Mayweather v McGregor – as case of two worlds colliding in the name of sport
- Credit: AP
I am in grave danger of being drawn in, hook, line and sinker; falling for the oldest trick in the sporting book; believing the hype, not the reality.
Conor McGregor versus Floyd Mayweather: the Sales Pitch, has started, and I am being drawn to it like an inebriated moth to a discarded cigarette butt on a Saturday night, destined to be burned.
And the biggest danger isn't even upon us: the forking out of far too much money to actually trigger my pay per view key and watch these two men stand toe to toe in a boxing ring and do battle with each other.
Mayweather, the consummate boxer, the master of the defensive art. McGregor, the big talking Irishman who four years ago was on the dole and is now an MMA superstar.
They will fight each other on August 26 in Las Vegas. The prize money is enormous: reportedly each man will take away north of $100m. That sort of money has to come from somewhere and it's us who will sort it. It's $89.95 for the standard-definition telecast and $99.95 for HD.
I hope McGregor wins, but he won't. And it won't really bother me either way. While I won't be paying that out – even the combined forces of Mayweather and McGregor couldn't extract that from me – I am in danger of being succoured into the sales pitch, under threat of being interested.
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Well, my stance on this fight has altered. While I am no fan of sporting freak shows – Ben Johnson running against a horse, Muhammad Ali fighting wrestler Antonio Inoki in Japan – the sporting landscape has changed.
No longer does the great sporting public want to watch an honest contest between two opponents up against each other, playing the same game. Think United v City; Sarries v Tigers; Hagler v Hearns.
Today's audience wants a spin on the tale: they want entertainment guaranteed, not a boring 0-0 draw. So, change the rules. Add some spice. make it sell. Then market the bejabers out of it.
Put in one of the world's greatest boxers (albeit two years retired) and the dangeorusly ferocious MMA star and you immediately have something to take to the market. It's new.
It's not sport as we know it. It is sports entertainment. The two are most definitely different entuities. Think wrestling. Think Greco-Roman wrestling, then think Big Daddy.
One is pure sport, one is pure theatre.
But which is best known? Which sells? Which commands worldwide audiences of millions?
You know it.
Is that proof of anything other than the gullibility of sports fans, or have we all got to drag ourselves into the land of reality?
I can't stand the glitzy wrestling, but I suspect there is a bit of sporting snobbery about that, of which I am a little embarrassed but protective at the same time.
MMA - mixed martial arts - is something of a bastardisation of different disciplines from various martial arts and Olympic sports, such as boxing, kick-boxing, karate, jiu-jitsu, muay thai, tae kwon do, wrestling and judo.
It is growing at a rapid pace, a 'new' sport that has elbowed and knee-kicked its way into our consciousness. It is part of the scenery. Maybe footgolf, or shootout snooker will be next.
I watched Mayweather close up during the build-up to his protege, Gervonta Davis' fight against Liam Walsh in May. As a boxer he has my respect; but that's all. His demeanour, his words, everything about him left a sour taste in the mouth.
He is terrific at his job, but it isn't the way I like to see my sportsmen. Perhaps he is more suited to the circus than I first thought. Perhaps the whole showbiz sport thing is for him.
What he did do was pack the room. When Mayweather appeared, all heads turned. It was a bit unsightly, given he wasn't even fighting. But he able to muscle himself into the forefront of the whole fight conversation.
This week him and McGregor have been appearing at media events to publicise the fight. The media don't really need to be there; it is all manufactured rubbish and can be reported upon by the comfort of an easy chair - more proof, perhaps, that this is a game-changer.
Mayweather v McGregor will continue to intrigue me until fight night when I shall most probably be trying to find a 'friendly' stream, to watch it unfold, free of charge.
A guilty pleasure perhaps?
WORDS FAIL ME
When I first attended a speedway meeting at King's Lynn I stood at the fence for the first race, full of anticipation - seconds later I had a mouthful of shale and a very sore face.
No one told me what would happen, but I soon learned and it became a cracking place for me to watch an exciting sport.
My old pal Gavin Caney knows the sport inside out and, when he was working for this paper, became the best speedway writer in the country. He moved on to pastures new and, along the way, became centre green presenter at Lynn.
Until Thursday night, when he was on the receiving end of one of humankind's more unpleasant traits when it comes to sport: the belief that attending a sporting event entitles a spectator to hurl abuse at anyone without the need for explanation.
Football fans by their thousand insult individuals for the most spurious of reasons. Ryder Cup golf has experienced it. The Tour de France also, all to varying degrees.
So what happened at Lynn? Well, the track during Thursday's meeting at Poole was causing problems so there was a delay while it was resolved. That's the bones of it.
Gav, as the man with the microphone, was assumed to know all the answers to the questions of frustrated fans who wanted answers. He didn't. Just because he has a mic doesn't mean he knows what is going on – he wasn't kept informed so, consequently, couldn't provide answers. Not his fault.
That didn't stop some supporters from giving him dog's abuse, even though he was as frustrated as they were. Don't forget: Gav loves his speedway as much as the next fan. He was, as he described, a sitting duck. He has now had a bucket of shale thrown in his face – I just hope he retains his love for the sport.
Sports fans believe they are entitled to shout down anyone perceived to have authority. Pathetic. Gav has now handed the mic back. As he tweeted, 'some fans need to realise there are ways to act towards humans, and many got that massively wrong'.
Too right they did: they should be utterly ashamed of themselves.