The novelty behind the August 26 showdown between mixed martial artist Conor McGregor and multi-division boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the primary reason why the matchup is raking in a lot of media mileage. Despite the fact that the fight will be strictly held under boxing rules, fight fans are looking to see how McGregor will handle himself against the tested Mayweather Jr.
Take away the “crossover” angle and McGregor-Mayweather is really nothing more than a pedestrian boxing match; a “show business fight,” as world middleweight champion Gennady Golokvin puts it.
It may be hard to believe, but pro boxing is no stranger to bizarre matchups. McGregor-Mayweather does not even come close to some of the most outrageous matchups assembled by the sport’s money-hungry charlatans, err promoters.
Bear boxing, where a boxer takes on a real bear, was an underground sport in the early 1900s. Sometime in 1937, however, a match pitting a boxer against a bear was secretly filmed in New York City. Twelve years later, in 1949, a mediocre boxer named Gus Waldorf took on a bear in an official boxing match. Waldorf lost the match but gained lifetime infamy for the photos of the match (showing him being whipped by the bear) that were subsequently leaked.
Former heavyweight contender and part-time club owner Tony “Two Ton” Galento once took on a bear in the early 1940s to drum up interest for his next boxing match. Heavyweight contender Chuck Wepner, who fought Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1975, once had himself thrown from one corner to another by a grizzly bear; and he actually hankered for return match.
In October 1999, the first officially sanctioned boxing match between a woman and a man took place in Seattle. Female boxer Margaret MacGregor, a part-time landscaper, took on Canadian Loi Chow, a jockey turned boxer. The original choice for MacGregor’s foe was Hector Morales, but the latter backed out at the last minute, citing “personal reasons.” Chow, Morales’ trainer, offered to step in as a replacement. The fight, scheduled for four rounds and held in the lightweight division, saw MacGregor thoroughly whip the shorter Chow who hardly showed any boxing skill. Predictably, the fight was labeled a “farce” by ringside experts.
The precursor to the McGregor-Mayweather match took place in June 1976, when then world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali took on wrestler Antonio Inoki in Tokyo, Japan. The fight was fought under special rules where Inoki was originally allowed to use some wrestling maneuvers. Historians claimed that Ali agreed to the mixed match thinking that the result would be choreographed. Inoki, however, trained in earnest and was spotted executing brutal drop kicks and violent grapples in sparring sessions. Ali’s camp thereafter asked for a modification of the rules; Inoki was prohibited from tackling or grappling Ali and he could only a kick if one of his knees was on the mat.
The Ali-Inoki fight resulted in a 15-round draw. According to promoter Bob Arum, while the match was supposed to be just an exhibition contest, Inoki threw some real, solid kicks that damaged Ali’s legs. The fight was poorly received, with fans throwing thrash in the ring and hollering, “money back!”
Ali-Inoki paved for mixed matches in the fight game. It remains to be seen if McGregor-Mayweather will be more competitive, but this early fight fans are calling the matchup as nothing more than plain entertainment.
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