Wolves: you know, if properly socialised, they avoid settling disagreements with their kin by way of violence, like humans. So a pack of wolves will seek to resolve disputes within its hierarchy without tearing each other to shreds, of which they are fully capable. Rather, they stand off, stare, snarl and bare their teeth at their rival; more often than not in cohesive packs, the confrontation is resolved without bloodshed: these ritualised stand offs, one might even say ‘bluffs,’ are resolved at the psychological level. One wolf breaks eye contact and submits by lying on its back, revealing its neck to the dominant wolf, whimpering and urinating. The dominant wolf could quite feasibly tear out the submissive wolf’s exposed jugular, killing it on the spot, but it deigns to spare it, sniffing and licking it instead. This way, the pack resolves dominance disputes whilst keeping living and social and healthy wolves in the pack. The alternative is a few individual survivors, limping corpses mustering their energy for that last fight to the death.
Chimpanzees: they are far more psychologically advanced than wolves, so we might infer that their social hierarchies are likewise maintained with an emphasis on bluff rather than brutality, which they are, to an extent; but when they do fight, it’s not pretty. They tear their enemies limb from limb, often as a group, snapping and ripping and eating the bodies of their victim, often conscious during these mutilations.
Humans: being much more advanced psychologically than wolves and somewhat moreso than chimps, we tend to avoid fights, especially those that are fought to the death, though these very fights played determinate socioevolutionary roles in our species history. As our societies became more complex and cohesive, we fight wars not between two persons, but between two tribes, or peoples, religions, colours, states, etcetera. War has been a constant and immanent danger for a long, long, long time; it has threatened to destroy all life on earth with its nuclear capacity for generations. But, like the chimps and wolves, we avoid it, because we know that the ultimate logic of war is an irrational one of absolute suffering.
Humans now: we are almost identical to our savage human forebears in biological terms, but far and away from them in cultural terms. It is not normal in our society to hone one’s skillset to slaughter other human beings the same way it was historically, albeit due to technology as much as ‘civilisation.’ But the socioevolutionary inclination itself—an innate phenomenon evolved in society that is inherent to our psychology—to fight and to do harm does not simply disappear from inside of you as it might outside of you in ‘civilisation.’ You can see such aggression manifesting in wars and feuds and fights as you do, to a very much more civilised and entertaining and interesting degree, in martial arts.
We’ve come a long-ass way since our far-flung ancestors tore at each other’s primal hides in unskilled frenzies; it’s been a long time since gladiators fought to their inevitable deaths for the entertainment of an audience; but really not so long since it was the norm, if offended, to ‘demand satisfaction’ before fighting that person to the death by way of duel, be it by blade or revolver. This is something in us. Across time we’ve developed arts of combat, decided against their employment unless absolutely necessary, and celebrated their art for its own sake, over the combat for dominance sake. Such is boxing.
I disclaim my bias here on out: I love boxing and like MMA; boxing is a passion, MMA an interest.
Boxing is, in my opinion, a privileging of an art over combat, which for the most part, balances excitingly. MMA is, in my opinion, a privileging (or perhaps equality) of combat over art. These aren’t absolute generalisations, but you’ll get the gist: when someone goes down in boxing, the other walks to a neutral corner and awaits their opponent to either rise within ten seconds and continue at the referee’s discretion or be counted out; if someone goes down in MMA, you fall on their face fist-first and pound it until you’re tackled off of them. In boxing, you punch the body and head with padded gloves; in MMA, it’s legal to kick somebody in the stomach and knee them to the jaw—“Shin to dome!” What I am trying to say: kicking somebody in the face, for me, is too close to the, let’s say, chimpish aspect: it tends harder towards the combat than the art.
And, really, I don’t say this to deride MMA fighters; I’ve an overwhelming respect for them that more often than not surpasses that which I have for boxers. I would love to develop that contradiction, and there is a host other considerations that I neglect to hash out in this short piece, but I should do so in a future one.
My point is that we all possess an innate warrior; some more than others; like men moreso than women; like humans welling with testosterone raised in violent environments without a choice but to fight moreso than humans raised in cosy environments without the need or will to fight. Yet inside it resides, and perhaps you won’t know it until somebody twats you around the earhole. But all one needs by way of proof is a look at a group of teenage boys at play. Fighting is play: that’s a play fight. You can of course channel these drives and inclinations outside of martial arts: people climb Everest, swim the channel, jump out of planes and play contact sports.
Watch from 11 minutes in to see Floyd’s speech and the verbal confrontation I’m going to be writing about, though this is not completely necessary:
So when I see Floyd Mayweather approach the podium , puffing his chest, swinging his arms (listen out at 11:36), shouting two syllable couplets, I see an Alpha-Fighter surveying a troop. Like a peacock, he feathers brightly; unlike a peacock, he looks like a twat. He says, “I don’t give a fuck if it’s a ring, I don’t give a fuck if it’s an octagon: put me in there and I’m gonna kick ass.” I would say he has articulated his repressed anxiety about giving ‘a fuck if it’s an octagon,’ quickly highlighted by McGregor’s quip—“Don’t be talking shit, you do give a fuck whether it’s in the octagon!”—which is met at first by silence and then by the Alpha-Fighter’s shouts, then a few struts. Mayweather is obviously cognisant of the fact that he is a tiger, he is Alpha-Cat on land but he is afraid of the water, he is equally cognisant of the fact that McGregor is a kung-fu crocodile that would death roll his ass if he ever dared jumped in that water.
Mayweather, credit to him, has McGregor out of the octagon and on to dry land to fight him on his terms; but the psychological damage is done, he knows who the superior Alpha-Fighter really is, were it to be mano a mano. But the fact of the matter is, it isn’t; yet still this is evidently a significant psychological factor with which he’s contending, evident in his overly dominant strutting and the arm-swinging and the ‘HAR-WOR!’ He’s trying too hard, harder than usual.
Mayweather, slightly shaken by the comments, compensates by saying, “I ain’t backing down for no-fucking-body… I’m gonna knock this bitch out, too!” McGregor replies, fast as his hands, “You haven’t knocked nobody out in about twenty years!” So Mayweather starts shadow-boxing, generally Alpha-Fightering about the stage, and then, his mind no doubt whirring over and over, manages, “Hey, gimme that backpack!” He ruffles around awkwardly and produces a little piece of paper. “Now lemme show you motherfuckers what a hundred million dollar fighter look like!”
And, well, he raises that little bit of paper in the air, presumably a cheque, presumably for one hundred million, presumably transported especially for this press conference in case he had occasion for its production as another feather amongst his pathetic plumage. Or perhaps it’s not a feather, there’s a more fitting image: Mayweather is a tiger, just he’s a paper tiger. He is a paper tiger when he says, “I don’t give a fuck if it’s an octagon”, when he knows he would wilt in that water! That cheque won’t mean much come fight night.
So he struts and he bowls and he jibes, physically compensating, psychologically wilting. Back to the mic, he doubles down on his Money obsessed persona: “He look good for a seven figure fighter, he look good for a eight figure fighter, but motherfucker I’m a nine figure fighter.” Recommence the bowling, the strutting, the arms swinging. Yes, ‘Money,’ you are obscenely rich, but I think Mr. McGregor’s point was that, were you ever to be so silly as to jump in the water, he would be there, jaws agape, ready to death roll your sorry paper ass. “And y’all know what, this bitch made three million dollars his last fight!” Hooray for Money, the verbal-financial smack-down!—But, yeah, death roll.
Mayweather remembered a sore spot, one he could exploit: “We all know Mr Tap-Out likes to quit!” McGregor’s microphone was cut, so we were unable to hear his replies, but after some to-and-fro, he managed to shout loud enough for Money’s mix to pick up, “I’m here right now!”
Mayweather: “You can get it right now!” Etcetera. Anyway, Mayweather concluded with some dubious biblical scholarship: “God don’t make mistakes, and God only made one thing perfect, and that’s my boxing record.” Christ.
So I’m going to sketch my ideas out on four things regarding the fight itself, and we’ll start off the back of Mayweather’s jibe, which was the only thing to noticeably unsettle McGregor in the conference: the ‘quit’ in him.
“Fighting Floyd Mayweather is a Dose of Cold Reality.”
I remember these words so clearly, spoken by HBO commentator Jim Lampley, in the latter rounds of De La Hoya v Mayweather. And it fucking is: he demotivates and obstructs and confounds and, frankly, disenchants his opponent. Now I’m not going to say that he made De La Hoya or Pacquiao or Cotto quit, none of them did and all performed among the best of his adversaries, but throughout their fights they all at one point palpably… changed. It would be going too far to say that they had quit in them, for they all reckoned with the ‘dose of cold reality’ and performed exceptionally, but it eventually deflated them, noticeably. Mayweather v Maidana II and Mayweather v Canelo are other great examples. Mayweather Alpha-Fightered them.
Mayweather makes a jab at McGregor tapping, which he construes as quitting. Okay, sounds fair. Who did he tap against, when and how? He tapped against Nate Diaz last year, a granite-skulled superhuman with a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu who had him in a rear naked choke after he blew out. Okay, sounds different. McGregor proved himself in the rematch just five months later, in which he dropped his opponent four or five times (from memory). That’s an adjustment and a half. Can the kung-fu Celtic crocodile make such an adjustment out of water, for three quarters of an hour in a big boxing ring against the sports finest artist without feeling that same deflation? It’s a good question. Mayweather’s cold reality is not being able to hit him when he’s at distance, not being able to hit him in close with added elbows, and being punched or countered then evaded before one can react effectively. That’s not going to muster much quit in McGregor, I don’t think: if the man can take twenty five minutes of a Diaz twatting him with fist and foot across the legs and body and head without quitting, he can take Mayweather’s blows without wilting.
“McGregor Won’t Touch Floyd”
Well, it’s unlikely, but it will eventually happen, which gives him a puncher’s chance at least. He’s looked a bigger man to me at this press conference, and he has great timing and intuition of distance regardless of what a few minutes of grainy gym footage might show (watch the HD ones in the octagon), so why not a few punches a round? If Mayweather’s nervous enough to make mistakes…
For Mayweather’s part, he needs to feint, draw counters, counter himself, and just (sorry for overlapping the analogies here) take him into the deep water. If he’s not sparked by the middle rounds, he’s bound to win, isn’t he?
“Floyd Won’t Hurt McGregor”
You won’t find anybody who’s fought Floyd say that he punches softly, or at least I haven’t. Floyd is an supremely accurate puncher; he is the accurate pot-shotter par excellence, and his timing in this regard is that which his opponents find most confounding. BAM. He’s gone. BAM. I’m being held uncomfortably. BAM! Followed up with elbows. Floyd’s no knockout boxer, but he hits the spot and he times it well; and he exploits boxing’s refereeing conventions to smother his opponents counter-offence. He’s unlikely to knock out McGregor, but be damn sure he’s going to tire his body and use his head for target practice, just not follow up his attack with a spinning kick and guillotine choke.
McGregor Will Hurt Floyd
I do so genuinely and emphatically hope so. But, much as Magic Mac’s hands seem special, Mayweather’s experienced and has a chin. He took shots from Cotto, Maidana, Pacquiao, Mosely, big punchers, but he never wilted, nor looked like he was going to. Gloves might make some small difference, but I doubt one which will matter. McGregor, if he wants to hurt Floyd, needs to go flat-out Maidana on his ass, stay awkward and leave out the Floydy pull-back and counter—that’s his opponent’s job.
I feel obliged after all that I’ve said to predict a winner, and this template might seem familiar: Floyd will win a unanimous decision over 12 rounds after a tough first few. McGregor might well have the psychological advantage but unless he can capitalise on it early and fluster Floyd enough to land something heavy, I don’t see him doing much else.