By Cliff Rold
Let there be only one request:
No crying on Sunday.
By now, everyone should know what they’re getting into this weekend. The circus is in town and the line to the geek show tent has formed. This is an event; a happening.
It ain’t much of a sporting event.
Floyd Mayweather, a great boxer, is going to whip the ass of Conor McGregor, not a boxer, in a boxing match. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of how.
Age isn’t an issue.
Time away from the ring is not a factor.
If Floyd wants to carry him for a bit, let the legion of “watch me light my money on fire” suckers and dreamers betting on McGregor get a look at their guy, he will. If he wants to punish and humiliate McGregor, he will.
Mayweather’s worked Wrestlemania showdown with the Big Show a decade ago will probably look more entertaining with hindsight. The real main event, the press conferences and their trashy trash talk, has already taken place.
So, with that out of the way…
…no crying on Sunday.
Everyone has been warned.
What everyone might not know is where the upside for this show really lies. Here is where viewers who like boxing, and find themselves in mixed company, could give back to the sport for the night.
Floyd Mayweather is likely to head back to retirement, if this really even counts as leaving it, as soon as Saturday’s exhibition is over. Boxing will go on and this undercard showcases some of the future.
Because this is a boxing show throughout the night. Several boxers are going to get new eyeballs on them. They won’t be the usual eyeballs, with a mix of casual viewers and MMA-exclusive fans that might be lured back down the road.
These fighters are the substance at this circus.
The most competitive fight on the show, on paper, is the light heavyweight clash between WBA sub-titlist Nathan Cleverly (30-3, 16 KO) and former WBC super middleweight titlist Badou Jack (21-1-2, 12 KO). Cleverly has rebuilt his career since a blowout loss to Sergey Kovalev and rematch loss to Tony Bellew. While adding another loss to Andrzej Fonfara in 2015, the fight was compelling enough o keep Cleverly in the mix, paying off with an upset of Juergen Braehmer last year.
Jack knows all about rebuilding. Since a shocking knockout loss in 2014, Jack is 5-0-1 with wins over Anthony Dirrell, George Groves, and Lucian Bute and what probably should have been a unification victory, instead of a draw, against James DeGale earlier this year. Jack wins with solid fundamentals, tenacious focus, and an entertaining approach.
Jack is the sort of fighter who can really benefit from a night like Saturday. This is an opportunity to open some new eyes for the boxing fans out there watching with folks who may not always follow the sweet science. Jack and Cleverly are likely to mix in compelling fashion. Let the new guys know why it matters. If Jack wins, tell them about Adonis Stevenson and Andre Ward and why Jack against either is damn good TV.
Maybe they’ll care. Maybe they won’t. When they see Jack’s name again down the road, it will at least ring a bell.
It’s a start.
Jr. lightweight titlist Gervonta Davis (18-0, 17 KO) of Baltimore isn’t matched as tough as Jack on paper. In his case, that’s probably a good thing. Davis faces late-sub, undefeated Francisco Fonseca (19-0, 13 KO), with a chance to move to 3-0 with three knockouts in title fights. Little is known of Fonseca and available tape doesn’t suggest he’s ready for the speed and explosiveness of Davis.
For Davis, it creates an opening for both a statement and an impression. This kid has star potential. Davis’s knockouts of Jose Pedraza and Liam Walsh left boxing fans buzzing. If he smokes Fonseca in similar fashion, there should be plenty of folks unfamiliar with Davis asking, “who is that guy?” in a positive way.
Help them out. Let them know he’s only 22 and is someone to keep an eye on for the next few years. Tell them he’s in the same division as Vasyl Lomachenko, the guy they might have seen on Sports Center a couple weeks ago.
It can’t hurt.
And of course there is cruiserweight Andrew Tabiti (14-0, 12 KO). The 27-year old from Chicago looks pretty good so far and he steps up, at least in name. Former cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham (29-8-1, 13 KO) is 41 now and he’s seen better days. He might have an ace still up his sleeve but it’s more likely the younger man does his thing.
Tell the uninitiated why Cunningham mattered in his prime and how a win overt him is a significant step for Tabiti. If Cunningham summons a late career upset, it’s a great story too. Either way, open up the bigger dialogue about how exciting the almost heavyweight class is now, and has been for years. Tell them about the incredible World Boxing Super Series starting this fall and whom Tabiti might hope to fight down the road.
Make the most of the trip to the circus. It only comes to town so often.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]