Michael Conlan was supposed to be the headline Friday night in a boxing ring at the Theater in Madison Square Garden but Conor McGregor the UFC star stole the show. Conlan did his job and easily disposed Tim Ibarra in the third round on what is supposed to now be an annual event on St. Patrick’s night for the 25-year old Irish Olympian.
Top Rank had this one set for Conlan. The perfect debut on a day for the Irish and they made it a point to invite McGregor, a friend of Conlan to the festivities. Except the headlines for Conlan took a different spin when McGregor put on a show at ringside. If you haven’t heard, McGregor the UFC fighter is close to getting that mega fight with a boxer, the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr.
And with McGregor at ringside making his rounds, he had a round or two with one particular member of the boxing media and a few others, not this one, but a crowd of others who had to suddenly switch gears and rather quick.
Conlan was barely wiping off the sweat from his debut win and McGregor went to work.
“I’m the boxing guy,” he said. “Watch me take over boxing, trust me on that. Trust me I’m going to be the one to stop Floyd and you’re all going to eat your words.” Those were fighting words and in the right place at the right time for McGregor. Some of the boxing media do cover UFC events.
Then some of us, including this columnist could care less with the feeling that if this eventual fight does occur, and it seems more so it will, that Mayweather the boxer will take care of business and easily dispose Conor McGregor.
That will continue to be the debate along with, can a pure fighter defeat the grappler known as a UFC fighter? It makes for good debate and it does create more of an interest as to why this fight sounds more realistic. But this was not the stage to do it. This was a night for Michael Conlan who had 5,101 fans cheering after a day of St. Patrick’s Day celebration in New York City.
Top Rank is looking at Conlan as their next superstar as a junior featherweight. And they have a marketing plan for Conlan at the Garden with a commitment to have him appear the next five years in the Theatre or the main arena on St, Patrick’s night. It’s a plan that is very similar to what Top Rank did over the years for Miguel Cotto the four-division champion from Puerto Rico who sold out the main arena more times than any active fighter.
Cotto would fight on a regular basis at the Garden and always on the eve before the National Puerto Rican Day Parade at the beginning of June. So the pattern is similar for Conlan and with a heavy following of Irish fans in New York, Top Rank has the proper strategy.
However, Cotto fought when the MMA was a dormant sport and boxing still had some popularity. There was no interference from a UFC star who has decided to take on the entire world of boxing, even the media who are still devoted to a sport that has so much more history than the MMA.
If anything, this was a message to Mayweather and behind the scenes was Hall of Fame Promoter Bob Arum, the head of Top Rank and adversary of Mayweather. Reportedly it was Arum who invited McGregor to walk Conlan into the ring and it made sense to have Mayweather pay attention for a fight that has not been made.
But it did not make sense for McGregor to take away the spotlight on a fighter that Top Rank wants to portray as their budding superstar, and at Madison Square Garden In New York. Cotto never had that interference and McGregor, more fit to work in a WWE wrestling ring took care of business.The fight, McGregor and Mayweather is reportedly close to becoming reality. And of course the fight will gross a lot of money at the gate and on pay-per-view, probably surpassing the Manny Pacquiao-Mayweather fiasco fight of May 2015 that was co-promoted by Top Rank.
Boxing does not need another humiliating fight and this could be one with Mayweather-McGregor, while on the other hand the UFC, losing their superstars with status, would generate more interest and no doubt boxing and UFC fans will have a debate that will be ongoing to the box office.
But this was no laughing matter, nor was it a time for McGregor to confront a member of the boxing media or any of us that have been covering this grand sport for years. It was Madison Square Garden and New York City, and the perfect day and place for Michael Conlan to make his debut.
It was not supposed to be a night for Conor McGregor and it turned out that way. The satisfaction with headlines for Michael Conlan were not and for Top Rank and Bob Arum a nice way to get a message to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
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