Column: Mayweather-McGregor and the power of spectacle

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Conor McGregor pose during a news conference after a super welterweight boxing match Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

We all remember where we were for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight two years ago. That was supposed to be the one. The match-up between the two boxers everyone knew. The chance for the undefeated one to finally take a loss.

For many of us, that was the unofficial introduction to a foreign sport we’ve mostly only seen in the movies and it was the exact opposite of what we paid to see. Pacquiao, the underdog, throwing an array of feeble jabs in the direction of a Mayweather determined to pick and choose his spots and win, boring round after boring round.

Boxing purists called it a stunning display of defensive fighting by Mayweather and we should trust them on that. For the rest of us, it was a waste of an hour and a limp finale to a relentless onslaught of pre-fight hype.

So, forgive my lack of excitement when “can’t-miss fight No. 2” had its date punched in June. In one corner, Mayweather, again. In the other, a mixed martial artist who had never boxed professionally, and was vulnerable (sporting a 21-3 record) in his own sport.

A fair fight? No, this was more along the lines of a SEC powerhouse paying some cupcake to come lay down in late August.

But I watched. We all watched. How could you not? And you know what? It was very, very exciting and delivered the best result we could have possible hoped for. McGregor winning was never, pardon the pun, in the cards. This was the best-case scenario.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. rests in his corner between rounds in a super welterweight boxing match against Conor McGregor, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

McGregor came out ready to fire and proceeded to conjure a convincing illusion of competency over the first couple of rounds. Even as Mayweather began to find his footing, the fight did not feel like a rout. At last, the 50-0 champion went on the attack, showing us (the casuals) at home his offensive talent as he wore McGregor down on the way to a 10th round technical knockout.

Not a 12-round decision, but a technical knockout. Not the devastating punch from McGregor that we all secretly wanted, but a (technical) knockout nonetheless.

As the two fighters gave their post-fight interviews to a prying Jim Gray, both wearing smiles that conveyed many millions of dollars, we turned to those next to us and said something along the lines of, “That was actually very fun!”

This fight was the ultimate spectacle. As a competitive sporting event, it was subpar but right from the beginning it was tremendously entertaining.

I have given Marvel Studios a lot of money to watch their films, in which the same sequence of events happens, year after year, in front of the world’s best green screens. Two enemies fight, and the one that you expected to win comes out victorious. It must be that way. There are sequels to make, toys to sell and profits to pocket.

I will continue to watch them because they are mindless spectacles of the highest possible quality. This fight was of a similar vein.

Let’s say Mayweather already knew he would drag the fight out to an entertaining length, before putting away McGregor with his impressive stamina. Let’s say McGregor knew he could get some punches in early, before Mayweather caught up with his pace and dominated.

Let’s say that both fighters, their trainers, their promoters, everyone else and their mother knew this outcome, but the two men at the center continued to bluster like they both were going to dominate their opponent. Especially McGregor, who became notorious for his antics in the UFC.

In most sporting events, this sense of foregone conclusion would kill the anticipation. We watch sports because we don’t know what’s going to happen or at least if we think we do there’s a chance that the underdog may somehow swing a victory their way.

Not here. Only the most deluded Irish fanatics believed McGregor would win. No matter. I had a whole bunch of fun watching this thing and so did everyone else I know.

Was the fight an action movie or a boxing match? I don’t know that it matters – to the rest of us, at least. Boxing fanatics probably weren’t happy with this fight right from the start.

But you know what? I bet they had a great time too.


Tyler Keating is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu. He tweets @tylerskeating.