Pacquiao vs McGregor may result in plenty of dollars for UFC star, but risk far outweighs the reward
The upcoming bout between Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao and Conor McGregor is likely to be different from the MMA star's foray with Floyd Mayweather Jr. It is because while Mayweather did not knock McGregor out senseless, Pacquiao can do precisely that.
Conor McGregor can fight. Make no mistake about it.
A man who can lay waste to a murderers' row Dustin Poirier, Eddie Alvarez, Nate Diaz, Jose Aldo, and Chad Mendez — not to mention take a two-year layoff and dare to challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov, the most feared fighter in his weight division (and perhaps the world) — can fight.
In an MMA cage, that is.
The squared circle is an entirely different animal.
While McGregor's sole foray into boxing in 2017, with Floyd Mayweather as his dance partner, may have proved an in-ring mismatch, it did monster numbers at the box office.
But one fears McGregor, in going toe-to-toe with the self-proclaimed TBE (The Best Ever), seems to have learned the wrong lesson.
Because a proposed bout with Manny Pacquiao in West Asia, while similarly setting the cash registers aflame, could result with the MMA star losing a lot more than just his pride this time.
Mayweather-McGregor deux? Hardly
While some in the boxing business might decry the lack of truth in advertising, 'The Money Fight' more than lived up to its name by putting at least $30 million in McGregor's bank account and netting the man formerly known as Pretty Boy Floyd $100 million.
The rest of us chumps got fireworks before the fight and a farce in the ring with commentator Max Kellerman (formerly of HBO, now with ESPN) lamely attempting to defend the bout by saying: "Suckers also want entertainment."
But while that outcome was far from unpredictable, what made the reward substantially outweigh the risk for the UFC star was the simple knowledge that Mayweather could not hurt McGregor.
While McGregor was fully cognisant, that Mayweather, even with his long history of delicate hands, could do enough damage to put him briefly on the mat or force the referee to step in, the Irish fighter knew that at no time would he be at risk of being separated from his senses during the bout.
So, why is McGregor looking towards boxing and Pacquiao?
One reason could be because while his marketability in UFC is not yet on the wane, his fighting skills already are.
Simply put, McGregor is in search of one final, massive payday before he bids goodbye.
McGregor's skills on downswing
Unlike boxing, which is built on squash matches — young prodigies often amass undefeated records of 30-0 and 40-0 by feasting on tomato cans, has-beens, and never-weres and only take 'calculated risks' as champions — top-flight UFC fighters are offered no such protections.
Indeed, one of the reasons wrestling impresario Vince McMahon spurned purchasing a fledgling and struggling UFC, despite the urging of his son Shane, almost twenty years ago is because he could not control the outcome of the matches and thus build stars. Oh, the irony.
Though McMahon was wrong about the viability of UFC as a concept, he was correct that the enterprise would have a tough time building and sustaining superstars. Indeed, McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and Brock Lesnar, the three biggest draws that the company has ever seen, have sustained multiple losses.
Two of the three have chosen to walk away from the sport that has clearly passed them by, while McGregor hangs on.
But only barely.
While most top UFC athletes step in the ring twice or even thrice a year, McGregor has fought twice since November 2016.
Those matches: a one-sided mauling at the hand of the undefeated Nurmagomedov in 2018, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it victory over a game but overmatched Donald Cerrone.
And what has he been doing since then?
When he isn't punching old men in bars, being repeatedly accused of assault by women (perhaps in advance of a run for President of the United States) or seen dancing in Ibiza wearing a mask of himself, McGregor is busy spouting off on social media (his latest Twitter spat being with UFC head Dana White).
Risk vs reward
Boxing, as it has been observed before, is not a game. You play tennis. You play football. You don't play boxing.
Not for good reason has 'the hurt business' tag coined by Mike Tyson stuck with this cruel and ancient sport. Most promoters to the stars, prior to making match-ups, carefully weigh the risks versus the rewards.
Mayweather built a career and an undefeated record out of it.
The difference here is that Pacquiao can hurt McGregor.
The soft-spoken senator has been more akin to a shark in the ring, leaving a long trail of victims bleeding, battered, and broken. Men bigger than McGregor, men far more skilled at throwing hands and more importantly, far more aware of how to take a punch.
Indeed, it can be argued that the most important discipline a boxer learns when he steps through those ropes is how to take a punch.
And while the Filipino legend seemingly no longer has dynamite in his fists, he still hits harder than the average bear. Ask former welterweight champion Keith Thurman, whose 'O' the fighting senator took in 2019 enroute to a split decision win.
In the lead-up to the fight, Thurman, the young hungry lion talked trash and brashly vowed to send Pacquiao into retirement. Pacquiao nodded and smiled. In the end, it was the young man who bore the 'One Time' moniker and boasted of his knockout power that ended up tasting the canvas and who looked thoroughly outclassed and discouraged by the end of the bout.
Ask Mayweather-wannabe Adrien Broner, who spent much of their 2019 fight shelling up against the then 40-year-old instead of throwing back, after which he, in a fit of pique, claimed victory and challenged a sexagenarian announcer to an encore.
And comparing the skills of an elite-level boxer to an elite level fighter when it comes to throwing hands is like comparing a spaceman to a caveman.
Note boxing savant Teddy Atlas' comments regarding McGregor prior to the Mayweather bout.
“You got a guy, that yeah he’s a good striker,” Atlas told MMA Fighting. “He might be one of the better strikers in the MMA world, I don’t know. I don’t rate him that way. But in the boxing world, he’s a ‘C’ class fighter. And I’m not knocking him. Because if it’s MMA rules he wins. Because he comes in low, he gets under his legs, he gets him on the ground, he ground and pounds, he grapples and Floyd’s got no chance. But strictly standing, you know Marquess of Queensberry Rules? Nuh uh. Not happening.”
And Mayweather took it easy on McGregor, giving away the early rounds in the eyes of many before taking the Irishman into deep waters and drowning him.
Pacquiao, ever watchful for a possible rematch with Mayweather, even with his newfound religious zeal is unlikely to carry McGregor for any length of time.
Indeed, the thought of Pacquaio's straight left fist cocked and primed to connect with McGregor's jaw, perhaps repeatedly, should terrify any observer.
The number of deaths and serious injuries sustained by the game but eclipsed fighters are too many to count here.
One simply hopes that better sense will prevail in the McGregor camp and by those advising the Irishman.
In the end, it comes down to us. The watching, paying public.
And the boxing commissions.
May God help us all.
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