Floyd Mayweather is perhaps the greatest showman ever seen in the boxing world. When it comes to self-promotion, hyping a fight and the promotion of the ailing sport overall, Mayweather is truly the most masterful. If Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest pure fighter of all-time, Mayweather is the greatest entertainer.
Mayweather takes center stage again on August 26 when he takes on MMA star Conor McGregor in a 12-round boxing exhibition pitting two of the world’s biggest combat sports stars against each other. It’s Mayweather, the most entertaining boxer in the world, versus McGregor, arguably the same thing of MMA.
The athletic contest between these two men takes a backseat to the goal of promotion: pure, unadulterated entertainment. No sober minded individual would dare go into the fight believing McGregor has anything but a puncher’s chance against Mayweather who has never lost a single fight in the boxing ring as a paid performer.
The fight itself will be overanalyzed so much before it happens that inevitably many who purchase the fight on PPV will go into the bout thinking McGregor has a real chance to beat Mayweather at Mayweather’s own game.
He doesn’t, of course, but that’s where the promotion comes into play—the perceived entertainment value of the bout heavily relies on the duping of a mass audience.
If Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin aren’t jealous of Mayweather stealing their upcoming mega fight’s thunder, they sure need to take a course in rhetoric. Alvarez referred to the bout as a “sideshow,” while Golovkin likened it to a “circus.”
But that’s exactly the attitude Mayweather has used in the past to be so successful at garnering eyeballs and PPV buys over the years. He knows he’s the de facto ringleader of the traveling boxing circus. He plays characters during fight buildups more than portraying an authentic self, and he sees boxing for what it has to be to exist in today’s sports landscape: a sideshow circus.
There are so many things boxers could learn from professional wrestling. The WWE hails its superstars as “entertainers” because that’s exactly what they are. Even if your child believes the contests during the last Wrestlemania were actual fights, he or she is at least cognizant of the idea that the participants in any given bout are there to entertain the crowd over winning the fight.
Boxers should recognize this glaringly obvious fact. Without a large number of people interested in what happens before, during and after the fight—the totality of the promotion—the sad fact of our sport is that it boils down to a couple of dudes with their shirts off punching each other in the face.
You can find that kind of action after closing time in just about any bar scene in any city.
There are simply too few boxing purists in the world today. If enjoyment of the sweet science of boxing was all that mattered to boxing promotions, Andre Ward would be the biggest superstar in the sport.
Perhaps Mayweather’s view on boxing as a sideshow was solidified when he headlined Wrestlemania 24 in 2008. There, the diminutive Mayweather took on Paul Wight, aka the Big Show, in what boiled down to the classic David vs. Goliath archetype.
The WWE went so far to promote the bout that they allowed Mayweather to throw combination punches at the 7-foot, 400-pound Big Show during the preceding PPV to break his nose (Wight had to kneel down on his knees for it to happen).
“If you break my nose, we will be able to get people emotionally invested,” Wight told the Sun last year about the planned stunt.
And that’s what this promotion will aim to do as well: get people emotionally invested.
Instead of divulging into all the different ways that might happen, let’s instead allow the master to unfold the plan before our eyes. If this is the last time we see Mayweather in a boxing ring, we’d be wise to sit back and enjoy the show one last time.
Whatever you think about Mayweather, there’s no denying boxing has missed him over the last year. Over the last decade, no performer in the sport has participated in bigger fights.
There has never been a fighter like Mayweather. He is equal parts boxing skill and promotional hype machine. Not even Muhammad Ali possessed such a perfect combination of both elements.
Mayweather might not be “the best ever” when it comes to the actual boxing part of boxing, although that’s a fair and open debate. But he might truly be TBE at being boxing’s grandest, most ardent and truly laud-worthy entertainer.
Enjoy what may be the last big show. Mayweather-McGregor will be everything it should be. A sideshow. A circus. Perfect entertainment.