Saturday 18 November 2017

Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor is well worth watching even if you have no interest in the main event

Conor McGregor, right, is in confident mood
Conor McGregor, right, is in confident mood

Luke Brown

Floyd Mayweather’s upcoming Las Vegas super-fight with Conor McGregor may well be poised to become one of the most lucrative fights in the history of boxing, but a large number of hardcore fans have so far refused to take the bait.

They fear the contest will be uncompetitive – referring to it either as a ‘freak-show’ or ‘celebrity fight’ – and are more interested in Gennady Golovkin’s lineal middleweight championship showdown with Canelo Alvarez in September, instead.

Understanding that the main event has been met with a mixed reception, Mayweather Promotions deserve credit for delivering an undercard which includes two title fights among the four televised contests that will precede the main event.

“What a night this will be for fight fans,” said Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe in the press release that accompanied the reveal of the undercard. “Not only will they witness a first of its kind main event, but they will also see two incredible world title fights, as Mayweather Promotions' very own current and former world champions go head-to-head in separate bouts.”

The highlight of the undercard – especially from a British perspective – is undoubtedly Nathan Cleverly’s light-heavyweight showdown with Badou Jack. Cleverly will be making the first defence of WBA title but is the underdog heading into the fight, as Jack moves up a weight class following his majority draw with WBC super-middleweight champion James DeGale.

Jack may well be the favourite but, at 33, will need to get to grips with his new weight class quickly. And then there is the fact Jack has never been a hugely powerful puncher, not even at super-middleweight. He last stopped an opponent in 2014, while Cleverly – the bigger man – has only been knocked out once in his career, by Sergey Kovalev a year previous. It promises to be a true war.

Boxing fans will also be pleased to see Shawn Porter’s name cropping up on the bill, with his fight scheduled as one of the two preliminary fights that will air on FOX in the US. The former welterweight world champion knocked out Andre Berto – Mayweather’s most recent opponent – in a world-title eliminator last time out, and has been waiting for his title shot ever since.

With that tilt at the title unlikely to happen until 2018, Porter will fight the dangerous Thomas Dulorme as he attempts to keep busy. “I think fighting on network television again will be awesome and a huge opportunity for me,” Porter said upon the fight’s announcement. “I feel like I've earned this spot and I'm ready to give the people the appetiser they deserve.”

The popular Porter should win – his opponent has been fairly inactive since losing to Terence Crawford in 2015 while there are questions over his chin and defence – but Dulorme, who is signed with Mayweather Promotions, would not have been handed the fight unless the promotion company sincerely believed he had something of a chance. Again: expect fireworks.

Meanwhile, Steve Cunningham’s fight against Andrew Tabiti for the vacant USBA Cruiserweight title is another contest that will please hardened fans of the sport. Cunningham may be 41, with only one victory in his last four fights, but he’s a legend of the sport and famously dispatched Tyson Fury to the canvas in the second round of their 2013 clash.

The popular American is by far the hardest opponent rising star Tabiti has ever fought. The unbeaten cruiserweight, who has a professional record of 14-0 2KO, should win, but it will be fascinating to see how the 27-year-old performs against a true great.

Perhaps the only real misstep is Gervonta Davis’ clash with Francisco Fonseca, which headlines the undercard. Davis is a talent, no doubt, and the 22-year-old should be well known to British fight fans after knocking out Liam Walsh in the third round of their fight at the Copper Box Arena earlier this year.

But Fonseca should pose Davis no problems, and has only had one fight scheduled beyond eight rounds in his professional career. Davis will not only win, but win easily.

As a whole, however, the undercard crucially caters to long-term boxing fans, before the carnivalesque main attraction of Mayweather vs McGregor. And with the entire evening priced at an eminently affordable £20 in the UK, August 26 represents serious value for money.

Online Editors

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