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Nevada commission director: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor boxing match is ‘approvable fight’

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Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett says Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor is approval from a regulation standpoint.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

There are still hurdles in the way before a boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor can be made. However, athletic commission approval no longer seems to be one of them.

Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett told MMA Fighting on Thursday that he and commission chairman Anthony Marnell agree that Mayweather vs. McGregor in boxing would be an “approvable” bout. Bennett previously discussed that with Boxing News, as well.

Bennett said he has done his research on McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion, including his boxing and kickboxing training as a youth and Ireland amateur championships in both sports. Bennett said he also asked McGregor’s team to submit video of him training in boxing last year and he reviewed it. On top of that, Bennett said, McGregor is a striker in MMA with 17 knockouts in 24 career fights.

“He throws with incredible power,” Bennett said. “He throws like a ton of bricks. He’s got an iron-clad chin. He’s an inch or two taller than Mayweather. His arm reach is two inches more. He also has fought at 145, 155 and 170. So he’s the bigger, taller, longer fighter.”

McGregor, 28, has no professional boxing experience, though. And the 40-year-old Mayweather is 49-0, perhaps the best boxer in the world before he retired in 2015. McGregor still has to apply for a license to box in Nevada after his application last year was put on hold, pending litigation he had with the commission. That has since been resolved, Bennett said, and McGregor has paid his $25,000 fine stemming from a water-bottle-incident with Nate Diaz last August.

Bennett said that the proposed fight has yet to come across his desk and he is not privy to any negotiations. If the bout gets sorted out by Mayweather, McGregor, and promoters, Bennett said he would need the athletes to pass routine medical exams, agree to a weight class or catchweight, and come to terms an on anti-doping program, with in- and out-of-competition drug testing included. McGregor already gets tested by USADA year-round under the UFC’s anti-doping policy.

In the UFC, fighters are matched up against their equals in skill and résumé, while that is not always the case in the boxing model, Bennett said. In boxing, commissions have to look at whether or not a fight is “approvable,” even when it’s clear there is a difference in levels between two combatants.

Health and safety are two things that go into those decisions. No one would argue that Mayweather would be a massive favorite against McGregor. The question for a commission would be whether the bout would pose a health risk for McGregor outside the bounds of the normal risks for fighters. Mayweather is known more for his defense, speed and ring craft, rather than raw knockout power.

“Conor is a knockout artist,” Bennett said. “Floyd is a boxer. Floyd has arguably, in my opinion, the best defense in the history of boxing. He’s a very smart fighter.”

Bennett pointed to a 1957 boxing match between Floyd Patterson and Pete Rademacher as something of a loose precedent for a boxer with a 0-0 record to be in a championship-level bout. Rademacher had no professional boxing experience when he fought Patterson, then the world heavyweight titleholder. Rademacher, though, was an Olympic gold medalist as a heavyweight boxer. He ultimately lost his pro debut to Patterson by sixth-round knockout.

Mayweather and McGregor is being discussed due to the vast interest and revenue-generating capabilities that such a fight would have. If both sides can come to an agreement, the boxing match would be one of the biggest money-making pay-per-view events in history.

The finances, though, will not come into play when the commission evaluates the fight, said Bennett, a veteran of the FBI and the Marines who is known in the boxing world as one of the tougher commission directors in terms of approving bouts.

“That doesn’t dictate whether it’s approvable,” Bennett said. “It’s their actions in the cage and in the ring. And it is an anomaly. But as far as boxing concerns, it’s an approvable fight.

“Obviously, this fight will be a lucrative fight. But our No. 1 priority is still the health and safety of the fighter.”

Bennett understands there will be critics of the decision. Pundits will point to the stark disparity in boxing experience — 49-0 vs. 0-0 does not have the best optics. Neither does the circumstances of hundreds of millions of dollars being on the line if the fight goes off.

“There’s always going to be criticism and the naysayers,” Bennett said. “My glass is half full. Others’ are half empty. Our No. 1 priority unequivocally is the health and safety of the fighters. Are people going to criticize us because it’s a lucrative fight? What commission wouldn't approve this fight?

“There’s no reason not to approve this fight. Conor is not a boxer? Alright. Meanwhile, in the cage he’s knocked 17 guys out. In terms of boxing, it’s an approvable fight.”

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