Fight far exceeds expectations

Commentary

When I first heard the chatter about a Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight, I thought it was a joke and would never happen.

Who in their right mind would believe that a boxing match between one of the greatest boxers of all time and an MMA fighter making his boxing debut could be anything more than some sort of carnival act?

It would be similar to the Rocky IV matchup of Thunder Lips (Hulk Hogan) vs. Apollo Creed (Rocky IV) but in reverse.

The greatest athlete of all time, Michael Jordan, could not hit Double-A pitching, let alone be able to hit a home run off Roger Clemens in his first at-bat.

But fans of both sports began demanding the fight, and McGregor was able to sell the public that he could be competitive and might win, and, while Mayweather was a heavy favorite, most of the bets were coming in for McGregor.

Suddenly the fight crossed a threshold where not only boxing and UFC fans were interested but general sports fans and even people who don’t watch sports were intrigued.

It was almost a Super Bowl-type atmosphere.

The scene outside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was surreal with the main reason being that the arena is surrounded on all sides by casinos.

There were some Irish fans, but not as many as I expected, and while Mayweather is the biggest draw in the history of boxing, he doesn’t have legions of passionate fans wearing his hats and shirts.

Just a few years ago, Mayweather served time in jail for domestic abuse, yet last Saturday night, there were more women in attendance than one would see at a football or basketball game.

And both men and women were much more dressed up (men in suits and some tuxedos and women in fancy dresses) than at a normal basketball or football game — partly because of the history of boxing and partly because the fight, starting at 9 p.m. Vegas time, was just one stop on a night full of gambling, dinner and clubbing.

The brand new arena was empty and completely silent for the fight before the main event, but almost on cue, the celebrities and fans filled the arena right before 9 — except for the entire mid-level of seats, which for some reason were not sold for the fight.

There was excitement in the arena when the ring announcer summoned first McGregor and then Mayweather to the ring, but it was clearly not the sustained deafening noise I experienced for a Rhonda Rousey fight or big boxing matches.

Everyone was impressed by how good McGregor looked in the first three rounds.

But Mayweather was never hurt or in trouble, and after the third round, it felt like Mayweather could end the fight at the time of his choosing.

I was surrounded by UFC fans, and no one felt the fight was stopped too early. McGregor was out of gas and getting hit without putting up any defense.

Unlike at football or basketball games where fans linger at their seats after a game to get a glimpse of the players, as soon as the fight was over, the audience quickly disappeared out of the arena into the fun of Sin City.

Ira Kaufman is an Altoona native and traveling sports fan. He resides in New York City.

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