Over the course of Floyd Mayweather’s career, there were many who sought to dismiss him. Of all the arguments used to downplay Mayweather’s superstardom, the most amusing one was that Floyd was only popular because the public ‘paid to see him lose’.
It’s a great argument to make because it plays into the age-old axiom that “You cannot prove a negative”. How is someone going to prove that the desire to “be there” when Mayweather lost was not the motivating factor behind his popularity? Are doubters to this boxing-forum conspiracy theory going to poll every one of the millions of people who watched him fight on pay-per-view to disprove this idea? Were they going to hand out questionnaires in the lobby of the MGM after his fights? Not feasible.
Then again, no evidence other than anecdotal was offered up for this theory in the first place. So this concept can easily be dismissed as the fever dreams of boxing fanfic writers who were just angry that a fighter they disliked remained the biggest draw in boxing.
Except now Floyd has given us the fight to put this theory to the test. Floyd has picked an opponent outside of his own sport to prove his appeal to the public. No rational observers are giving Conor McGregor a chance to win this fight. If Floyd was only popular because people wanted to see him lose, then this fight shouldn’t sell at all because there’s no threat to Mayweather. Right? The Scientific Method in action! But some aren’t feeling so secure in the chances of the hypothesis becoming theory.
Astute observers might have already seen many in the media world scrambling to do preemptive damage control for when this fight inevitably does big business. Some are sticking with the angle that Floyd is simply damaging boxing. They will blame the performance of unrelated cards on Floyd as if boxing is a sport with a league structure of equals and not based on individual appeal. Somehow, Floyd is responsible for the laziness of promoters who were on autopilot when they had the safety of HBO’s budget and advertising reach. This is a head-in-the-sand approach that remains popular in the media.
The smarter writers are moving in the opposite direction. They are making claims that this fight will rival the money generated by the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. It’s the safer bet because if you place the bar high enough, any return below that level can be portrayed as a failure. They will just brush away a buyrate under 4.6 million in the same manner they will be brushing away the crumbs from the “just one” cupcake platter in the media room at MayGregor.
If the PPV generates anything less than five million buys, I can tell you what the premise of the post-fight articles will be: “While this fight still made an impressive amount of money, it can’t be viewed as anything other than disappointing…”. It’s the comedy of the boxing world. For decades the boxing writers longed for a crossover star in the mold of Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard, but when they got one in Floyd Mayweather, they did little more than constantly bemoan his popularity.
Floyd took a risk that most boxers would never attempt when he broke with Top Rank. He knew that there was an audience out there just waiting for him that the boxing world didn’t understand. But a over a decade later he is still being criticized for giving the audience he built what they want.
In the end, nothing will change the minds of the truly miserable. They will continue to infect the sport with their dourness and anger. But there are those of us that can just sit back and smile as the master promoter, Floyd Mayweather, spins hay into gold yet again.