The War Report: The Loser (Week 34, 2017)
“Well I guess I’ve had my day. You let me go my way.
“It’s me who has to pay. ‘The loser’ they call me.”
– Derrick Harriott
There has to be one after every fight and, in a packed weekend, in which boxing was at the forefront of the sporting and pop culture stages, the losers made out just fine.
After getting stopped in his professional boxing debut, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor sipped a cocktail at the podium during the post-fight press conference, not as a relief from the stoppage that was forced on him, once gassed out and breathless in the 10th round against Floyd Mayweather Jr., but in celebration of his new brand of Irish whiskey that he says will “take over the Irish whiskey market.”
When it came to boxing, McGregor, 29, had proclaimed the same kind of overthrow of the sport in the promotion of this mega-event. An absurd statement to some but not to those who have really followed the career of a confident superstar that had seemingly predicted everything right about his UFC career. A two-division UFC champion in his physical prime, McGregor’s accolades in the Octagon were good enough to convince some that he would win, intriguing enough to convince millions to buy the Showtime pay-per-view and, more importantly, just enough for an athletic commission to approve the contest against an all-time great. There was really no stopping it from happening and if the expectations were low, the fight surpassed them, thanks to a typical slow start by Mayweather, that seemingly got McGregor some rounds, and a late body shot that hunched Floyd over in the eighth. Once Mayweather figured him out, he was patient enough to let McGregor punch himself out going into the late rounds and, in the 10th, peppered McGregor with shots that had his head snapping and body backpedaling. Referee Robert Byrd abruptly stopped the fight with McGregor standing against the ropes, barely throwing back, and obviously dead tired.
“It’s just a lot more…I don’t know what the fuck the difference is but it’s different. It’s very different. It’s just a little bit more cleaner or something,” said McGregor about boxing, when compared to mixed martial arts. He didn’t agree with the stoppage but said Byrd did a good job for the rest of the fight. With Mayweather seated to his right, Conor complimented him nicely and, for the first time in the event, they both acted like adults. Even though he was the loser officially, McGregor took it in stride and, by the end of the presser, his cup was empty. Maybe it was a final advertisement in this commercial event but perhaps it was a toast to making an absurd amount of money in one night. An amount unheard of in the UFC, and only few in boxing can reach over the course of an entire career – going to show that exploitation and good advertising go hand in hand.
On the same night in Carson, California, and on HBO, Yoshihiro Kamegai was out-classed by Miguel Cotto over the course of 12 rounds but received a big hug from the Puerto Rican star for his spirited effort.
Kamegai, Tokyo, Japan, managed to clip Cotto in the opening round and sparked a firefight through the first nine minutes until the level of class began to show. He got hit often throughout the fight but Kamegai showed the will to constantly come forward and provide a watchable one-sided fight. Kamegai’s body language was entertaining in itself. As he waited for the fighter introductions from Michael Buffer, he used the turnbuckle as a punching bag to get a sweat and, after the successful first round, strutted back to his corner after eating a punch when the bell hadn’t even sounded yet. Kamegai would stretch his arms in an unconventional fashion before sitting on the stool and, once getting off it, trotted forward in a way you’d imagine a mobile Rock ’em-Sock ’em robot looking for action would. You could even hear laughing in the crowd at the StubHub Center every time Kamegai did this distinct scamper and the same went for instances in which he’d turn his head slowly back into position after being knocked out of place. Although limited in his terms of boxing skill, Kamegai’s effort saved the fight from being just an outclassing and provided enough action to make it fun for those taking a stand by being there, staying away from the other outclassing in Las Vegas.
“If I went backward, it would’ve been worse for me,” Kamegai told UCNLive.com on the Monday after his defeat (via translation from Yuriko Miyata). While in town, Kamegai attended the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin media workout in downtown Los Angeles and was greeted by many fans throughout the day. Kamegai admitted he did not expect this kind of recognition, especially after a defeat on the least watched televised boxing card of the night. The 34-year-old was genuinely happy about it and took every photo op with a thumbs up and a smile.
Some fight for money, some for the recognition of their efforts, and if a fighter ultimately gets what he wants, that’s all that matters in the fight game – even to the loser.