In a previous stretch of life, the much younger and more energetic me worked in professional boxing. The years were 1995-1997. In boxing time that’s Mike Tyson’s first fight out of prison (vs. Peter McNeely) through his biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear. During that time I worked in PR and I also cut my television production teeth at Don King Productions in South Florida. It was a great experience. Yes, this Midwestern kid learned a lot about life in that stretch but I also learned a heck of a lot about the sport I’d always loved.
The recent announcement of the Floyd Mayweather-Connor McGregor fight got me to thinking about an interaction I had while working for Don. I received a phone call one day from a man who requested a meeting with Don King. Obviously, I wasn’t going to connect him to DK but we began to chat. He explained that he represented the best heavyweight in the world, a man who could destroy Mike Tyson. Cautiously curious, I asked whom he represented.
“Royce Gracie,” he said.
I was like, “Who?”
He went on to explain that his man was the king of something called UFC.
I was like, “UF what?” (I actually knew what UFC was but played coy).
This silly man wanted Don to promote a “Megafight” between Royce Gracie and Mike Tyson. I took a deep breath and in a very professional tone explained my respect for Mr. Gracie and for MMA, but that in a boxing ring Mike Tyson would cause his guy great bodily harm, specifically brain damage. I further explained my admiration for MMA athletes, but in the realm of Marquess of Queensberry rules, they stood no chance.
Twenty-plus years later, I still feel the same. The upcoming August event has been a genius marketing and promotional effort, but the fight will last only as long as Floyd desires. McGregor, who should be admired for having the onions to fight Mayweather, will charge in and aggressively throw a lot of wild punches early in the fight. Floyd will slip nearly 100% of those punches and counter at will. If he wants to knock McGregor out in the first round, he will. If he wants to stretch it out and give the fans their money’s worth, he will. In a boxing ring, the MMA fighter has almost no chance against even a decent professional fighter, let alone the best of our era. The good news for me is that it should finally answer a long-standing debate I’ve had with my MMA fan friends. And hopefully, somewhere a man will be watching and say, “Whew! Thank God that kid didn’t connect me with Don King.”
Sure, Mike had his failures but when he was at his peak he was the greatest show on earth.