Tuesday, August 29, 2017
How big was the Mayweather-McGregor fight Saturday night?
Even I watched it, and I had never seen a professional boxing match before in my entire life. The closest I came previously was a smoker at the Union League Club, and then we didn't pay as much attention to whatever was going on in the ring as much as we did our scotches and cigars.
It was an accident of course. Friday was, well, one of those days, and when I saw my younger kid in his work-out gear heading for the Y, I said, "Wait five minutes and I'll go with you," and he graciously paused while I got dressed, grabbed a bottle of water and we went to work out.
While I was in the weight room, doing sit-ups, I heard an insistent, leathery, flapping noise, and realized it was the boy hitting the speed bag. I drifted over to watch, a blur of hands, the bag snapping back and forth faster than I thought possible. He invited me to try, and I did, getting up what I thought was a respectable rhythm.
"You're doing it wrong," he said, and showed me his technique: hit with the knuckles of the fist then the heel of the hand, a double-tap with each hand that worked the bag much faster, so that even I could manage halfway respectable results.
"How did you learn that?" I asked.
"YouTube," he replied.
I thanked him and, as we departed, we talked about how much fun the speed bag was—I usually end my work-outs with it, as a kind of reward. I mentioned the fight the next day, perhaps we could head somewhere and see it. He'd said he'd like that. A bit of online sleuthing told us: go to Buffalo Wild Wings.
But they wanted $20 a head cover charge. And my other son wanted to join in. And my wife, who wouldn't actually watch a fight, but would go along with her men. Suddenly we were looking at $80 just to get in the door, never mind what we'd spend on wings, wild or otherwise. A hundred bucks to stream the thing at home suddenly seemed a bargain.
It seemed a wasted opportunity, almost selfish, to just watch it by ourselves. Texts were sent, doors down the street knocked on, pizza ordered, and a party sprang up around the slugfest.
The event started at 6 p.m. Having never watched a fight before, I ignorantly assumed that meant there would be an hour or two or preliminaries, then the Main Event. I stupidly began watching at 6 p.m., what turned out to be an hour lionizing the UFC fighter Conor McGregor, an Irish martial arts expert who despairing of worlds to conquer, like Alexander the Great, had challenged undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather to come out of retirement to face him. Then we got an hour of hosannas to Mayweather, including visits to his boxing center and strip club.
Two hours of proof that, black or white, American or Irish, flaunted wealth ends up ridiculous and puerile.
It wasn't boring exactly, with plenty of shots of exotic cars and a kind of pumped up self-assigned significance—not only would boxing be changed forever, but all sport, if not the universe nudged off its axis by this match. I smiling, remembering that a few days earlier I had never heard of either man. Their general tone of unashamed, counter-factual exaggeration made me think, more than once, of the current occupant of the Oval Office. The fact that he too isn't trailed by goons holding enormous championship belts above their heads seems almost a kind of restraint. Maybe that's coming.
The truly boring part happened in the three undercards, as non-entity boxers poked at each other. The sport is condemned as violent, but these matches weren't violent. The contestants poked at each other in near-stupor. I knew I was in trouble about 8 p.m. when the talking heads introducing the matches did so from a largely empty arena in Las Vegas. The crowd wasn't even there yet.
Fortunately I had the good sense to light the Tiki torches—will we ever look at them and not think of Nazis?—and build a fire out back in the fire pit, so we could repair there and take a break from the action, or lack of which.
The main event began at about 11 p.m. Common wisdom was that McGregor, who had never fought a professional boxing match before, would have to overcome Mayweather, 49 and 0, early on in order to win. Mayweather, for his part, was content to keep his hands in front of his face, elbows close together and ward off blows for about the first eight rounds. As fit as McGregor is, he couldn't do that forever, and when he tired, in round 9, Mayweather began to pummel him and by the 10th round he was hitting him at will and the referee stopped the right to keep McGregor from being maimed.
It was more complicated than that, but that was the essence.
We all agreed that McGregor had not embarrassed himself, marveled at the sums taken in by the fighters—Mayweather earned a reported $300 million, McGregor a third or so—and declared the whole thing a success.
Final thoughts? McGregor was undone by his personality, not his skill—as the bold newcomer, he couldn't have adopted the conservative strategy that won for Mayweather, even though that would have been his only hope, though not that doing so would have worked; then they'd both be hanging back, neither would win, and the audience would feel robbed. So everyone was forced to behave the way he did; McGregor's loss was almost foreordained by Fate. Hubris.
What else? I was surprised at how poorly produced the opening segments were. At one point they spent several minutes showing a poster of the fight, certainly a lost opportunity, considering that millions were watching. They were advising something we had all already bought.
Given that the evening was bringing in the take of a Hollywood blockbuster, and that many people new to the sport were viewing, I would have imagined they'd have explained the terrain a bit more than reprise a few of McGregor's fights and show Mayweather getting on and off jets and talking about how much money he makes in a tone that, again, struck me as sadly presidential.
On Facebook, friends wrung their hands over the violence of boxing. They should save it for the victims of actual violence. These guys are laughing all the way to the bank, and while I'm sorry it had to be done on this pretext, the fight led to a house full of my kids, their pals and our friends, so I can't complain either.