Orville Higgins | Boxing's marketing miracle
I had made up my mind that I was not going to get overly excited about the upcoming fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. It had too much of the 'made-for-TV' prints on it.
Floyd is a master not only in the ring, but in promoting boxing fights involving himself. The guy, we are told, is hardly literate, and is nothing but a loudmouth half-wit. I beg to differ. He is one of the smartest sportsmen of all time.
You can't be that stupid and that rich. There is no such thing as a stupid rich man. He may not have conventional schooling or education, but he has to be far smarter than most to be able to sell goods or services to so many for so long to the point where he makes a fortune. Floyd makes his gazillions primarily from pay-per-view TV. People are always prepared to pay to see him fight, and that is because of the persona that Floyd deliberately sets out to portray.
He comes across as obnoxious and classless, flaunting his wealth and regularly being photographed with large loads of cash. It looks tacky to many, but that's deliberate. He knows that he will have fans as a result, but he also knows he will have detractors. Half of the people who pay to see his fights want to see him win, while the other half want to witness him getting mauled.
This fight with McGregor is Floyd Mayweather's genius again at work. After Pacquiao, there was nobody else left in boxing to give him a big payday. Even if there was a boxer out there who could generate suitable public interest, Floyd wants to maintain his perfect win record. With McGregor, Floyd Mayweather has pulled off a heist of brilliant proportions.
The novelty of a kickboxer fighting him is enough to generate worldwide interest. For decades we have been asking who is the baddest man on earth, the boxer or the martial artist. Floyd is going to let us find out. Quite astonishing, and he is also sufficiently confident that he cannot lose and that his impeccable win record will be held intact.
Floyd has been accused of hand-picking his opponents most of his life. Some see this as a weakness. I see it as a strength. Which of us, if given the chance to choose our working conditions, wouldn't do it, especially if the payday is as huge as what goes into the Mayweather account?
Knowing all that, I told myself from early on that I wasn't going to get sucked into this sports circus. When I listen to sports commentators all over the world describing the upcoming August 26 fight as a farce, I became more and more convinced that Floyd won't be tested in this money-making scheme.
But then I wasn't banking on Floyd's brilliant marketing skills. I watched the second part of his four-city promotional tour yesterday, and now I can't wait to see the fight. I have come full circle. The second city in the promotional tour was Ontario, and I am totally sold. I wasn't the only one.
Floyd knew that he needed to step up the ante if he wanted to sell this fight. It worked! There were 11,000 people waiting and watching live as Floyd and Conor laid into each other with an expletive-filled tirade. Never in the history of organised sports have we seen anything quite like this. We are accustomed to trash-talking, but this was a whole new level. This was raw, and no-holds-barred. Floyd was told about his reading disabilities, his problems with the IRS. Even his lack of a suit was pointed out. Of course, both of them promised to destroy the other. It was theatre at its best. You knew while you were watching that the two were trying to dupe you into watching the fight. But, my Lord, they convinced us that they were serious.
The world will be watching. Win, lose or draw, Floyd has shown us that he is not only in the conversation as the greatest pound-for-pound boxer ever, but he is a wizard at hyping an event. The guy has a career in marketing the day he hangs up his gloves.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.