Forever after, the record will show that Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather defeated Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor by TKO in the tenth round of their money-spinning fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on 26 August 2017. What it will not show is that McGregor was not only out of his depth he was murder from the opening bell to the last. The idea that he emerged from this event with a shred of credibility, much less the effusive praise that has flowed from the keyboards of a parade of writers and pundits who really should know better, is absurd.
The bald truth is that the Irish MMA champion was carried for ten rounds by a 40-year old with brittle hands who hadn’t stepped foot in a boxing ring in two years.
When it comes to skills, McGregor’s were of the white-collar variety; he was slow, threw arm punches which landed like feather dusters, and was so ramrod straight and static it looked as if his head was stuck on the end of pole. By the end of the second round you couldn’t help but feel for Mayweather, having to carry this chump with the aim of maintaining a semblance of authenticity.
What we saw unfold in the ring was not a fight, it was not even an event; it was the second act of a three-act play staged in the theatre of the absurd, one that demanded and miraculously achieved the willing suspension of disbelief on the part of millions.
As for the first act, the distortion and disfigurement of the integrity of sporting competition ensued from the moment the fight was announced, whereupon both fighters sought to outdo one another when it came to flaunting their outrageous designer wardrobes, cars, houses, and magazine lifestyles. No expletive or profanity was left unturned as they vied to live up to the truism that money like alcohol does not change a man’s character so much as enhance it.
Though Mayweather has already been here many times before, in Conor McGregor the world has found itself a global icon who has managed to surpass his opponent when it comes to selling the hyper-capitalist ethos of “I have and therefore I am,” while implying “You have not and therefore are not.”
In the lead-up to this orgy of excess, a promo was released on social media in which we were regaled with the depiction of McGregor as a kid just like any other from those tough working class Dublin streets, taking his first steps on the journey that would take him from his first fight in a downtrodden local gym all the way to the neon paradise of the MGM Grand to face Floyd Mayweather in the most lucrative fight in the history of boxing, his face ubiquitous on billboards, his name in lights, and toast of the world’s media.
The meaning imparted could not have been clearer: humanity is divided between the majority who are born into poverty and stay there, and a tiny minority of special people who are born with the talent and will to escape it. And from within this tiny elite, Conor McGregor is even more special, having made it the very summit of fame and adulation.
What this enshrines is the lie that underpins the unfettered greed which in these dog days of capitalism we have been conditioned to believe is a virtue rather than a vice. The notion we are fed on the back of this lie is that extreme wealth and fame are coterminous with happiness and meaning, when in truth they are symptomatic of the moral sickness that passes for both.
When, after defeating the fearsome Sonny Liston to claim the heavyweight title in 1964, a young and precocious Muhammad Ali told the world’s media, “I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want,” he defied the attempt to use his preternatural and poetic talent to reaffirm the received truths of a status quo which for centuries had crushed the humanity of his people.
But where Ali stood in defiance of this status quo, and found meaning in a cause greater than self, Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather has knelt in worship at its altar, using his own preternatural talent to reaffirm its core values of me, myself, and I.
Private jets, more luxury vehicles than your average dictator, a retinue of flunkies waiting on him hand and foot — this is not freedom it is a prison, albeit one that is enclosed in gold bars.
The beginning of wisdom is humility, and there was a grievous lack of both either in the lead up to or in the aftermath, the third act, of this mess. Taken in its totality, it was less a testament to the timeless virtues of pugilism and the accompanying ennoblement of the human spirit, and more a celebration of decadence and the accompanying desolation of that spirit.
As an event and spectacle Mayweather v McGregor is a fight that goes down as a cultural signpost on the downslope of humanity’s evolutionary journey.