At approximately 8:55 pm pacific time on August 26, historically decorated boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is very likely going to make ambitious challenger Conor McGregor resemble a helpless, clumsy amateur fighter on national television. By all logical expectations, stating that the fight should conclude within a few rounds is a generosity built under the assumption that the former will toy with the latter long enough to at least produce a semi-entertaining spectacle for their millions of viewers. After months of endless build up, media coverage and trash talking from both parties involved, the misnomered “mega fight” is ultimately going to result in a cruel disappointment for the masses who shelled out hundreds of dollars to watch the bout on pay-per-view and thousands more to sit ringside for an overblown publicity stunt.
When it’s all said and done, however, McGregor will return to the sport that made his name, MMA fighting, and shrug off his outspoken boxing escapade in pursuit of success in his trained profession, beaten and battered but far from defeated. Even if he gets pummeled to submission in the first round, he won’t care. Neither will Mayweather. The boxing industry couldn’t care less. All of these respective parties will be too preoccupied uncontrollably laughing at the ignorant masses all the way to the bank to give a single damn.
The fact that so many people are eagerly awaiting this contest is a testament to the effectiveness of its marketing, as the mere idea of this fabled fight struck many as pointlessly absurd upon its very conception. An accomplished MMA champion holding title belts at two weight classes, the first and only fighter in history to achieve such a feat, suddenly abandons martial arts at the pinnacle of his career to pursue boxing training in hopes of toppling a foe that has proven insurmountable to countless lifelong fisticuffs brawlers before him? That’s odd. Mayweather, possessing a peerless 49-0 undefeated record, more money than any individual could possibly spend in a single lifetime and excessive stubborn pride willingly exits from a comfortable retirement and jeopardizes his precious winning streak in order to meet such a feisty opponent head on? That’s even more bizarre. Scheduling the fight for August, thus affording McGregor a mere six months to thoroughly master an unfamiliar combat style for the purpose of confronting a champion who has lived and breathed boxing since he started fighting? Well, that’s just an impossible sell for anyone looking for an attractive spectacle exhibition, much less a seriously competitive bout. Forty-nine previous professional boxers, lifetime veterans of their craft, couldn’t overcome Mayweather’s reign, yet people are seriously expected to believe that McGregor can pose a serious threat and emerge victorious after six months? This idea makes no attempt to weave around the transparency of its absurdity. It doesn’t matter how hyper-intensive his training is. This is reality, not “Dragonball Z.”
Furthermore, the storyline for this match is also riddled with contradictory plot holes. In a desperate attempt to sell the fight to the countless fans who remained unconvinced and refused to purchase tickets, the sports mass media have aggressively pushed McGregor’s underdog narrative, claiming that his potential victory would be one of the most shocking upsets in athletic history. While this is technically true, framing the fight in this manner fails to comprehend why people love and appreciate a quality, carefully constructed story of underdog success.
Take the film “Rocky,” for example. Audiences resonate with that movie because its titular protagonist is a loser with a heart of gold who’s gifted the rare chance to prove himself worthy and make something of his life. Success in the film’s final confrontation means justice for a character worthy of happiness, while failure means a continued life of dead-end poverty. There are high stakes with tension and emotion; we want to see Rocky achieve his goal and are loathe to consider what his future could be upon a more bitter ending.
McGregor, on the other hand, isn’t a figure that can extract the necessary pathos from viewers to successfully spin a convincing underdog tale. Likely the worst possible result for McGregor in the event of a loss is that he returns to MMA fighting as a reigning champion with slightly wounded pride after pocketing more money (over $100 million) than most martial arts fighters will make during their entire careers. By fighting Mayweather, McGregor has very little to lose and absolutely everything to gain; he’s not a likable underdog, he’s simply is a smart businessman. This narrative resembles more of a crossover summer blockbuster B-movie rather than the heart of a “Rocky” film, less Apollo Creed vs. Italian Stallion and more “Alien vs. Predator.”
Therefore, promoters, writers and the boxers themselves frantically sought out any possible method to generate hype for a fight that nobody really asked for, and in seeking that source of personal attachment they rediscovered a sinister truth about humanity: hate sells. Taunting and trash talk are par the course for hyping up a fight, but recent discourse has devolved into unapologetic hate speech, McGregor issuing racial slurs towards Mayweather and the latter meeting those remarks with excessive amounts of homophobic and sexist comments for derogatory means. If the 2016 presidential campaign proved anything, it’s that using fiendish bigotry to attract attention and manipulate a dedicated following is a marketing tactic that unfortunately works wonders in contemporary society, and like that very same campaign, the escalating tension between the two fighters has been successful promotion for the fight. Though ticket sales were initially lacking, causing concern among those involved with the spectacled “mega fight,” upon introducing this more bombastic method of publicity the fight is now on pace to eclipse the $72 million live-gate profit record set during the Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao scuffle in 2015.
That’s merely what this tactic is, though—publicity. It’s painfully obvious that McGregor, Mayweather and the executive heads behind this otherwise absurd excuse for a fight know exactly what they’re doing by initiating this kind of violent discourse, and that’s ensuring maximum financial profit regardless of the contest’s outcome. It’s highly doubtful that the two competitors harbor serious ill-intent to their opponent behind closed doors, at least not to the degree of justifying the childish hate speech tossed back and forth during promotions, but they’re both wise enough to realize that feigning abhorrence of the other is the most efficient way to keep their wallets full for years to come. More hate means more money by mass appealing to the people who invest in such conflict. The entire charade is transparent enough to warrant suspicion over whether McGregor seriously believes he can topple Mayweather or if he’s simply willing to take a forgiving enough beating for the lucrative sum of cash he’ll be gaining by the second. For Mayweather, who’s essentially fighting a rookie amateur boxer for hundreds of millions of dollars with minimal risk of tainting his perfect record, playing along with the trend only means more money when it’s all said and done. It’s plain as day that this spectacle bout is primarily focused on making obscene amounts of cash, and the most effective method of doing so has proven to be bigotry.
More disappointing than the promoters, though, are the people who are so easily willing to change their entire mindset surrounding the fight and reward such toxic rhetoric with their hard earned funds. A few months ago, the prospect of McGregor vs. Mayweather was an absurdity to most, as evidenced by the slow ticket and pay-per-view sales, but once the petty insults began flying and artificial tension was added to the encounter, people were once again eager to invest. It’s the fans who made this a “mega fight,” the people who buy into hate speech as excitable forms of communication and discourse. If this upcoming exhibition match is any evidence, it’s that in 2017 hate rhetoric is an increasingly seductive force for many Americans, a force that marketing teams are more than willing to exploit for increased profit and a concerning trend that needs to be reversed before it gets further out of control.