Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor had us at hello.
Most people who will watch the ‘superfight’ on August 26 didn’t need a recently completed press tour through Los Angeles, Toronto, Brooklyn and London to convince them that the boxing bout between an undefeated GOAT candidate and a colourful MMA fighter with no pro boxing experience was an unmissable attraction.
Freakshows are compelling like that.
A little noise never hurts when it comes to event promotion, and credit to the soon-to-be-even-richer combatants, they did a wonderful job cranking out the comedy moments.
A brief summary of the London finale courtesy of some re-reporting from that trashiest of organs Sports Illustrated:
McGregor chided Mayweather for his annoying cell phone use: “May, you’re 40, get that f—–g phone out of your hand like a f—–g kid.”
Mayweather called McGregor a “punk faggot”.
McGregor called members of Mayweather’s crew “juice-head monkeys” and compared them to the Power Rangers.
Mayweather tried to get the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to McGregor, but instead McGregor got them to yell “F–k Floyd Mayweather” in unison.
And so on.
All good fun – assuming racial and homophobic slurs are your thing – but likely not strictly necessary. Humankind has a long and undistinguished tradition of getting sucked into misguided mismatches.
In honour of the forthcoming, over-hyped, over-priced contest between a 40-year-old man who has spent 21 years successfully avoiding punches and domestic violence convictions and a 28-year-old who is about to quadruple his net worth without landing a punch, here’s a brief history of similar sporting travesties we failed to ignore.
1. Muhammad Ali v Antonio Inoki, Tokyo 1976
Trying to prove his greatness beyond the realm of the sweet science proved the Greatest’s greatest mistake. Having accepted what was supposed to be a rigged match in their man’s favour against Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki, the Ali camp feared they were being set up and that Inoki would seize the chance to burnish his own reputation by a transforming the contest into a ‘shoot’ match – wrestling terminology for a genuine contest.
Two days before the fight, the Ali camp insisted on new rules, one of which barred Inoki from kicking unless he had one knee on the ground. Inoki proceeded to spend almost the entire fight lying on his back kicking Ali – who landed just 6 punches over 15 rounds – in the legs.
Ali suffered significant injuries to his legs, but the snore-fest was scored a draw.
2. Chuck Wepner v Andre The Giant, New York 1976
Boxing’s most famous bleeder (sorry Shane Cameron), Chuck Wepner was a moderately talented pug hand-picked to fight Muhammed Ali and not do very well. But Wepner surprised boxing pundits, stunning Ali with a flash knockdown and surviving deep into the 15th round of their 1975 title fight before finally being stopped. Wepner’s courageous display was the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky character (Wepner would take legal action to prove that point), and catapulted him to a further five minutes of fame. He used that wisely, taking on wrestling freak Andre The Giant at New York’s Shea Stadium on the same night Ali fought Inoki in Tokyo.
The scripted fight ended in victory for The Giant when Wepner was counted out after being thrown out of the ring.
3. Jack Johnson vs. Fred Marcussen, Berlin 1914
The first filmed MMA fight featured American Jack Johnson – boxing’s first black heavyweight champ – taking on little known German professional wrestler Fred Marcussen in Berlin. It didn’t go well for Johnson, who was thrown to the ground and submitted in a matter of seconds. Presumably the pay per view was less than the $US100 pricetag for Mayweather v McGregor – although that is for high definition.
4. #12 Masakatsu Funaki vs. Roberto Duran, Tokyo 1992
The man known as Hands of Stone was also pretty hard-headed when it came to calling time on his career. Duran is the only boxer to fight professionally across five decades, with his first fight taking place in 1968 and his last in 2001. As well as 119 boxing fights, he managed to chalk up an ill-advised MMA contest against Japanese pro wrestler Masakatsu Funaki in 1992.
The contest is widely considered to be a genuine shoot match, although Funaki took it easy, stringing Duran along for eight rounds before submitting him in a headlock.
5. Butterbean vs. Bart Gunn, Philadelphia 1999
Boxer v wrestler matches have typically been fought under wrestling / MMA rules. However – in a precursor to Mayweather v McGregor – the 1999 clash between mediocre wrestler Bart Gunn and useful fat fairground fighter Buttabean was fought as a boxing bout. Gunn had won the right to take on Butterbean as a side attraction at Wrestlemania XV by winning a shoot tournament called Brawl For All.
As it transpired, wrestling’s best boxer was no match for boxing’s most famous tough man fighter. Gunn was knocked down within seconds and then finished off with a monster K.O. after ill-advisedly beating the first count. Brutal stuff. Mayweather is no knockout artist so the same fate does not likely await McGregor – but he will certainly be humiliated one way or another.