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Ivey: Mayweather-McGregor fight will rejuvenate boxing

| Tuesday, August 29, 2017

It appears that boxing is not dead after all.

Not only will Saturday’s much anticipated boxing match between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Conor McGregor be considered a great success for both boxers’ reputations (and their wallets), one can consider it as a win for the sport of boxing itself.

Boxing’s reputation has taken a bad hit the last couple of years, especially after the much-hyped bout between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in May 2015 turned into a boring, frustrating standoff. The lack of action and excitement in that match, combined with the high price of buying the fight on pay-per-view, turned many people off the sport altogether.

Boxing had struggled even before the Mayweather-Pacquiao fiasco. The growing popularity of MMA and the UFC, especially among younger audiences, has taken many viewers away from traditional boxing. It helped that a lot of major UFC fights can be found on cable television networks like FOX. In response to this, Premier Boxing Champions, a network devoted just to boxing, was introduced to expose more people to the sport of boxing on a more consistent basis via cable networks like NBC, CBS and ESPN.

Very few boxing matches can create buzz and anticipation like one involving Floyd Mayweather. After Mayweather retired in September 2015 following his fight with Andre Berto, it felt like boxing was losing a huge chunk of its identity.

Boxing came under fire again earlier this year when Pacquiao, considered one of the most famous boxers in the world, lost a controversial unanimous decision to Australian boxer Jeff Horn. Even though Pacquiao as if he was looked in control for most of the fight and landed more punches than Horn (according to Compubox stats, Pacquiao landed 182 out of 573 of punches — 32 percent — thrown, while Horn landed 92 of 625 of punches — 15 percent — thrown), Horn was declared the victor. This incident angered many boxing pundits and fans alike, believing Pacquiao was robbed of a well-deserved victory and that Horn was showed favoritism due to the fight being in his home country of Australia. It was just another embarrassing moment boxing didn’t need to have.

The idea of the Mayweather-McGregor fight had been kicked around for years. McGregor is perhaps the most popular UFC superstar. His loud and outgoing personality has made him a polarizing figure among fighting fans. A match between he and Mayweather, the best boxer in the world, was an intriguing prospect for any boxing fan or promoter. After being just an idea for so long, the possibility of it actually happening became a reality back in March after the two fighters exchanged messages  through the media. After long negotiations, McGregor agreed to all terms laid out by Mayweather’s promotional company.

Many worried that this fight would end up just like Mayweather-Pacquiao and be another black eye for boxing, especially if McGregor, an MMA fighter, somehow defeated Mayweather.

Right from the first bell, McGregor was on the offensive, trying to land as many punches as he could. McGregor’s fast hands and far reach made Mayweather visibly uncomfortable in the first few rounds, forcing Mayweather to be more aggressive earlier than he usually does. The early intrigue excited boxing fans and non-fans alike. Halfway through the match, McGregor started to tire out, and Mayweather took advantage. After McGregor could barely stand, and with Floyd landing punch after punch, the fight was called in the 10th round and Mayweather was declared the victor. Despite the loss, McGregor gained a lot of new fans after his impressive boxing debut against one of the greatest boxers ever.

There were so many pay-per-view sales for the fight that the servers temporarily broke down. The start of the fight was delayed to fix the broken servers. The number of people who bought the fight is to be determined, but it is expected to break the pay-per-view sales record held by the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, which generated 4.6 million sales.

Everyone seemed to walk away happy on Saturday night, including the sport of boxing itself.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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