On paper at least, what’s not to like? Mayweather is the greatest boxer of our generation, putting his flawless professional record on the line for one final shot at glory.
He’ll fight a man who single-handedly revolutionised a previously fringe sport and turned the UFC into one of the biggest brands in the world, thus bringing the worlds of boxing and mixed martial arts together in one crazy fight. It’s the stuff late-night drunken dreams are made of.
Or is it? Because there’s a catch. It seems a number of people have decided that this fight is A Very Bad Thing. And that you’re an Class A clown for taking a passing interest, an an even bigger one for digging into your pocket and forking out £20 to watch the thing.
Is the criticism of the fight fair? Some of it is, certainly. There’s absolutely no doubt that — as individuals — Mayweather and McGregor are fairly reprehensible for entirely different reasons, and picking one of them to support is about as difficult as figuring out who to root for in a wet t-shirt competition contested exclusively by Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.
But then identifying as a sports fan often involves leaving your principles at the turnstile, and willingly ignoring your moral conscience for 12 rounds, or 90 minutes, or at least the next two Fifa World Cups. Does that mean we should ignore Mayweather and McGregor’s respective and well-documented sins? Not at all. However, such is the level of interest in both men and their stature within their respective sports, that their fight won’t be ignored, either.
And on the plus side, at least both are going to take a few punches in the face for their troubles.
Not that everybody’s objections to the fight rest on moral grounds, of course. No: in reality a significant number of people that you know will either happily or unhappily tune into the fight on Saturday night, having spent a significant portion of the previous week stubbornly disavowing it.
Whether they’re staunch UFC sceptics, or loyal Saul Alvarez and Gennady Glolovkin fans having learnt who both men are at some point over the last few months, it seems around 80% of the people you encounter in a working day have a reheated hot take on why Mayweather vs McGregor is going to be nothing more than a damp squib. And yet the fight remains on course to smash all pay-per-view records in existence, with millions of the world expected to tune in.
That means there are a lot of shamefaced fans out there attempting to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes. But who are they? And what are the tell-tale signs that, in reality, they’re going to be sat in front of their screen come Saturday night before pretending they didn’t watch a second come Monday morning? Here’s a handy guide.
The shamefaced penny-pincher
What’s the worst thing about pay-per-view boxing events? The ever increasing price? Fans being charged to watch poor contests? The fact that they turn people off from the sport? Nope, nope and nope again: it’s undoubtedly that your friendship group will inevitably include at least one stingy git who refuses to ever put their hand in their pocket.
Classic penny-pinching tactics will include repeatedly slating the sporting integrity at every turn, in a thinly-veiled attempt to make you think that they’re not interested. Except that they very much are — and come 7pm Saturday you’re guaranteed a call enquiring whether you’ve decided to stump up the cash yet.
Most likely to say: 'You know, when you think about it, there’s no point in us all paying £20 to sit and watch this farce. How about I just come round yours?'
The (actual) boxing purists
An awful lot of people like to take the moral high ground when it comes to boxing, which is odd really, when you consider that the sport basically involves two individuals repeatedly punching one another until somebody ends up unconscious.
And yet we all know at least one. The sort of person who likes to use the term ‘the sweet science’ without irony, and chides you for tuning into the main event without having first assiduously sat through a succession of flat nosed jobbers on the undercard first.
The purists have been out in force over the past few weeks, chiding at the thought McGregor’s straight-left will catch Pretty Boy Floyd and darkly repeating that oh so ominous phrase: bad for boxing. Quite how this fight can be any worse for boxing that Mayweather’s previous 12-round tickle-off with Manny Pacquiao is anybody’s guess, but listening to some expert fans prattle on you’d think this was the last fight before the End of Days.
Most likely to say: 'The cage fighter may well attempt to emulate the likes of far superior fighters such as Rigondeaux, Lomachenko and Pacquaio, but Mayweather’s precise gauge of range, probing jab and pull counter will ensure an easy victory — not that this win should be allowed on his professional record. Humph.'
The (pretend) boxing purists
At least the boxing purists know what they’re talking about. Far more irritating are the pretend purists, who haven't the foggiest who Joe Louis or Joe Frazier are, but are suddenly preaching that Mayweather vs McGregor is beneath them.
These objectors are among the easiest to spot. Before Canelo stopped Amir Khan and Golovkin brutalised Kell Brook, they wouldn’t have had a clue who either man was. And yet it’s amazing how suddenly their middleweight clash is the most important sporting event in living memory.
Of course, their actual tactical understanding of Saturday’s fight is shaky at best, but will likely include references to how ‘Mayweather is very good defensively’ and that McGregor's 'stance is all wrong'.
Most likely to say: 'Actual boxing fans know that the real fight is on 16 September when Canelo takes on GGG!'
The UFC detractors
Similar to the boxing purists, but with one notable exception: they spend longer spouting on about how much they hate the UFC than extolling their virtues of their sport of choice.
MMA has its critics — any sport that celebrates you choking somebody unconscious is likely to have a fair share of detractors — but boxing could learn much from how the UFC promotes its fighters, treat its fans and puts on the shows that people want to see.
But for a lot of sports fans, MMA remains anathema to them, with McGregor representing the very worst the sport has to offer. The UFC in particular is seen as an upstart without the rich history of boxing, and so to see McGregor in the same ring as the storied Mayweather is little short of an insult. The thought of him losing to the Irishman is intolerable.
Most likely to say: 'You won’t ever catch me watching the UFC, mate, it’s just too sweaty blokes rolling around on the floor together isn’t it?'
A risky strategy, but an apparently popular one ahead of Mayweather vs McGregor. The I-Told-You-Sos are a bitter group, having all been caught out by Mayweather vs Pacquiao. Against their better nature, they decided to stay up, decided to pay their £20 … and lived to regret it. They’re not going to make the same mistake again. At least they won’t confess to.
They’re likely to use a collection of the techniques documented above, in a desperate attempt to prove to you that — whatever happens — they are absolutely not going to stay up into the early hours watching this fight, and that only an idiot would.
Come Monday morning when you’re back at work, they’ll either be desperately attempting to avoid any conversation referencing the fight, or ready to gloat for the rest of the week ahead.
Most likely to say: 'This isn’t boxing, it’s practically WWE. Mark my words: you’re going to feel like an absolute idiot if you stay up to watch this.'