Today the future of Boxing hangs in the balance.
For decades the sport of Boxing has attracted top actors, singers, and writers at ringside, but in amongst the famous have lurked many well known underworld faces as well.
For well over a century boxing has been a sport where many outside the ring make money at the expense of those in the ring. Only a small percentage who have made money inside the ring have been able to hang onto it as once they hang up their gloves. They soon realise how much their sycophantic entourage has cost them.
If Boxing was not all about making money why would there be five world bodies running the professional side of the sport, and why would AIBA, the body running amateur boxing worldwide be paying its boxers?
There are now five world titles available in 17 weight categories. It is an anomaly that there can be five World Champions in one weight division at any one time.
This is just one of the reasons that Boxing started to lose many of its fans.
What exacerbated the situation was that these World Champions no longer fought the number one contenders, and the governing bodies let them avoid them. No longer was the Champion’s title at risk the very next fight he fought, as in the days of old. Now he would hand pick opponents that meant he would remain World Champion and be able to have enough time to cash in on the kudos. As for unification bouts, even these have become few and far between.
Floyd Mayweather, who is hailed by many as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers – a view questioned by many others – is also guilty of cherrypicking his opponents in order to maintain his unbeaten status. Like many before him he has had some “lucky” decisions. However the fact that he avoided a fight with Manny Pacquiao until he knew the Philippine boxer’s skills were on the wane was shrewd, but at the same time disappointing. The greats of the sport never ducked the best. They faced them and believed that they had the skills and ability to beat them.
For that reason, even though Mayweather equalled Rocky Marciano’s record of 49 World title defences undefeated, to many he will never be held in the same regard.
Mayweather has polarised many remaining Boxing fans, but tonight he will unite them all. If the unthinkable happens and the Mixed Martial Arts Conor Macgregor, a bar room brawler, defeats a man skilled in the sweet science, Boxing will be as good as dead.
Boxing fans want a swift and emphatic victory. One that shows that such a fighter should remain in the cage, and not in the squared ring.
The trouble is Mayweather’s success has been built on his defence. His last win by knockout was six years ago against Victor Ortiz when he won with a controversial round four finish. Ortiz had been deducted a point for head-butting Mayweather, and as he came forward to apologise, with his hands down, Mayweather landed a left hook. Ortiz failed to beat the count. Prior to that it was a TKO in round 10 against Britain’s Rick Hatton. For a win by knockout you have to go all the way back to 1999!
Ironically when Muhammed Ali fought Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki in 1976 under modified rules, this match has been credited as being the light-bulb moment for the creation of what is now known as UFC. To Boxing fans it was no more than a publicity stunt and a money making exercise. However 41 years later UFC is a major Force in the sporting World and Boxing has suffered because of it.
To Boxing fans who have been privy to fights that have been purely money-making ventures in the past, the Mayweather v McGregor match up looks like more of the same. Yet they know a loss will see their sport lose even more credibility.
Behind the scenes there is another war being waged apart from the one in the ring. That is between The Boxing Governing bodies and the UFC. Dana White the President of the UFC comes from a Boxing background, and is determined to prove that UFC has taken over the mantle that Boxing had up until the early 1980’s.
The World Boxing Council has backed their man, and have even given the match-up some semblance of credibility by producing a special Champions Belt, the “Money Belt.” This belt weighs 1.5Kg OF 24 carat gold, is encrusted with 3360 Diamonds, 600 Sapphires, 160 Emeralds all on the WBC’s familiar green leather, but this time it is crocodile leather. Not surprisingly The UFC are backing their man Conor MacGregor.
MacGregor has, whether you like him or not, stirred up interest in the bout. He has set himself up for life whether he wins or loses. One can understand if many of Ireland’s crop of talented boxers who have been dedicated to their craft are not a little miffed by that. They have to toil and build up a record before they get a crack at a World title, and even if they do will never come close to receiving the same purse. So like Mayweather, Macgregor too has polarised many.
This fight though is not about the individuals in the ring. This fight is about the survival of one of the oldest sports in existence. Floyd Mayweather has the chance tonight to elevate his reputation. Sure he will again boast about the money he makes from the encounter, but he can restore the reputation of Boxing and show that it is a science, and that you simply cannot put on a pair of gloves and become a boxer.
A win is essential. An emphatic win early would be ideal. Sadly, if Mayweather carries MacGregor until the later rounds and then dispatches him, the arguments will continue to rage. He will be criticised for not putting him away, Macgregor will be praised, but worst of all the public could end up with a farcical rematch.
Tonight Floyd Mayweather fights for the sport of Boxing, and not for himself, and never has victory been more important.