Bangkok, August 26, 2017 — Day 12/365.
From the time I was in my early teens, I watched every prizefight shown on television, went to any fight I could or could not afford, and spent the majority of my time in boxing gyms or martial arts studios. Forty years ago, fights were shown every weekend on regular TV. Once cable TV came to fruition, there were fights on ESPN and every Tuesday night, on the USA Network. Boxing fans almost had as many fights as they could watch. On Saturdays, CBS would show a title fight at 2:30 and ABC would have one on at 3:00. There were fights on all the time and I rarely missed a fight.
In between fights, I read boxing books and magazines. I bought The Ring and Sports Illustrated. I studied boxing history. To this day, the older fighters remain my favorites: Jack Dempsey, Harry Greb, Stanley Ketchel, Mickey Walker and Sugar Ray Robinson. These guys were animals in the ring and the very definition of the word fighter. Sure, they boxed, but they were fighters in the purest sense of the word. They kept fit fighting, sometimes once a week, sometimes two, even three times. Boxers now may only fight once or twice a year.
During the 80's and 90's I watched Julian "The Hawk" Jackson, Michael "Little Hands of Stone Carbajal, Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins, Cornelious Boza Edwards, John "The Beast" Mugabi, Nigel "The Dark Destroyer" Benn, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Ricardo "El Finito" Lopez, Tommy "The Hitman" Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran. As I watched them fight I never dreamed I would meet them. Years later, I met them all.
It's been six years since I have been involved in boxing either as a journalist or handler. In this time, I have only watched three events. I watched Marquez and Pacquiao's last get-together because I believed Marquez had the Filipino's number and would score a knockout. When Marquez fought Chris John in Borneo, I spent a week with the Mexican fighter and his team. Marquez has always been an underrated fighter with an abundance of talent and heart and I wanted him to win. So when he caught Pacquaio with a huge right that left him out cold for close to fifteen minutes, I was happy for him. After giving so much to the sport of boxing, it seemed a fitting close to his stellar career.
Two years later, Pacquiao took on Floyd Mayweather Jr. and I just had to watch the bout to see how Mayweather handled the Filipino. Mayweather did what he had to do and won the bout, but bored the pants off anyone who could stay awake. I'm all for a fighter using his defensive skills, but when the defense results in a lack of action, I draw the line. Pernell Whitaker often fought the same way, defense oriented, and like Mayweather, his fights awed the spectators or put them to sleep.
The third and last fight I watched was a championship fight here in Thailand between Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng and John Riel Casimero of the Philippines. The Filipino's trainer, Jun Agrabio, occasionally trained a couple of our fighters and is someone I consider a good friend. So when I the fight was announced, I decided to attend out of respect. Unfortunately, Ruenroeng did more wrestling than boxing and the referee did little to stop him. The bout turned in to a foul-laden stink fest and Casimero lost the decision. Eleven months later, the two would fight again in Beijing, this time with Casimero winning a unanimous decision to become the IBF World Flyweight Champion.
This weekend's bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Connor Mcgregor is arguably the biggest sporting event ever. The only other event that might come close to matching it is the second bout in 1938 between Joe Louis of the United States and Germany's Max Schmeling. The two met for the first time in 1936, when Louis was less skilled and less seasoned, with Schmeling winning the bout in the twelfth round by knockout. Three months later, Jesse Owens would win four gold medals in the Olympic Games, decimating Hitler's ideal of Arian supremacy. Hitler would continue to proclaim blacks an inferior race, so when the rematch took place two years later, the entire world watching. This time, Louis destroyed Schmeling in 2:04 of the first round. In the process, he put the German in the hospital for ten days. Three years later, the United States declared war on Germany.
With a 49-0 record and platinum skills, it is hard to bet against Floyd Mayweather. At 40, Mayweather is a couple of years past his prime and eleven years older than Connor Mcgregor. However, as a defensive wizard, he has suffered minimal damage in his career and is a well-preserved 40. He is always in shape and has proven his skill, work ethic, and determination to be unparalleled. As phenomenal an athlete as Mcgregor is, he has never fought a professional boxer, much less one of Mayweather's caliber.
There is a massive gap between top tier athlete and top tier boxer. Throw Mayweather in the Octagon and he wouldn't last thirty seconds. But this is boxing, his sport, his game, his art for over thirty years. He has beaten the very best in boxing and probably forgotten more about boxing than Connor Mcgregor knows. If Mcgregor wins, it would be the biggest upset of all time and a huge blow to professional boxing.
Anything could happen — just not in this fight.
Mcgregor is taller and the naturally bigger, stronger fighter and most importantly, he can punch. If Mayweather loses focus and gets caught with a decent shot, it could spell disaster. This is what makes boxing and MMA exciting; the edge of the seat, what's going to happen now drama. Mayweather may give Mcgregor a twelve round boxing lesson or stop him in the later rounds or Mcgregor might land one punch and flatten him. Doubtful, but possible. Oscar De La Hoya has said he doesn't think Mcgregor will land a punch on Mayweather. I wouldn't go this far, but I do think Mayweather is going to win the fight.
It would be easy for me to say, Mayweather by unanimous decision. So I won't. If by chance Mcgregor takes it to Mayweather and manages to land a big shot, it's going to be in first half of the bout. I just don't see it happening though.
Mayweather via TKO9.
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