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Saturday 18 November 2017

Plumber's chance to become an Artist in Las Vegas

No matter what happens, McGregor deserves to be hailed not only for his fighting skills but also his audacious theatrical creativity

Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr square off during a news conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, USA, ahead of their super welterweight boxing match at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Pic: Sportsfile
Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr square off during a news conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, USA, ahead of their super welterweight boxing match at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Pic: Sportsfile

Most people who've given tomorrow night's contest between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr careful consideration will admit they haven't a clue what to expect.

The majority of boxing fans believe that Mayweather, the master of his craft and unbeaten in 49 professional fights, will make short work of the Dubliner and show him up as being a chancer.

McGregor fans, those who're enthusiastic about Mixed Martial Arts and those who're just happy to devour every brief colourful social media clip from The Notorious, are convinced their man will upstage the veteran boxer and deliver a lethal knock-out punch.

But the reality is that with McGregor-Mayweather all notions of determinism and predictability go out the window.

For this fight, all conventional norms have been consigned to the trash file.

Tomorrow's encounter is nominally a boxing match. In effect, it's likely to play out like something experienced in the Colosseum in ancient Rome, where gladiators with different skills were matched against each other.

A swordsman might fight a chap who was armed with a trident and a net (know as a retiarius, fact fans).

With a smorgasbord of statistical evidence to base predictions on, the results were often random.

Whatever we get tomorrow night, one thing's for certain, this scenario is a triumph of the imagination over tradition.

And the man who devised and launched it deserves to be hailed not just for his fighting skills but also his audacious theatrical creativity. An ability, like that practiced by the ancient Irish bards, to transform himself, with magical sleight of hand, into something other. Something beyond.

Spear

"I am a spear that rears for blood," said Amergin, the mythological Chief Ollam of Ireland.

McGregor, mixing bardic culture with hip-hop, fashioned himself not as a stag or a hawk but as "The Notorious."

And, as such, it can be argued that Conor McGregor, a former plumber from Crumlin, could well be the person T.S. Eliot was speaking about when he declared that W.B. Yeats was "one of those few whose history is the history of their own time."

McGregor is rewriting history tonight.

Win or lose, his endeavour, his daring, his presentation and his belief in the alchemy of 'Self', has made him king. Warrior king whose dominion ebbs and flows beyond the boundaries of state.

McGregor's journey from Dublin to the world is not dissimilar to that of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde or Samuel Beckett.

McGregor exiled himself from convention and constructed a character that can take on the world.

And tomorrow he meets boxing's equivalent of the Minotaur, the fierce some monster, part man, part bull, who has vanquished all comers.

A world champion at five different weight divisions, Mayweather has never been defeated as a professional boxer. He's won 49 prizefights since he began his pro career in October 1996.

He's fought the best. And men who hoped to be the best.

Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, Shane Mosley, Marcos Maidana, Robert Guerro, Victor Ortiz, Ricky Hatton, Zab Judah and plenty more.

Tonight's fight could take his record to 50-0. If it's 49-1, the one loss shouldn't tarnish his achievements. After all, Mayweather is 40 years and six months old. And he hasn't fought since September 2015.

But, either way, McGregor, who is not a boxer, will be facing a formidable opponent. One who controls this arena.

This is Mayweather's show. His promotion. His people are the organisers. They hold the aces when it comes to the minutiae that become a crucial part of the psychological weaponry on fight night.

It won't all be Tricolours and woozy choruses of The Foggy Dew in the T-Mobile Arena.

Plus, Mayweather is rightly regarded as the complete boxing athlete. A man who has mastered the many and varied arts of professional boxing.

A man, who many will testify, brings the strategic nous and decision-making skills of a chess grandmaster to the boxing ring.

Plan

But as Mike Tyson pointed out: "Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth."

We've had the grandstanding promo tour. The parade of ritual insult and obscenity that attends spectacles such as this in the modern age.

McGregor has never been found wanting in the verbals department.

Like the rest of us, he's well aware that he's operating in a world where a "Parental Advisory Explicit Content" sticker offers no defence. He knew he'd have to stand his ground and mix it.

Like it or loathe it, this is life on the edge.

Besides, it's hardly new.

In 1964, when ferocious world champion Sonny Liston was preparing to meet a vocal young upstart named Cassius Clay, he declared, "My only worry is how I'll get my fist outta his big mouth."

Calling his opponent "a big ugly bear", the man who would become Muhammad Ali, taunted in rhyme:

"Yes, the crowd did not dream

When they lay down their money

That they would see

A total eclipse of the Sonny.

I am the greatest."

Ali went on to demolish Liston in the rematch with what was described from ringside by Floyd Patterson as "a perfect right hand."

McGregor will have a game plan in Las Vegas tomorrow that will almost certainly include a perfect left fist "upside your head."

As the old song by the Gap Band goes, "Just because you don't believe that I want to dance, don't mean that I don't want to…"

It's easy to imagine McGregor standing over a prone Mayweather tomorrow night shouting, "Take it out of that, baby."

Whatever happens, Conor McGregor is poised to become super-wealthy.

A win in Vegas would change the sporting landscape. The boxing experts tell us he has little hope, "a puncher's chance", against a boxer whose skills have come to define "the sweet science."

As Vincent Van Gogh once said, "I paint my dream." McGregor has dared to dream. Tomorrow night the plumber becomes an artist.

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