Many students of the noble art may not be aware of this, but Moe Szyslak, the irritable bar owner in the Simpsons, was once a red-hot prospect.
Boxing in the light-welter class, he was being tipped to go all the way to the top by the keyboard tappers huddled at the ringside, but legendary fistic scribe Hugh McIlvanney poured scorn on the suggestion.
“He has the physique of a bronze statue, but with fewer moves. People who live in glass chins shouldn’t throw punches,” he said dismissively. McIlvanney called it in one in relation to the Springfield southpaw.
Moe was originally nicknamed “Kid Gorgeous”, but, after his facial features were re-arranged following a less-than-impressive introduction to prize fighting, this was downgraded to “Kid Presentable”.
As the reversals mounted he was called “Kid Gruesome”, then “Kid Moe”. Answering an opening bell at Madison Square Garden became an illusion. The bright lights of Manhattan grew dimmer and dimmer. It all ended in bitter tears and an acrimonious split with Homer Simpson who worked briefly in his entourage.
“I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Homer,” lamented Moe (with apologies to Budd Schulberg).
Meantime, what rough and untalented beast, its opening bell come round at last, slouched towards Nevada to be born, to paraphrase Yeats.
Some Americans maintain that Don King got the electric chair when he was younger but undid the straps and walked away from old sparky.
That, they explain, is the reason his hair is standing on his head as if he put his finger in a light socket.
But even King, whose nefarious activities as a boxing promoter saw him hauled into court on a rap sheet as long as your arm, would never have conceived of the farce the Nevada State Commission sanctioned for Las Vegas last month.
On a day of infamy for the sport, Floyd Mayweather, who retired undefeated two years ago – but unfortunately didn’t stay retired – after 49 wins and 387 rounds of prize fighting, comprehensively beat Dubliner Conor McGregor, who had no rounds of pro boxing prior to hitting the jackpot in a town designed to stop visitors developing bad habits, such as keeping their money in their pockets.
In short, one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time fought an opponent whose only boxing experience was in the juvenile amateur ranks in club tournaments in Dublin when he was a teenager.
An unholy alliance of McGregor’s mouth, the avarice of Mayweather, Pay-Per-View, the Nevada State Commission (NSC), promoters and assorted chancers are responsible for what was by any definition a mismatch.
Eddie Hearn, who promotes Olympic champion Katie Taylor, provided an example of the ambiguous attitude of the men in his profession to the Mayweather versus McGregor sham in an interview in The Guardian.
“McGregor is one of the world’s best MMA fighters but I’ve got kids at York Hall who would beat him hands down in a boxing match. And he’s fighting Floyd Mayweather? That’s the biggest boxing mismatch ever but if they need a promoter, give me a call,” he said.
Promoters have their principles, but if you don’t like those principles they have other principles, as Groucho Marx might say.
Elsewhere, US Senator John McCain, who dropped a unanimous decision to Obama for the USA Presidency, helped push the Muhammad Ali Act through the US Congress in 1999.
The Act addressed the various conflicts of interests in pro boxing – and there were many. For instance, when King was dragged into court “for everything but the Lindbergh baby”, as he put it himself, they couldn’t lay a glove on him and he walked, because, as a lawyer explained, there were virtually no rules – at the time – in prize fighting outside the ring
King – or inmate No. 125734 of the Ohio Correctional Institution where he served four years for manslaughter – was just the man to exploit that lawlessness. Incidentally, where were you the night the Lindbergh baby disappeared, Don?
Meantime, the NSC was breathing a sigh of relief that McGregor didn’t, given the nature of the sport, get seriously hurt.
Putting a man who has no pro boxing experience in a ring with one of the top 50 pound-for-pound fighters of all time is by any definition a mismatch. It’s arguably criminal.
Some boxing people wanted to see Mayweather humiliate McGregor to restore the primacy of their sport. The Michigan orthodox mostly outclassed the imposter before stopping him in the 10th.
The American is 40. McGregor is 29. The mandatory retirement age for amateur boxing is 40, but in pro boxing, you can stagger on until you’re well into your dotage and a mortician is measuring you for a box – or a promoter can squeeze one last dollar out of you.
Meantime, this genie is out of the bottle and we can expect more ‘fights’ of this nature in the future. Some boxers are already indicating that they’d take on a UFC/MMA fighter, most of whom are considered by boxing people to be a distant – and delinquent – relative to be kept well away from the squared circle.
Outrageously, McGregor was claiming that “I am boxing” before the fight – a boast which is the absurd equivalent of Henry Shefflin swanning around the Camp Nou insisting that he’s football.
Boxing is ultimately responsible for the travesty that unfolded in Las Vegas. Then again, they don’t call prize fighting the red light district of sport for nothing.
An hour or so after Mayweather gassed out and TKO’d a man who is 11 years his junior, half-cut young men, all McGregor fans, all delusional, all celebrating the triumph of ambition minus talent, were shadow boxing at the crack of dawn outside the Bank of Ireland on O’Connell Street in Limerick.
Over in Vegas, Mayweather and McGregor were banking hundreds of millions in the biggest shakedown in the history of sport.
Mayweather improved to 50 wins and surpassed Rocky Marciano’s 49 and 0 record in a parody which was about as competitive as throwing a Buddhist goldfish into a bathtub with a Barracuda.
McGregor said after the scheduled 12 rounder that he felt he’d earned the respect of the boxing fraternity. No, he hasn’t. He hasn’t paid his dues, hasn’t served his apprenticeship. He’s not a boxer.
Most adult amateurs in any club in this country would light him up like a Christmas tree over three rounds. He’d struggle against “Kid Presentable” in a boxing match.