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Conor McGregor, Mike Tyson…And The Value Of Being Colorful

Posted on 01/23/2021

By: Sean Crose

This evening I’m going to be covering a pretty good boxing card on Showtime featuring a super bantamweight world title fight. I’m interested in seeing how it goes. Some fight cards are better than others, and this one has some promise. Most combat sport fans, however, will likely be tuning into see Conor McGregor engage in a rematch with Dustin Poirier in a UFC pay per view mega event. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I have no problem with mixed martial arts. In fact, I like watching them a lot. I just like boxing more. With that in mind, my old friend Bob Miner got my mind turning this morning when he brought up the fact that both McGregor and Poirier looked good heading into their rematch.

What is it about McGregor, I wondered, that makes him so much like Mike Tyson? For, like later day Tyson, McGregor has lost his share of bouts. Count his novelty fight with Floyd Mayweather and McGregor’s lost three of his last five. Not entirely impressive, when you think about it, even with the caveat that McGregor was facing high end opposition in each bout. But before boxing fans roll their eyes at all things UFC, they should consider the fact that Tyson still brought in a ton of attention and money well past his heyday.

AFP PHOTO/JEFF HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

Indeed, Tyson’s disaster of a fight against Lennox Lewis went down in 2002, around FOURTEEN YEARS after his zenith performance against Michael Spinks in 1988. Regardless, the bout was one of the greatest pay per view successes of all time. What’s more, Tyson is STILL bringing in the big numbers even though he’s in his 50s and engaging in exhibition bouts. If memory serves me correctly, his recent foray into the ring with fellow former great Roy Jones Jr brought in over a million pay per view buys. Think about it – two men in their fifties brought in a million pay per view buys – for fighting each other. One wonders if even McGregor will have that kind of popularity twenty years from now.

People, experts even, might say it all comes down to branding. The truth, however, is that all the effective branding in the world isn’t going to matter if the product isn’t what it’s advertised as being. Tyson stopped being a great boxer in the 90s, and, as an MMA journalist recently suggested, McGregor no longer has the resume to back up the hype. Yet it doesn’t matter for McGregor. Nor, incredibly, does it matter for fiftysomething Tyson. Why? Because these men are colorful – often darkly so. They’re ubiquitous presences throughout popular culture, both on and offline.

What makes a person interesting is beyond me. Still, like most people, I know interesting when I see it. And these guys, in spite of their very ugly past sins, are interesting. There’s real value in that, even more value, it seems, than in a winning streak.

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