If we’re to believe the hype, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is planning to come out of retirement less than a year after his last bout, expecting to make over $100 million, fighting against a UFC fighter in a boxing match. To be specific, Mayweather feels the interest is there for a fight with Conor McGregor.
Fans have long speculated that Mayweather would eventually return to secure his legacy at a full 50 fights without a loss. While that would be an accomplishment for any professional boxer, Mayweather’s last choice of opponent, Andre Berto, was less than ambitious. A fight with McGregor would be even less so, for so many reasons. For one thing, McGregor is lighter than Mayweather, fighting at around 145 pounds, as opposed to the 154 pound weight class Mayweather previously dominated. For another, he’s not a boxer, he’s a mixed martial arts fighter with a background in boxing.
Ronda Rousey recently made headlines claiming she could beat Floyd Mayweather in a fight, and saying she was the best fighter in the world. She had become so popular, she co-wrote an autobiography which claims on the inside cover that she was “arguably the most dominant fighter in the history of the UFC.” At the time that statement was made, she had fought and won 11 bouts. Eleven. What does that say about the UFC? I’ll let you draw your own conclusion. Not long after her public feud with Mayweather, she was knocked unconscious in the second round by Holly Holm, a former boxer whose record at the time was 8-1. That gives you an idea of the kind of competition the self-proclaimed world’s best fighter was willing to accept.
McGregor has a slightly better record (depending on how you rate his opposition), with 19 wins and three losses. I suppose if you’re a die hard UFC fan, you may have heard of and even esteem some of the fighters on McGregor’s record. But then, he did lose to three of them. Regardless of the accuracy of Rousey’s autobiography and its claims about her dominance, neither fighter compares to Mayweather in terms of athletic or professional accomplishments.
I’m not in denial about the slow atrophy of the boxing fan base, and I’m glad a new sport is getting people interested in martial arts of any kind, but can we stop comparing the legitimacy of an upstart professional hobby to a sport with an almost ageless legacy? One of the oldest spectator sports, boxing has established a long lineage of great athletes and significant history around the world. To compare UFC to boxing, even mixed martial arts to boxing, is an insult to both disciplines. There’s no translation, and no reason to speculate about these potential fights. Sure, James Toney didn’t fair so well in the UFC, but at the time he took that fight he hadn’t been a champion of anything in decades. He also wasn’t in a boxing match.
If Mayweather returns to fight Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor or Hulk Hogan, it will mean the same for his legacy and the same to his fans. I know whenever there’s money to made in boxing the promoters are unlikely to pass, but Mayweather shouldn’t be able to increase his record in boxing by fighting a person who isn’t a boxer, nor should his record decrease. I think we all know he’d agree with that if somehow he lost a decision or was knocked out by any UFC fighter. Even if the UFC had the kind of legitimacy that boxing has established over a century of history, fighters with fewer than half as many fights are not legitimate challengers for someone considered the best, “pound for pound.”
If this fight is made, I just hope the numbers Mayweather is talking about are never realized. For that to happen, you would have to assume a similar number of pay per view buyers to the number that purchased the fight against Pacquiao, which would never happen, and you would have to assume a similar price. If you’re a fan of boxing, I beg you not to consider paying that. I know I won’t. This bad joke will stain boxing in a way that will certainly hasten its decline, and I, for one, have better fights to watch.