Will he abandon the UFC and mixed martial arts for the money-spinning, but rapidly declining, world of boxing because he beat a 40-year-old who was on the way down?
There is little point to professional sport if the result doesn’t matter and this one doesn’t. What does matter is that it has been allowed to happen because this is what we now call entertainment. We are constantly spoon-fed hyperbole to sell events and when that isn’t enough the marketing men and promoters shove hatred down our throats so we can decide who we want to win based on who we hate more.
So the biggest fight of all time is little more than a curiosity when it comes to the bit that matters, the moment when two men fight each other. They have both said a lot, most of it vile, and the trash talk says plenty about them. The fight says nothing.