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The day that Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor was announced as signed, sealed and delivered for Aug. 26, a collective gasp swept over much of the boxing community. First, the announcement completely buried the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev rematch taking place that particular weekend. Second, the announced date was three weeks before what was supposed to be the biggest fight of the year between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin.
The prevailing thought was that Mayweather-McGregor would interfere with the promotional aspect of Alvarez-Golovkin. More importantly, it would force fans to choose between the star power-fueled spectacle and the hypercompetitive dream fight. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya immediately went on the offensive by asking boxing fans to boycott Mayweather-McGregor while going so far as to call the fight a farce. De La Hoya had a right to be defensive, as he saw Mayweather-McGregor as a threat to his card, which boxing fans have been waiting a few years to materialize.
Was it really a threat, or could De La Hoya have found a way to use Mayweather-McGregor to help his cause? Those are difficult questions to answer, because there’s a significant challenge in asking fans to cough up another $60 after spending $100 for a fight three weeks earlier. That’s unavoidable, but what De La Hoya shouldn’t have done is create apathy for his event by aggressively trying to tear down Mayweather-McGregor.
What was obvious and didn’t need further explaining was that Mayweather-McGregor was more spectacle than competitive fight. The end was never in doubt, as Mayweather stopped McGregor in the 10th round, but it was fun for casual fans and something the combat sports world had never seen. To make matters worse for De La Hoya, he had openly stated in interviews prior to the announcement of Mayweather-McGregor that he was interested in having Alvarez face McGregor. When considering the idea that his fighter didn’t get the opportunity and Mayweather did, it sounded like nothing more than sour grapes from the Golden Boy Promotions CEO.
Nothing did more damage than De La Hoya firing off a tweet during the Mayweather-McGregor weigh-in that was laced with an expletive directed at the combatants and promoters. If De La Hoya wanted to push himself further away from the mainstream and onto his own island, he certainly did it with that tweet. The reality is De La Hoya could have found a more tactful way to handle this. Rather than being overly critical, he could have marketed his fight as the “real” fight to generate interest. With the spotlight shining so brightly on boxing, it was a great opportunity to try to use Mayweather-McGregor to get a rub for his card. True boxing fans already knew the deal, but it could have piqued the curiosity of casual fans because Alvarez-Golovkin had already established a buzz.
None of this even mentions the fact that there are two different audiences attending these fights. Mayweather-McGregor was for the high rollers and Irish fans, while Alvarez-Golovkin has the overwhelming support of the Mexican community and hardcore boxing fans. Before De La Hoya said anything, hardcore fans rallied to his support by stating they would still pay to see Alvarez-Golovkin. The only thing these two events were splitting was casual fans.
For the most part, casual fans act on impulse, meaning they often decide whether or not to buy a pay-per-view the week of the fight. However, when a majority of the stories regarding Alvarez-Golovkin are about the promoter railing against the other fight in which fans are interested, it could certainly turn off people. Nobody wants to support a “hater,” and that’s exactly how De La Hoya presented himself. Even in the days following, De La Hoya told anybody who was listening that Mayweather-McGregor was a farce. It wasn’t necessary, even if he believes it to be true.
Instead, it would have been wise to have Alvarez and Golovkin appear on sports shows to discuss Mayweather-McGregor and how their fight will differ. Of course, it’s a tall order because Alvarez doesn’t speak English and Golovkin’s English remains a work in progress. Even so, it would have helped for both fighters and De La Hoya to find a way to keep their fight relevant while participating in the Mayweather-McGregor circus.
Instead, they have angered the biggest personalities in combat sports. Maybe Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White would have supported Alvarez-Golovkin to some degree, even though the Ultimate Fighting Championship is promoting an event the same night. Now, he’ll probably trash it because of De La Hoya. The same can be said for Mayweather, who has always had friction with De La Hoya. Perhaps the 50-0 fighter would have urged fans to watch the fight between two guys who are “helluva fighters,” as he usually says. Instead, Alvarez-Golovkin will get zero support from the most visible fighters and promoters in combat sports.
Ultimately, boxing has always had an issue of promoters being unable to play nice together. It hurts the fighters more than anything else. There’s no doubt that Alvarez-Golovkin is the most intriguing and competitive fight of the year, but it could have done more to help itself instead of fighting an event it couldn’t defeat. Hopefully, Alvarez-Golovkin won’t suffer and fight fans -- from the casuals to the hardcores -- will tune in to what is expected to be an excellent fight.
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