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Column: Purists Eager For Fight After Mayweather-McGregor

By TIM DAHLBERG, AP Sports Columnist

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Look at any boxing website, and the comments will largely all be the same.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s fight with Conor McGregor is a joke, a spectacle that has little to do with real boxing. No reason to spend two cents on it, much less $100, when there’s a real super fight coming up a few weeks later between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.

The backlash is out there, even as the relentless hype switches into another gear. It’s one reason that plenty of tickets remain available a week before the fight, and entire rows of $150 closed-circuit seats remain available at hotels on the Las Vegas Strip.

Yes, the pay-per-view sales will be massive simply because of the freak show nature of the event. We love our reality TV, and it doesn’t get any more real than two colorful personalities who know how to talk the talk stepping into the unknown in a boxing ring.

It might even be somewhat competitive, if you believe UFC fans who don’t seem to get the concept that their man is a boxing novice going up against the master defensive fighter of his generation.

Boxing purists, though, may be saving their money for Golovkin and Alvarez.

“If you are one of those die-hard boxing fans you might be waiting for that one,” said StubHub spokesman Cameron Papp, in analyzing the slow ticket sales — at least so far — in the secondary ticket market.

Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya certainly hopes so. He made the Sept. 16 GGG-Canelo fight at the same T-Mobile arena Mayweather and McGregor will compete before that event became a reality.

De La Hoya — who helped make Mayweather a star when the two men fought in 2007 — blasted the McGregor bout as a farce when it was being negotiated and urged boxing fans not to buy it, saying “Our sport might not ever recover.”

Indeed, there’s some evidence that boxing fans aren’t putting their money into what they see as one-sided event, at least yet. Ticket prices are dropping quickly and the closed-circuit seats that sold out in one day for Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are available in plentiful supply from the original sellers.

Meanwhile, host hotel MGM Grand has cut its room prices three times for the weekend, and there are hotel rooms readily available on the Las Vegas Strip for less than $200.

But promoters — and Showtime executives — believe there is enough excitement being generated that the pay-per-view — even at a cost of $99.95 — could exceed the record of 4.6 million set by Mayweather-Pacquiao.

“There are the boxing purists who aren’t as enthusiastic about this fight, and I understand that,” said Stephen Espinoza, who heads the sports division at Showtime. “But I think that’s more than compensated by the huge crush of mainstream interest in the event. The event as a whole remains compelling. It’s something we’ve never seen before and no one can reliably predict how it is going to go.”

Many in the boxing press have made that prediction, writing that the fight is a mismatch and McGregor doesn’t stand a chance. That led Mayweather’s promoter, Leonard Ellerbe, to scold writers at his media day for hurting boxing by being too negative about the fight.

“Floyd has single-handedly put boxing on his back. (He’s) the reason boxing is being talked about, as much as it is,” Ellerbe said. “Just imagine the two years Floyd’s been gone, where was boxing then? With the exception of Canelo and the little fight he had, people weren’t really talking about boxing. The minute you mention Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, then this thing opens back up.”

The best guess is, no matter how many boxing fans boycott the fight, it will do monster pay-per-view numbers from UFC fans and from the simply curious who want to invite a few friends over to watch the spectacle unfold. That will be enough to elevate it to Mayweather-Pacquiao status, even if it doesn’t fare as well at the box office in Las Vegas.

But that may say more about America’s appetite for reality TV and spectacle than it does about the two sports themselves.
____
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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