Was Canelo/GGG Helped or Hurt by May/Mac?

Just before Mayweather-McGregor, the blockbuster event that may likely turn out to be the most lucrative boxing match of all time, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya made his opinion on the matchup clear in a single, passionate and profane Tweet:

It was not the first time De La Hoya, who lost to Mayweather late in his own boxing career, denounced the fight between the 49-0 boxing great and an MMA fighter with zero pro boxing experience. But De La Hoya’s vitriol for the matchup was clearly about more than defending the sanctity of boxing (such a phrase is all but oxymoronic). In fact, the Golden Boy promoter was lashing out at a fight that directly impacted his own upcoming blockbuster event. On September 16, Golden Boy’s cashcow Canelo Alvarez will step into the ring with undefeated middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. The two have been on a collision course for years now, and though De La Hoya spent much of 2016 being criticized for keeping Canelo from “GGG”, he finally made good on his promise to boxing fans and booked the biggest fight in recent years.

At least, it was the biggest fight for a month, until Mayweather-McGregor went from hypothetical to reality. To make matters worse, Mayweather Promotions and the UFC strategically scheduled the super-fight for August 26 in a clear attempt to beat Canelo-Golovkin to the pay-per-view punch. Not only would the circus of May/Mac distract from the buildup to what was supposed to be the real blockbuster, it had the potential to overshadow Canelo/GGG completely. If the bout was a disaster, and in many ways it could have been, casual fans may have been turned off from boxing altogether, declaring the sport “dead” weeks before two of its best representatives shared the ring.

So much is to say, De La Hoya’s bitterness is understandable even if it is poorly masked. But now that Mayweather/McGregor, the fight that at times seemed big enough to swallow the combat sports world whole, is over, how much of an impact did it have on what comes next?

As it turns out, very little. For all of the ways that the fight could have severely dented the status of one of the involved parties, it did nothing of the sort. The boxer outclassed the MMA fighter, who represented himself well and was not humiliated or run out of the ring. The fight was stopped soon enough that there was no further questioning of the safety ramifications of allowing such a fight. And, most importantly for De La Hoya and his upcoming event, the boxing match excited the general public. Nobody was declaring the sport dead or vowing to never shell out money for another pay-per-view.

After the surprisingly compelling if mostly uncompetitive Mayweather-McGregor, which De La Hoya claims he did not watch, the Golden Boy promoter has continued to bash the event. It’s become his main marketing strategy for Canelo-GGG:

“That was a farce, this is a real fight.”

But one imagines De La Hoya breathed a sigh of relief on August 27, whether he watched the fight or not. For all its bombast and pageantry, Mayweather-McGregor was a real fight between two men in a squared circle. Ironically, Mayweather-McGregor was perhaps less of a farce than the Cinco de Mayo pay-per-view fight between Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., an event De La Hoya promoted. That fight was billed as a guaranteed barnburner between two Mexican warriors, when in reality the twelve rounds contained all the excitement and momentum shifts of watching Canelo hitting a heavy bag for a half-hour. When Golovkin was marched out to the ring afterwards, fans were too excited to reflect on the fact that they had just been sold yet another pay-per-view tune-up fight on the way to the big payday.

The pay-per-view sales for Canelo-Golovkin may take a slight hit with the general public that just paid $100 to watch Mayweather defeat McGregor. But the fight that De La Hoya has been labeling a farce didn’t do much besides shine a spotlight on a sport that has been increasingly marginalized over recent years. More people have talked about boxing this year than there were last year, and regardless of the merit of the fight that has them talking, it can only mean good things for the sport.

Mayweather-McGregor, both as a spectacle and as a ten-round contest, was like a summer blockbuster film: big, loud, flashy, dumb and ultimately fun. And Canelo-Golovkin is something more meaningful: an action fight with some substance and historical significance to back it up, one that will have real ramifications on the sport’s immediate future. Luckily, there’s room for both.

As has been the case for decades, the reports of boxing’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

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