The 2015 boxing matchup between the two most popular fighters of their generation, Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, was a mega-event — and a mega-dud inside the ring.
Mayweather outpointed Pacquiao in a dull unanimous decision which left many casual observers vowing never to plunk down $100 for a Mayweather pay-per-view ever again.
New York boxing promoter Lou DiBella, however, believes that if fans decide to give Mayweather’s match with UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor on Saturday night a chance, they just might be in for a surprise.
DiBella believes McGregor is going to enter the ring at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena looking to make a statement, and as such, is likely to force more action than Pacquiao was ever able to muster during their dull affair.
“McGregor is going out there believing he’s going to win, and he’s going to try to do some unorthodox stuff, he’s going to try to hurt Mayweather,” DiBella said during an in-studio appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “He’s going to try to find him, he’s going to try to hit him, he’s going to try to hurt him. That’s more than Pacquiao did when they fought. If you wind up buying this event and watching this event, in a weird way, I don’t think this is going to be any worse in the ring than Mayweather-Pacquiao was.”
But then, DiBella has always been a bit of a contrarian in the boxing game. The run-up to Mayweather vs. McGregor has brought out the predictable chorus of cranks in boxing’s old guard, who are pretending as if the Mayweather vs. McGregor matchup is a desecration of some sort of holy ideal.
DiBella scoffs at the notion the fight is somehow ruining boxing’s image.
“The idea that somehow this runs against the purity and sanctity of boxing — since when has there been any purity and sanctity to boxing?” DiBella asked. “People want to see this. That’s why this is happening. It’s sort of a one-of-a-kind event. There’s only one Mayweather. He’s been sitting off for awhile, he never lost, he’s 49-0, he’s one of the greatest fighters of all-time. And McGregor’s McGregor. You don’t have another McGregor in MMA. You don’t.”
DiBella later added: “Boxing’s been bad for boxing. How the f*ck is this bad for boxing? Boxing’s been bad for boxing. Bad decisions, sh*tty undercards. I’ve been in this industry for most of my life. ... Boxing has been its own worst enemy.”
The promoter also knows a transcendent event when he sees one, and he realized since last month’s controversial press conference World Tour that Mayweather vs. McGregor is the sort of event which ropes in people who don’t usually tune in to combat sports.
“There probably never been press conferences more widely viewed for any combat sport,” DiBella said. “There’s certainly no lack of awareness. You can’t avoid this. You flip the channels through the sports package and every one of these talking-head shows, people that never talk about combat sports are talking about it constantly. It’s being discussed over water-coolers. A lot of people aren’t sure if it’s a boxing match or an MMA or a boxing match or some kind of hybrid, but everyone knows McGregor’s fighting Mayweather — even people who don’t know who Mayweather and McGregor are.”
Where DiBella, who has dipped his toe into MMA waters as the manager for crossover fighter Heather Hardy — a boxer who recently made her Bellator debut — does stand with boxing’s old guard is the idea that it’s highly like Mayweather will have his hand raised on Saturday night, saying McGregor at best has a puncher’s chance.
“Any man getting in here who’s powerful and has a punch has a chance,” DiBella said. “Hard for me to imagine that in a boxing match, that [McGregor] could prevail, but he’s got power and he’s going to be unorthodox. ... He’s going to throw some stuff at Floyd that maybe Floyd hasn’t seen before. There’s always a danger, and when an event gets to that magnitude, you tend to inflate the danger.”
Either way, DiBella sees the entire spectacle as something of a no-lose proposition for McGregor and the UFC.
“I’m starting to think it’s worked out pretty well for the UFC, because in a way now, it’s almost like it’s a no-lose proposition.
“When the magnitude became clear how much money there was, I thought a while back it wasn’t going to happen because the probability would be Mayweather would win and the boxer would beat the mixed martial artist. Now I’ve sort of concluded it doesn’t matter. Because if the boxer beats the mixed martial artist, then can say ‘it was boxing, he’s supposed to beat him.’”