By Andreas Hale
With the recent announcement that the fight nobody thought had any business of happening will now take place on August 26th, all parties involved can celebrate. The spectacle that is Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor is guaranteed to make a ton of money as it follows in the footsteps of crossover fights such as Ali-Inoki and Toney-Couture. The difference is that social media will push this fight to inexplicable heights over the next ten weeks as we’ll experience some of the finest trash talking combat sports has ever seen.
Well, everybody except HBO Boxing.
The announcement dealt a pair of mighty blows to the gut of HBO Boxing. Any buzz surrounding Andre Ward’s rematch with Sergey Kovalev has been drowned out by the noise of Mayweather-McGregor. And, unfortunately, a fight between two of the best pound for pound fighters in the world needs all the push it could possibly get.
More significant than the blow to Ward-Kovalev 2 is the one that is being dealt to Canelo vs. GGG. What is easily the best fight that can be made in boxing is going to have to deal with the residuals fallout from what is now the biggest spectacle in sports, period. Oh yeah, and Mayweather-McGregor happens to be the same night as Miguel Cotto vs. Yoshihiro Kamagei.
It’s not something that is going to destroy HBO Boxing, but it certainly presents a significant mountain to climb. And, who knows, the deal may have been made in direct response to Oscar De La Hoya urging boxing fans to boycott Mayweather-McGregor.
If Oscar wanted to pick a fight, now he has one.
In this day and age, the spectacle is going to overshadow the real sport nine times out of ten. As much as hardcore boxing fans – and a decent amount of casual fans – have been anticipating a Canelo vs. GGG, the sheer event element of Mayweather-McGregor casts a massive shadow over that fight. Although nobody in their right mind thinks that Conor McGregor has a chance beating Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match, the pre-fight hype coupled with the sports journalists talking about the fight, but know very little about combat sports, will make this fight must-watch TV.
It’s unfortunate because the must-watch TV fight is undeniably Canelo vs. Golovkin.
Mayweather-McGregor certainly isn’t going to discourage the Mexican fan base. Nor will it detour hardcore boxing fans. However, pay per views biggest numbers are driven by the casual fan who only tunes in for the big event. You know who they are: the all-of-a-sudden football fan who only watches the Super Bowl or the makeshift Golden State Warriors fan who hasn’t watched a single regular season game but will show up talking like they know all about basketball when the NBA Finals begin.
And no sport falls victim to the casual fan hype more than boxing. Just watch any of the talking head shows on ESPN or Fox Sports and listen to anybody not named Max Kellerman debate boxing. First of all, it rarely happens. But when it does, it’s an insult to the intelligence of a fan who has been loyal to the fine art of pugilism.
Before Mayweather-McGregor was announced, Canelo-GGG was going to be the benefactor of the casual fan rush. Just like Mayweather-Pacquiao, which drew the numbers it did because of the social media presence that nobody could get away from, people who didn’t watch much boxing became interested in the red-headed Mexican and the Kazakh good boy who knocks just about anybody out. There was an undeniable appeal to Canelo-GGG that piqued curiosity of the casual fan.
However, with Mayweather-McGregor taking place three weeks before the fight, it is no longer the only pretty girl at the dance. It’s obvious that the build to Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor will overshadow just about everything in sports and will carry the most entertaining narrative. In some ways, this could be karma rearing its ugly head and Oscar De La Hoya’s plan blowing up in his face.
De La Hoya made boxing fans wait until he felt he had the perfect moment to stage Canelo-GGG. With Golovkin turning back his most difficult challenge to date against Daniel Jacobs and Canelo dominating the all-Mexico affair against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., De La Hoya finally unleashed the fight that fans had wanted to see since 2015. With Mayweather out of the picture (or so he thought) and Canelo being boxing’s biggest draw, the Canelo-GGG fight would head to Vegas for Mexican Independence Day weekend on September 16th.
With Mayweather’s disdain for De La Hoya, one has to think that he may have pulled the trigger on this purposefully to bury his opponent. Whether true or not, De La Hoya finds himself in a bit of a pickle. Putting his personal bias to the side, the Golden Boy Promotions CEO knows he has the better fight. However, with Canelo’s inability to speak English and GGG’s English being average at best, any effort to market the fight to American audience will run into an immediate challenge. But with Mayweather-McGregor eating up airtime and dominating sports conversations, De La Hoya is going to have to pull a rabbit out of his hat in order to convince fans to buy both PPV events or just his. He doesn’t even have the opportunity to be first as his fight is a mere 21 days after Mayweather-McGregor. And depending on the price point, he’ll be hard pressed to find casual fans that will be willing to cough up a decent amount of cash two times in less than 30 days.
De La Hoya and HBO Boxing has their work cut out for them. Ward-Kovalev 2 is going to do what it’s going to do. Cotto-Kamagei stands absolutely no chance against Mayweather-McGregor. But his last hope is his ace in the hole. If he can find a way to recapture the magic and steal just a little bit of Mayweather-McGregor’s thunder, he’ll be in good shape.
But that’s a tall task and a fight that nobody knows whether or not De La Hoya can compete in. At the very least, it’s a fight that is still going to be more competitive than the one Mayweather and McGregor are about to have.