By Jason Keidel
In what cynics see as the final piece of pre-fight propaganda, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Conor McGregor have been approved to use eight-ounce gloves for their megafight on August 26, in Las Vegas.
It’s all part of a narrative, some say, a cleverly-crafted plan, by both camps, to nudge the PR needle toward McGregor, who will be in his first prizefight while adhering to boxing’s rules, not those of UFC, the sport that made him a superstar.
Will two ounces be the difference between winning and losing? Of course not. In fact, had the fighters weighed eight pounds lighter, they wouldn’t need any exemptions to wear eight-ounce gloves. But the Nevada State Athletic Commission requires that boxing matches between 154-pound fighters – the agreed upon weight for the fight on Aug 26 – are conducted with ten-ounce gloves.
It’s that sleight of hand – or fist – that feeds Floyd Mayweather’s pre-bout campaign. In a jarring personal (or persona) makeover, Mayweather has spent much of the last month trying to convince the public that his opponent as the edge, at least on paper. In several interviews – the first one with Stephen A. Smith – Mayweather made the stunning declaration that McGregor indeed has the physical advantage. As the younger, stronger, and larger man, McGregor is Mayweather’s greatest challenge, so the undefeated champion says.
And “GloveGate” is merely the cherry on top of this PR sundae. As with all things Mayweather, you wonder how much is ploy versus pugilism.
So is this a new Mayweather at his modest best? If you’ve watched Showtime’s four-part preamble, “All Access” program on Friday nights, Mayweather has had an atypical camp, even by his theatrical standards. Between horseback riding and rollerblading, Mayweather is flashing his more pastoral side, time with his friends and family. But, in typical Mayweather fashion, he drastically switches gears to a different kind of nightlife, more befitting his adopted hometown, with his latest financial venture into a franchise of strip clubs.
But now we are upon the week of the fight. With all the bluster, bombast, and barbs of their four-town tour melting into memory, an often toxic exchange of profanity and inelegant insults, everyone is focused entirely on the fight and the fighters, not their handlers, entourages, or monologues. No matter how much machismo goes into a media campaign, the matter is always settled in the squared circle, between two men, their minds, and their hands.
Is Mayweather onto something? Will his reckoning come against this younger and stronger man who hasn’t fought under Queensbury rules? Or did the best chance to beat the loquacious champion slip out of the ring with Canelo Alvarez or Manny Pacquiao?
It seems are only two camps – traditionalists and Millennials – and thus two breakdowns of this fight. Either you’re in the jaded circle that feels this fight is a farce, a legal heist with the outcome as certain as a WWE charade. Others, many of whom are UFC devotees, say McGregor not only has a shot, but will likely flatten Mayweather.
But as someone who made his bones as a boxing writer, I say there’s a third group, and a middle ground. You can love boxing, embrace its icons and traditions, and still cherish the chance to watch this fight. You’re allowed to worship Hagler-Hearns and still be psyched about Saturday night.
Boxing, MMA, or any mutation of prizefighting, is a sport. And like all sports, it’s entertainment. Can you honestly say you’re not entertained by the idea of McGregor v. Mayweather? At their professional hearts, the two fighters are showmen. And boxing, like football, baseball, and basketball, is promoted not just by athletic splendor, but also by characters. And let’s be candid, half the people who swear off this fight will be calling their friends to see if they’re showing the fight, if they can sneak under the symbolic velvet rope and watch the fight. It’s entertainment.
And like the man said in the movie…are you not entertained?
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.