P.T. Would’ve been Proud! A Boxing Coach’s Take on Mayweather vs. McGregor
By: Bruce Babashan
(A letter to a friend about the McGregor vs Mayweather fight the other night)
I did not watch the fight the other night. I had my reasons but I have many friends and family that did. One friend (Greg) in particular who loves Conner McGregor and MMA was really into the whole event. He’s a great guy! After the fight he immediately called me insisting that McGregor did better than anyone had expected and said how proud he was of him. I’m a professional boxing coach so it was natural he wanted to share his opinions with me. Leading up to the fight he would call me regularly to talk about the event and to ask my opinion. I would tell him I didn’t feel McGregor had much of a chance but that never seemed to satisfy him and each time we talked he wanted to really get into it…to be honest, I was just not that interested.
Photo Credit: USA Today
It wasn’t just this friend, it was many friends and even some family members who wanted to talk about it and this conversation was repeated many times leading up to the big event. I tried to stay clear of it as best I could because it was clear most of the folks I was speaking to were not really interested in my view but rather on telling me their’s and why my view was so wrong. Its natural. It’s the hype. If’s fun to speculate and to be part of the excitement building up to any big fight. Besides, I’m a boxing trainer so who else would they call…right?
I had many opportunities to see the fight but I chose to stay home. After the fight was over my friend Greg called me immediately asking my opinion. I told him I hadn’t seen it and he went on to describe it to me. He was so happy! He felt that despite the fact that McGregor had been TKO’d that it was somehow a justification of CM’s authenticity as a capable boxer. He kept saying “see…see…CM did better than you all thought he’d do…see…MMA fighters can compete with boxers.” I did not respond because it was unnecessary since his guy was just TKO’d for gods sake and didn’t feel anything else was needed to be said at that moment. Besides, he was having fun in the moment so it was not the right time to offer a contrary opinion. So the next day I crafted a brief email for him and I wanted to share it with you all in the hopes some of you find it interesting.
Dear Greg: I was very happy for you last night. When you called you seemed like you were having a ball! It sounded like a fun event. As I mentioned, I did not see the fight and I had watched the Miguel Cotto fight on HBO instead. I know you are a big fan of Conner McGregor’s and you should be very proud of him. He is a true warrior and an impressive guy, to say the least! That said, I wanted to try and share my thoughts on the fight and avoid a disagreement in the process.
I hope you will take what I offer in the spirit in which it is intended. After so many years in boxing I have a point of view you may find interesting. I didn’t say anything last night when you called but I’m hoping that by today some of the euphoria has worn off and I can share my point of view and give you a different perspective on the fight.
There was no surprise last night Greg. I know you want to believe CM ‘shocked the world” but he did not. He did not outperform expectations and, in fact, got KO’d and was saved by the official. Not only did CM NOT outperform expectations but he actually performed almost EXACTLY the way many (most) knowledgeable and smart boxing folks felt he would…GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES.
Look I do not claim to know much, but I do know boxing. Over the years I’ve learned not to let my emotions cloud my judgment and I’ve learned how to “tease out” the hype for the actual fight itself. In any build leading up to a fight everyone loves to speculate, make predications and defend whomever they are backing. That’s half the fun of it and this fight was no different, however, next time if you REALLY want to know what the inside experts think about it all you have to do is follow the money. Simple!
The HYPE or “the FOG of war” so to speak was awesome for this event. MMA vs Boxing….McGregor’s toughness vs Maywether’s skills. McGregor: the young strong warrior, in his prime, tough as nails, a big heart with a big punch and some boxing skills vs. Maywether: the undefeated super skilled boxer closing in on his 50th win. A super skilled fighter who is older and slower and who has been inactive (2 years) and has just 1-KO in the past 10 years – its perfect and when you add in the commentators from each side some saying McGregor will get KO’d in the 1st round or that McGregor won’t land a punch while others claiming McGregor was too strong, too big and has a huge punch that will crush Maywether’s “tiny” head. Everyone had an opinion and everyone was an expert. It was a BLAST!
All this makes for fertile ground for a hype and THE PERFECT SET-UP!. A world-wide controversy with a nearly 100% predictable outcome! The perfect set up for a SPECTACLE…but not a real fight!
Last night 83% of all the “smart money” (professional gamblers) bet on Maywether.
The over/under on the fight was 9.5 rounds (the fight went 10. Six weeks ago I penned an article called “A Coaches View on the Maywether vs McGregor fight’ (https://www.boxing247.com/boxing-news/a-coaches-maywether-mcgregor/77058) where I predicted this fight would turn out almost EXACTLY as it did. I’m no genius but I do know a few things about boxing and the “big hype.” The fact is, McGregor and Maywether each performed almost EXACTLY the way most of us expected they would. In fact, the only people who are truly shocked were those of you who bought into the hype.
Here are the facts (if you care to hear them)-: Conner McGregor is a world-class MMA fighter with “club level” talents as a boxer. His youth, heart and size kept him on his feet just long enough for Vegas and the “smart money” to cash in (Under/over 9.5). He had almost no chance to win the fight and he performed EXACTLY as the money had PLANNED. Maywether did the same and everyone walked away a winner last night. That said, this was NOT a real fight….. it was a spectacle!!!
Greg, I love to see you so excited about a boxing match. That said, next time there is a big hype DONT just “watch” the hype but rather try and SEE THRU THE GAME! McGregor is a very bad man who performed EXACTLY as he was expected to. Maywether is a great OLD boxer who did EXACTLY what he needed to…everybody wins…including the fans on both sides.
McGregor cashed-in at the right time against the perfect guy. The truth: McGregor is a club-level boxer, nothing more…nothing less, but his other attributes made him the perfect foil for the hype. McGregor was exactly what he was expected to be and exactly who he needed to be last night. GET IT! Be proud of your man, he’s great in MMA but he should NOT return to boxing!
I am reminded of a quote I heard many years ago “You can fool some of the people all of the time. You can fool all of the people some of the time… but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. – P.T. Barnum.
Ole PT would have been proud Saturday night!
See you at the gym Greg!
USA Boxing Coach
Professional Boxing Trainer
Clarksburg High School – Football Coach
Speaker and Author
The Boys in Backpacks: A Coach’s View on the Mayweather vs. McGregor Fight
The Boys in Backpacks: A Coach’s View on the Mayweather vs. McGregor Fight
By: Bruce Babashan
Professional Boxing Trainer/Coach-USA Boxing Coach
I don’t begrudge anyone in any fighting sport the opportunity to make money. These men are talented in their respective sports and they put themselves at risk out there so let them get paid. I get it!
However, on that Saturday night in August as you gather around your TV’s in anticipation of the big fight between Conorr McGregor and Floyd Maywether, please take a moment and consider this.
One day a few years back a boy showed up at my gym with all of his worldly possessions in a backpack wanting to become a professional boxer. He had heard about me from a distant relative and came half-way around the world, leaving his wife and 3 year-old daughter behind, to come chase his dream. He knew two words of English…”me champion.”
He had risked it all and as we spoke I could see in his eyes the desperateness and willingness to do anything to achieve that dream. As I learned more about him I was humbled by his story and the incredible sacrifice and hardship he undertook just to arrive at my door…it brought tears to my eyes.
I tell you this because his story is not unique in boxing. In fact, it’s just the opposite and once you are part of this sport you see just how powerful and meaningful boxing is to these kids.
It’s been said that boxing is the sport of last resort and that young men who choose boxing as a career either make bad choices or have no other choices. There is a great deal of truth in that for many of these kids.
This willingness to suffer unspeakable pain, endure immeasurable hardship and overcome unthinkable heartache in the face of overwhelming opposition is one of boxing’s most enduring and compelling qualities. It’s the reason we admire boxers so much and it allows us to identify with the sport even if we have never been a boxer or stepped into the ring. We love boxing because of the struggle. We love Rocky because he is us.
In August as Conner McGregor steps into the ring we will know one thing, he has not struggled to be a boxer. Yes, I’m sure his story and struggle to be great in the MMA is compelling but we will know that his struggle was not a boxer’s story but that of an MMA fighter.
It will be in that moment when we realize that the spectacle of the event forgets and disrespects the millions of boys who traveled with backpacks across the world to chase their dreams. It forgets the pain and heartache suffered by the boys as they honed their craft while training in hot, dark ,dank, back-alley gyms across the world hoping and waiting for their one chance to jump up on the stage.
Here is the truth of it all. If you ever want to see who is at the top of the boxing ranks simply look at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale. These are the men most easily forgotten and disrespected in life. We respect and admire their journey but we are quick to abandon them for the money or for the first bright shiny object that comes along.
In many State Athletic (boxing) Commissions it would be difficult for this fight to even happen. How is it that a man with zero professional boxing matches can get approved to fight a 12 round bout against arguably the greatest fighter of our generation when a National Golden Gloves Champion can barley get a debut pro fight approved for 6 rounds against another debut fighter?
I like Conor McGregor. I respect what he has accomplished as an MMA fighter but my boys have suffered for boxing. They have given their heart and soul to the sport and left everything behind just to have a chance. I can’t forget them now.
Maybe it’s different for me because I’m a coach and I am to close to the struggle. Maybe I’m just “old school” and out of touch with today’s morality but for me I can’t enjoy the fight knowing what I know.
I expect the fight to be a one-sided bore-fest until McGregor finally gets chopped down late in the fight. I admire Conner McGregor for his bravery and talents but I won’t be watching and it won’t be because I disrespect him, but rather because I do respect all those other boys traveling the world with backpacks right now.
I’m not naive. I understand that the lifeblood of the State of Nevada is gambling and sport. I understand that this event will mean millions of dollars in needed revenue to the hotels and casinos. It’s good for the city and its people and why the hell not! I get it, but part of me was still hoping that the Nevada State Commission would give a nod to the boys with the backpacks by acknowledging the struggle and using this moment to honor the sport and show all those boys some respect for helping, in small part, to build that city.
Like I said, I’m not against anyone making money, but for me I will be thinking of that boy with the backpack and wondering when he will get his shot in the sport that he has sacrificed so much for and to which he has dedicated his life.
One final thing…that boy I mentioned at the onset of this article…the one who traveled across the world to train with me is now 13-0 and the current IBO International Bantamweight Champion. No matter what happens from here out, one thing is for certain, if/when he finally gets his chance under the big lights…he will have earned it. I can’t say that for Conner.
Enjoy the fight in August but pardon me if I sit this one out.