Manny Pacquiao and Conor McGregor on collision course for 2021
One of the least telegraphed developments in boxing this year was the decision by Manny Pacquiao to sign a deal with Paradigm Sports, the management company run by Audie Attar which also handles Conor McGregor. There wasn’t any chatter beforehand, but the surprise move is the latest in a late-career evolution for the Filipino star, who resurrected his career after age 40 by signing with Premier Boxing Champions a year ago.
The belief then was that Pacquiao was signing with PBC to facilitate a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., whom Pacquiao lost a decision to in 2015 in what remains the highest grossing fight in boxing history. A year and two fights later, that rematch looks no closer towards happening.
A rematch would seem the biggest payday, but with Mayweather insisting he’s retired, save for the occasional exhibition against Japanese kickboxers, that leaves Pacquiao looking elsewhere.
A bout with McGregor, though scoffed at by boxing purists, would provide Pacquiao with his biggest payday.
McGregor’s record is 0-1 as a pro boxer, but that ‘1’ resulted in a whopping 4.3 million pay-per-view buys and $600 million in revenue generated by his 2017 fight against Mayweather, who won by tenth round stoppage.
Though the 31-year-old McGregor didn’t get his hand raised in his only pro boxing fight, he did show he’s still a star in the mixed martial arts world, selling over a million pay-per-views for his fight last month against Donald Cerrone at UFC 246.
Afterwards, McGregor showed some interest in facing Pacquiao, perhaps at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, which is scheduled to open this summer.
“What a fight that would be against Manny, a small, powerful southpaw. We’d have to figure out the weight and these type of things, but something that interests me no doubt,” said McGregor.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 knockouts), now age 41, showed he still had some fight in him, knocking down Keith Thurman in a split decision win last July in a pay-per-view that sold half a million units.
At a press conference in Manila this week, Pacquiao’s handlers, most notably his business manager Arnold Vegafria, said that they’re still holding out hope for a Mayweather rematch, but McGregor would make an attractive second option.
Just not immediately.
“They have the same company so definitely there’s a big chance,” said Vegafria, adding that the bout would be more likely for 2021 instead. That would mean Pacquiao would be at least 42 by the time the fight happens, if it happens at all.
Would Las Vegas approve a reigning world champion against a fighter with an 0-1 record? Normally that would be a fairly difficult question to answer, but given that the Nevada State Athletic Commission found ways to justify the Mayweather-McGregor fight, the same can be said this time around, though likely in a non-title bout since McGregor isn’t ranked by any of the sanctioning bodies.
How would that fight play out?
Other than Mayweather, not too many can claim to have intimate knowledge of what both fighters are like in the boxing ring. One of the few who can is Dean Byrne, the retired London-based boxer who trained at the same gym in Dublin, the Crumlin Boxing Club, as McGregor did. McGregor didn’t join the gym until Byrne (18-6-2, 6 knockouts) left Ireland to turn pro in Australia, but McGregor was close friends with Byrne’s brother growing up. They also had the same amateur trainer, Philip Sutcliffe.
After leaving Australia, Byrne relocated to the U.S., where he was a frequent sparring partner of Pacquiao at the Wild Card Gym, working with the Filipino star for the first three Juan Manuel Marquez fights and for two weeks during his camp for the Oscar de la Hoya fight.
Byrne says that he was impressed by McGregor’s early success against Mayweather, saying “He won some of the rounds a lot clearer than some of the people that I have seen take rounds off Floyd.”
The 2021 time frame would make more sense for Byrne, since he’d like to see McGregor get a few fights in against southpaws first to prepare for what he’d be up against with Pacquiao.
“Going straight into a big fight with Pacquiao…with my experience I’d like a couple of fights myself,” laughed Byrne, 35, who last fought in 2016.
Then again, Byrne isn’t sure there’s anyone who can approximate the style of Pacquiao.
“He’s a southpaw but he doesn’t fight like a normal southpaw, he fights differently,” added Byrne.
“He’s in and out and just shuts down the ring in quick time. He’s phenomenal, and his punch is like a machine gun.”
Timing and accuracy
Byrne lists timing and accuracy, as well as the ability to adjust to styles, as McGregor’s strengths in boxing.
Weight would also need to be figured out. McGregor weighed 153lbs for the Mayweather fight, but fought at 170lbs for the Cerrone fight. Pacquiao always was a small welterweight, and said he felt significantly undersized in his 2010 bout against Antonio Margarito, which was fought at a weight limit of 150lbs.
While they might be competing in Pacquiao’s sport, McGregor would have the claim of being the bigger pay-per-view draw as of late, and could use that to argue for the lion’s share of the purse. But would it sell?
McGregor, like Pacquiao, is a can’t miss spectacle to certain audiences who travel across the world to support him. Plus, one would need only to think back to 2017, when everyone and their cousin claimed they wouldn’t be watching the Mayweather-McGregor spectacle. That changed, of course, once it was fight night.