What's next for boxing now that Floyd Mayweather is 50-0 and done?

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

LAS VEGAS – The counting phase, as Conor McGregor called it, has officially begun.

The match dubbed ‘The Money Fight,’ which was as much about making sure generations of Mayweather and McGregor children never have to work again as it was a fight, ended as so many had previously with a dominating Floyd Mayweather.

Mayweather ran the table on an astounding 21-year career, stopping the gutsy UFC lightweight champion in the 10th round after a series of unanswered blows to win for the 50th time in 50 outings.

The fighters will earn hundreds of millions from what are expected to be massive pay-per-view sales. Sales were so strong Saturday that the ordering servers in California and Florida crashed and forced a brief delay to the bout’s start.

But while the fight was entertaining and hardly the farce many called it, the truth is, this was made for one reason: money.

“Of course I had to come back for $300, $350 million,” Mayweather said.

McGregor noted that he will benefit from every bit of the revenue, and walked over to a point on the canvas where his new company’s logo was emblazoned.

He received a check for $30 million for showing on Saturday and will earn tens of millions more, most likely winding up with more than $100 million. The key is to make sure it’s deposited in the right account.

“It’s about the counting game, because there are so many sharks out there,” he said.

McGregor looked far better than expected, so much so that he landed 30 more punches Saturday than Manny Pacquiao did on Mayweather in their 2015 mega-fight that holds the record with 4.6 million pay-per-view sales.

The Irishman came to the news conference with a bottle of whiskey he’ll soon sell – Notorious Irish Whiskey – and a finer appreciation for the boxing game.

“I like the checks,” he said, comparing boxing to the mixed martial arts game he has dominated with two UFC titles and two Cage Warriors titles.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor were happy to pose with each other after their big payday. (Getty)

Boxing is in the midst of a resurgence in 2017, and there is another brilliant match in three weeks, when Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez face each other in the same arena in a bout fans have anticipated for years.

But with Mayweather exiting the scene, there is a massive hole for the sport to fill.

Beyond Alvarez, who is clearly the biggest draw now that Mayweather has retired, there are many great and talented fighters, but not many who sell tickets or pay-per-views.

That reality, coupled with promoters’ notoriously short-sighted attitudes in which they look at everything as a one-off and rarely invest in the sport long-term, has to be haunting.

Stars retire and new stars come in to replace them. Boxing survived the retirements of Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya, and it will survive Mayweather’s farewell.

Mayweather wasn’t always the most exciting fighter, and he noted at the post-fight news conference that while he had his share of exciting fights, “some of them were boring.”

He went for the knockout on Saturday, moving relentlessly ahead after ceding the first three rounds to McGregor.

McGregor simply didn’t have the answers for Mayweather’s vast array of skills and his ability to anticipate what his opponents will do.

He held McGregor to a 26-percent connect percentage, but UFC president Dana White said he was proud of what McGregor had accomplished. White planned to give ESPN “First Take” co-host Max Kellerman an earful after Kellerman predicted McGregor wouldn’t land a punch.

“He went into professional boxing and guys at the beginning when they’re starting out, they go four, six rounds,” White said. “He just went 10 rounds with arguably the greatest guy to ever do it. I’ve been trying to get ahold of Max Kellerman, but Max ain’t answering his phone.”

Mayweather won’t be answering his phone for a while. He loves to travel and will probably take off on a few trips.

He also noted that he plans to talk to whom he called “my billionaire buddies,” to continue to learn the nuances of business.

He’s mastered the one he dominated for 21 years, after winning a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He finished up with titles in five weight classes and surpassed the legendary heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 mark.

“I’m not the same fighter I was 20 years ago,” Mayweather said. “I’m not the same fighter I was two years ago. But I have a high IQ and a lot of smarts in this game.”

McGregor showed much the same. He clearly is a work in progress as a boxer, but he would make a lot of money and sell a ton of pay-per-views if he chose to come back and fight ex-world champion Paulie Malignaggi, whom he briefly employed as a sparring partner before they had a falling out.

Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, could barely believe what he saw from McGregor, even though Ellerbe kept telling the media throughout the promotion that McGregor was no pushover.

“I was actually very surprised with his ability to do certain things,” Ellerbe said. “He definitely has, if he chooses to, a future in boxing. He’s a very tough competitor and he has a big shot. He showed a lot.”

No one showed more, though, than Mayweather. He knew when to push and when to pull, when to zig and when to zag. Yeah, he was a master matchmaker and fought most of his opponents when it was to his, and not their advantage, but he still ran the table.

There was never that off night, that night he wasn’t in shape. McGregor admitted he got tired and said it’s a problem he must figure out.

That has never been anything Mayweather has had to worry about.

And now, all he has to worry about is finding ways to enjoy his money and try to build up the sport that has done so much for him.

This is a great year for boxing, but it can change on a moment’s notice if fans don’t keep the pressure on promoters. Mayweather, who said he wants to also train fighters, can be part of the solution by making sure the best fights are made, the in-arena experience is good and that it’s not just about making money for the promoter but also giving the spectators value.

Do that, and 2017’s streak can go on for a long time.

I know these promoters. I know how they think.

That’s why I worry about the future, even on a night when the sport had potentially a $700 million night.

More Mayweather-McGregor coverage from Yahoo Sports:
Mayweather picks up big TKO win over McGregor
McGregor unhappy with stoppage: ‘Let the man put me down!’
Sports world reacts to Mayweather’s 50th career win
Why was Floyd Mayweather wearing a ski mask?

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