Mayweather-McGregor: A corporate bailout, not a fight

I’m certainly not the first person to tell you I won’t be watching Floyd Mayweather box Conor McGregor tonight.

It’s one thing to watch Randy Couture pummel James Toney in the co-main event of a strong UFC card. It’s another to shell out $99.99 to watch a UFC fighter who’s third, at best, in the current pound-for-pound rankings of a down period for MMA taking on a boxer who, for all his personal flaws, knows his craft about as well as anyone ever has. McGregor isn’t even the UFC fighter who would bring the most entertainment value to a freak-show MMA-vs.-boxing bout — that would be Nate Diaz, who cheerfully absorbed a McGregor beating for five minutes and then turned the tables for a submission win.

And it’s not as if these are people worth rooting for. Nancy Armour has summed up the casual racism, homophobia and other bigotry that peppered the promotion of this event. McGregor can be gracious and entertaining at times, and the Irish part of me would love to get behind Dublin’s biggest export since U2. But he considers himself bigger than his sport, demanding things no other fighter has demanded, showing up for scheduled appearances with all the reliability of Axl Rose in his heyday, and never finding the time to defend a championship belt.

The classic example: On The Ultimate Fighter, he trash-talks Urijah Faber about making exponentially more money than Faber ever did. But that’s a question of timing, not talent. McGregor should be thanking Faber for fighting when fighting was not big business. Faber was one of the fighters who made us take the lighter weight classes seriously, building the base upon which McGregor would like to place the idol of himself. Without Urijah Faber, Conor McGregor is still beating people up in Cage Warriors, probably making about as much money as Faber did when he was making WEC shows on Versus must-see TV for hard-core MMA fans.

But money makes an effective blinder. And this fight is all about money.

Worse, it’s about people who’ve made a ton of money but spent more. Mayweather does everything with his money short of burn it. McGregor’s heading down the same path: “I got Versace plates and forks,” he told ESPN. “I don’t even need ’em.”

And then there’s the pinnacle of overspending: WME-IMG, which spent $4 billion on the plateauing UFC and now seems desperate to recoup some of that money.

Here’s how Victor Rodriguez put it in an entertaining Bloody Elbow predictions column:

See, this fight had to happen. WME|IMG is trying to outwork the bank on that loan they took out to buy the UFC. PPV buyrates are down, ratings are in a slump, Rousey’s gone, and even after the performance of a lifetime Jon Jones can’t stop stumbling over his own feet. Oh, but GSP’s coming back, don’cha know? Yeah, he’s fighting for a title in a division he’s never competed in after 4½ (years) out of action. Even then, we don’t know what kind of box office allure he’ll have! Add to that the woes of negotiating a new TV deal and you can see why they’re so urgently willing to make reckless moves for quick cash.

Meanwhile, most of the media simply can’t avoid this fight. We’re desperate, too. Our business models, from ad-supported online ventures to subscription fee-supported networks threatened by cord-cutting, are all shaky. It’s been disappointing to see journalists who certainly know better buying into and building the hype for this event, but what else can they do?

And I don’t mind supporting the journalists doing credible commentary, putting all of this into proper perspective. If the wealth of this fight trickles down to them, that’s fine.

As for the fight itself …


Olympic sports writing: 2004-2015

Selected features and interviews, plus coverage from several Olympics:


Sochi 2014

London 2012 (all Bleacher Report unless noted)

Vancouver 2010: Nordic sports and biathlon (all USA TODAY)

Beijing 2008: Everything, especially soccer (all USA TODAY)

Torino 2006 (USA TODAY)

Athlete interviews (all USA TODAY)

Monday Myriad, July 28: Sprinter’s paradise

We begin this week with a view of a cycling sprint finish from the winner’s perspective. Sounds like that would be “nothing,” but Marianne Vos didn’t take the lead until the last few meters:

And another point-of-view video from a winning cyclist, this time from BMX women’s world champion Mariana Pajon.

Nibali cares not for your dropped call: Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali is a model of focus as he plows right through a spectator’s calling arm. And the spectator also keeps her focus, ignoring the cyclists, the motorbikes, the oncoming car …

Things you don’t want to hear in cycling: “Midair collision”

More fast people: World Juniors track and field in Oregon.

But always remember …

Vertical jump matters, not age: Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross keep rolling.

And Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal made it a U.S. sweep on home sand …

The shots you don’t take: Compelling read on the need to take risks — pushing numbers up the field in soccer, swinging away in cricket — to get anywhere in sports.

On the other hand: Here’s a good strategy for getting out of an MMA fight without any blood or bruises: Tap out immediately.

Away win: U.S. wrestler Brent Metcalf came back from 6-0 down to beat Azerbaijan’s Magomed Muslimov at the FILA Golden Grand Prix in Azerbaijan. The key move, which earned four points to seal the tiebreaker for Metcalf, is at the 6:12 mark here:

USA Wrestling has the other U.S. results from that day and the next day, where the USA’s Elena Pirozhkova jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the final and held on with ease:

Comparisons: I think I’d rather be the Peyton Manning of bocce.

Along those lines …

Arf: Let’s see Rio 2016 top the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony:

Frame-by-frame defeat: Boxer Daniel Geale vs. Gennady Golovkin

21 seconds in: “Hey, I just landed a punch! That felt really good!”

32 seconds in: “Hmmm, maybe I should’ve been in better position to take this-”

Guess the sport: An U.S. Olympian has finally completed the American Ninja Warrior qualifying course. We’ll give some hints: It wasn’t a gymnast (Paul Hamm and Morgan Hamm did pretty well on the Japanese precursor Sasuke), nor was it a medalist. Give up? Here’s the answer.

UPDATE: I missed Jarrod Shoemaker’s World Cup triathlon silver when I posted. Please forgive me.

If you like full recaps of U.S. athletes in action or track and field in general, try and Daily Relay later in the evening. If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain … actually, I don’t like either of those things, so call someone else.

Catch the Monday Myriad again next week.

Olympic boxing: Pro rules

Boxing safety is more art than science. Consider this:

“There’s no evidence protective gear shows a reduction in incidence of concussion,” Butler said. “In 1982, when the American Medical Association moved to ban boxing, everybody panicked and put headgear on the boxers, but nobody ever looked to see what the headgear did.”

AIBA’s executive committee unanimously voted to add head guards to amateur competition in April 1984, and they stayed in place through eight straight Olympics.

But the headgear has long been criticized for diffusing the impact of a blow and allowing fighters to continue sustaining more head shots for a longer stretch of time. The gear also offers no protection to the chin, where many knockout blows land in boxing, while the bulky sides of the device impede fighters’ peripheral vision, preventing them from seeing every head blow.

So the headgear is going away — except for women’s boxers, for some reason. The story says nothing about the gloves, though.

But wait, there’s more:

The amateur sport also is moving to a pro-style, 10-point scoring system, discarding the latest version of the much-criticized computer punch-count systems implemented after the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Each fight will be scored by five ringside judges with the traditional 10-9 or 10-8 rounds familiar to fans of professional boxing.

So the inaccurate system they’ve been using for the last 20-some years will be replaced with a subjective system. That’s … progress?

Olympic boxing drops head guards, changes scoring.

Amateur boxers: Are you looking at my headgear?

Emboldened after tipping their toes into the waters of boxing with prize money and without headgear, the AIBA (amateur boxing’s world federation) is thinking about getting rid of headgear in future Olympic competitions:

News | Olympic amateur boxers may ditch headguards post 2012 | Universal Sports

Pros: With knockouts more likely, this system would encourage boxers to throw better punches rather than simple point-scoring taps.

Cons: In this era of concussion concern, does anyone want to encourage a two-week tournament in which a fighter might step into the ring and absorb that many unprotected blows to the head?

I’ve wondered if boxing should switch from human judges to sensors that can record whether boxers landed legitimate punches. Might be difficult for engineers, but it works in fencing. More or less.

Gratuitous South Park clip on headgear follows:

2012 boxing: Welcome, women!

Olympic boxing goes co-ed in 2012, with three women’s weight classes added. To keep the total numbers down, in accordance with the IOC’s present tactic of limiting the Summer Games’ size, they’ve cut one men’s weight class and reduced numbers in other classes so that the total number of boxers will barely change.

Adding women will be a tremendous help for the USA, whose men’s program is in rough shape. The only U.S. medalists from the 2008 Games and 2009 World Championships have gone pro.

So farewell to the featherweight class, though it seems a shame to lose a distinctive name while keeping “light welterweight” and the absurd “light flyweight.”

Then they pick up with lightweight (60), light welterweight (64), welterweight (69), middleweight (75), light heavyweight (81), heavyweight (91) and super heavyweight (big). I’ll convert this into pounds for the projections. One kg=2.2 pounds.

Boxing is one of the many sports with world championships in odd years. Men’s boxing, anyway. The women’s championships are in even years, and they’ll stay there through 2014 despite their inclusion in the Games. Aside from Worlds, fully global competition is sporadic. The best results we can use for now are the 2009 World Championships and the 2010 rankings, though the latter tends to reward fighters who have been active internationally (in other words, not Americans).

Continue reading 2012 boxing: Welcome, women!

How old is too old to fight?

Jordan Breen raises a question along those lines on Twitter today, linking to video of a dreadful performance by MMA/kickboxing veteran Gary Goodridge and wondering how promoters can keep trotting him out into the ring.

The fight’s horrible — opponent Catalin Morosanu seems to enjoy landing shots at will through the first round but later seems reticent to hurt the poor guy any more than he already has. You can almost hear Howard Cosell vowing to quit covering the sport.

In other recent Senior League fighting, Ken Shamrock keeps competing on ever-smaller stages, and Jake Rossen asks at ESPN how long he can go before commissions step in and say no.

In boxing, the current WBF world champion is 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who defeated fellow 40something Frans Botha for the belt. He’ll defend it against Sherman Williams, who is apparently not a paint.

A few fighters can be productive after 40. Randy Couture has been a viable MMA fighter, most recently proving that James Toney is not. George Foreman cleanly knocked out Michael Moorer in his mid-40s to become a champion again. Yet both benefited from periods of inactivity — Couture still has fewer than 30 fights on his record, and Foreman was out of the sport for roughly 10 years before returning. (In the Hollywood universe, Rocky Balboa had quite a few years to recover from all those Clubber and Drago neck-twisting power shots.)

Hard and fast rules clearly won’t cut it. The real danger is head trauma, and MMA fans are less likely to worry over 47-year-old Couture than they would over 40-year-old Chuck Liddell, who has been knocked out cold in two of his last three fights. Goodridge has been knocked out too many times in his career, but Shamrock’s issues are different — he’s simply being outclassed in most of his fights.

And that’s the problem. We can’t simply tell fighters to stay out of the cage or ring simply because we’re tired of watching them tap out against unknowns. All we can do is skip those fights as paying customers or journalists. It’s clear that the audience for Ken Shamrock’s fights — substantial four or five years ago — has dried up, and that may force him to quit fighting at last.

For Goodridge and others who might circle the globe looking for a country willing to rubber-stamp their pass into a ring, it’s up to their friends, family and fellow fighters. And ultimately, the man himself.