“Of hunger and thirst (so goes the Greek legend)
A king once died amidst fountains and orchards…”
Jorge Luis Borges, “Poem of the Gifts”
On Saturday, August 26th, a fight between MMA champ/boxing debutant Conor McGregor and multiple boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. took place in Las Vegas. On Thursday, August 31st, a similarly significant but largely underreported boxing event took place.
After a few days of some serious heavy-lifting by their respective accounting departments, a joint report has apparently come in to tell us that the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match was, by far, the most profitable non-lethal, non-illegal act of human physical aggression ever, with the Pay-Per-View figures reportedly reaching the 6.5 million mark, improving on the previous record by more than a third, and that’s without counting the “illegal votes” of millions (billions?) of freeloaders who peeped at the event through the grainy window of the world wide web.
Details are sketchy, and the independent confirmation of this report is still under way. But it would appear that on this day, both fighters woke up, had breakfast on their PJs, fed their pets, and logged on to their bank accounts to find them suddenly flooded by amounts of money that mere mortals can only dream of.
Granted, a banking operation is hardly the stuff hard news are made of. But this one bears a very particular significance for everyone involved. And if the numbers are correct, we’ll be untangling, expounding, agonizing, criticizing and marveling at these numbers for a long time. And that’s before we even start to talk about the combined amount of unique circumstances that conspired to make this whole thing happen.
For more details, it is fitting that we start our report with the visiting athlete. We can only imagine that he was the first one to take an anxious peek at his current balance (and not only for being up earlier on Ireland time), where he found himself about $70 million none the poorer. Although he was already a millionaire in his own right as the UFC’s pound-for-pound king, making this lovely chunk of cash in his first foray in boxing (raking in an amount that probably exceeds the combined amount of money made by the entire flyweight division in an entire year for what amounted to a glorified sparring session) is surely a source of pride for the 29-year-old Irishman, who only a few years ago was surviving on unemployment benefits and the occasional gig as a handyman to support his fighting career.
And what can we say about the “Money” man himself, who is set to cash in about $350 million in what will surely become an impossible milestone to overcome for any almost-non-sponsored athlete on any given year, let alone one single event lasting less than an hour.
But we knew those figures were coming, even before the first calculation, thanks to the miracle of the Las Vegas entertainment industry’s financial foresight. There are other numbers, however, that will surely sting our souls for a longer period of time.
As it is already customary in these cases, the amount of money per punch landed will be the figure that will hurt more than any punch ever thrown by either fighter, with Mayweather cashing in about $2 million per punch and his foe doing considerably worse by scoring less than $1 million for each time his glove landed on Floyd’s humanity. King Midas himself couldn’t have done any better if he had punched 170 foes in one sitting to then turn them into gold and sell their suddenly stiff and shiny bodies in the open market.
This, as it turns out, was (and forever shall remain) the only measure of success of this “special 12-round attraction” that took place in Las Vegas this week: its ability to combine the drawing power of two sports for the benefit of only two of its practitioners, and nothing else. No human collective has paid so much money to see something unfold before their eyes even though they were 99.9% certain of its outcome. If someone had told us (ever so repeatedly, and almost to the point of exasperation, just as they did with this fight) that Darth Vader was Luke’s father on the days leading to the first “Star Wars” premiere, the movie would have not sold a single ticket. But the desire to see a real-life Jedi knight of pugilism finally dying before our very eyes was too tempting to pass, light sabers or not.
Now, the dust has settled, and we are left with Mayweather’s contribution to the sport as its pound-for-pound king for the better part of two decades, its best-paid practitioner ever, one of its most reluctantly revered defensive wizards, and as of late, the enabler of a massive transfer of wealth from his fans into the UFC’s coffers, with the only return being McGregor’s doubtful contribution as the creator of the “rabbit slap,” the “peek-a-boo-spooning” and other new clownish boxing moves.
But there is nothing to worry about. Boxing’s biggest draw ever just paid $70 million or so to a guy who lost in his third fight against a guy named Sitenkov, a Lithuanian fighter with a 15-16 record as of last year who is literally a few miles and a few rearranged letters away from being a real-life Russian stinker, just to settle a social media war between some of the most unwitting combat sports fans ever, in the hopes of finally convincing them that boxing is better than MMA. And for that, Mayweather’s shiny 50-0 shall forever remain stained and marked as a fluke, which is the kind of treatment that Nolan Ryan would get if he decides to come back to pitch one more no-hitter, this time against a varsity cricket team from Chile, just because he can use the extra money and it would be great to preach the gospel of baseball to the unruly inhabitants of South America. Picture the moon-sized asterisk that this action would bear in his Wikipedia entry.
The numbers of this whole thing, then, are now the only reason we have to actually know for sure that Floyd Mayweather is done with boxing, as much as boxing is done with him. The kid who became king has ran out of the challenges that he really craves in his life, which are far removed from the boxing ring and much closer to the record-crushing revenue feats that he has become used to.
His performance was not encouraging enough to make us hope for another go in the near future. Mayweather, for once in his life, looked sluggish, out of focus, out of shape and dangerously unmotivated for most of the bout. But he knew what he was doing all along. Criticized for sometimes fighting guys who were either still not there or way past their primes, Mayweather fought the right guy at the right time on this occasion.
Because, you see, the Money Man ain’t one-at-a-time-ing no more. He is in to clear the tables at every sitting, and there is only an ever-shrinking handful of dealers and bookies who would take that kind of action, even from a man who can turn chips into gold at the touch of his fingers.
It is also quite likely that we will never see McGregor in a roped combat stage again either. His performance was not the shameful disaster that everyone predicted, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of outing that could stir the idea of a rematch, and it was barely good enough to become the low-octane fuel for an eternal string of what-ifs, as if training harder or sparring a few more rounds with Paulie Malignaggi could turn him into a boxer in any possible world. He’s done with the Queensberry rules, and if he’s honest he’ll be the first one to feel glad about it.
We hoped for a devastating performance, and no one got it. We hoped for a lesson from boxing to its young feisty cousin, a definitive performance destined to teach every misguided, red-blooded, testosterone-drunk MMA fan that their sport is just like boxing, except that it is made for guys who can’t take a punch. No such thing has happened.
Instead, we witnessed our brightest star cash out on his career with a final curtain call that left a bitter taste in our mouths. Mayweather is a legend, yes, but very few legends have ended well, in ancient Greece and anywhere else. His thirst for money made him what he is, and sadly, it also made him what he will be remembered for.
He sucked all of the money that he could from boxing, playing the bad boy card time and time again, and it took another entire fan base from an entirely different sport to pony up the last few bucks that finally convinced him to call it quits. In order to make more money than what he made, he would need the actual power of turning anything he touches into gold.
And if that door to temptation is opened, disaster almost always ensues.
– – – –
Legend has it that King Midas, dazed by the power of his own unbridled ambition, failed to envision himself touching a woman to then watch in horror as she turned into a gleaming statue in front of him, or falling exhausted on his soft bed just to crash hard onto a suddenly uncomfortable metal plank instead. As his formerly loyal subjects and even his loved ones fled his company and he came to the realization that he would never feel the taste of an apple or the soothing calmness of a warm bath again, he wandered around his garden cursing his own avarice before succumbing, hungry, thirsty and lonely, and finally surrendering his life itself under the weight of his greed.
Floyd Mayweather, boxing’s undisputed king, may live a different story, and his millions may last forever and give him a long and happy life surrounded by every treasure on earth, with every edible and drinkable delight at the touch of his fingertips.
But for his own sake, and for the sport’s sake, we sure hope that he thinks twice before daring to bite the fruits or sip the waters of boxing ever again.
Check out more boxing news and features at The Boxing Channel.