Saturday 21 April 2018

Comment - It's an insult each time it is claimed Floyd Mayweather has never met a boxer like Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor

Steve Bunce

Las Vegas is now ready. The rematch, the gloves, the ancient referee, the fear in the eyes of the bookies and other frivolous matters have kept the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in the news over here.

The next few days will be about ticket sales, the pay-per-view revenue, the diamonds in the robes, the hate between the camps and other tiny distractions. This is one fight where nobody is keen to talk about the fight, the one fight where everybody will claim they were right at about midnight on Saturday because the excuses are piled like a secret arsenal in a despot's cavern.

Mayweather is too old, too slow, carrying an injury, looking in detail at the small print in the rematch contract and sore from flash knock downs in his closed sparring sessions. McGregor has realised he is in trouble and has increased his arrogance to accompany his growing crisis in the gym; all splendid rumours to fill the gaps before the two men are revealed at Tuesday's grand arrival.

There are purists in both codes running short of theories to wrap their uncertainty in, each adding to a spiralling list of outcomes and the prediction league is certainly not your off-the-peg variety; they are both haute couture, baby. There is some confusion about boxing styles and people with a life - well, a short life - reporting on mixed martial arts have invented punches to confuse the boxing cynics.

Boxing is a brutally simple sport and the intricate construction of a now fabled punch from McGregor will not, trust me, shift the axis of power from the 49 and zero prizefighter in the ring, in the opposite corner on the night. Men have been trying to counter Mayweather for a long, long time and they were often bigger, more awkward and faster than McGregor. It is an insult each time it is claimed Mayweather has never met a boxer like McGregor.

There was once a painful insult going the other way when James Toney, one of his generation's finest boxers, decided that switching codes for a payday made sense. Toney persuaded Dana White, the man who built the UFC business from ruin nearly 20 years ago, to let him fight inside the octagon and under strict UFC rules. Toney claimed he had wrestled in college or High School or with his conscience, or something similarly daft. McGregor, remember, was the scourge of the Dublin schoolboy championship when he was a teenage boxer in that fine city.

Toney met Randy Couture, who was nearly 50 at the time, and was ruined in a few minutes of horrible pummelling. "He's not bad for a fat guy," was White's deathless verdict on Toney's disgrace. Couture is now an action movie star and Toney, who won world titles at five weights, had nine more fights and remains a fringe player in a business that surrenders its troubled, old warriors grudgingly.

It is my hope that by about Thursday McGregor and his devoted cheerleaders come clean and admit the plan is simply to charge out, throw punches, keep charging and throw even more punches. I keep reading the MMA press and they seem to have transformed McGregor from raw novice boxer to some type of creation that is part Stephen Hawking and part Clubber Lang.

When Robert Byrd, the retired cop and referee, is left alone with the men on Saturday night in the ring, he will be able to see what none of us can possibly glimpse and at that precise moment he is the only person I would listen to. However, that is a long way off and until then then every man, woman, child and clairvoyant parrot has an opinion. Did I forget to mention the parrot? Name is Dusty and she fancies McGregor.

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