With the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight less than three weeks away, most boxing fans are still crying foul.
Many are taking umbrage that five-division world champion Mayweather has seemingly been given a free pass in his quest to surpass the hallowed record of legendary heavyweight Rocky Marciano, who retired in 1956 with a record of 49-0 with 43 knockouts.
Mayweather, 49-0 (26), will meet UFC lightweight champion McGregor in a 12-round boxing event on Aug. 26 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, which will be televised on Showtime Pay-Per-View.
This in spite of the fact that the 29-year-old McGregor, who is 21-3 (with 17 stoppages) in his own sport, has never had a single amateur or professional boxing match.
“I understand completely,” said Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett on Wednesday. “(Boxing and MMA) are two completely different disciplines. But as a regulator this ended up on my desk and I had to find a way to approve or not approve it. In this day and age you have to change with the times.”
His decision to approve the match has drawn the ire of many boxing fans but Bennett, who was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and a special agent in the FBI for more than 24 years, stands fast by his decision.
“This is a fight between two warriors,” he said. “It’s an approvable boxing match. I see no reason not to approve it. McGregor has not one amateur fight (as a boxer). I understand your position. But first off, McGregor is the taller, larger, longer, stronger, younger fighter.”
For the record the 5-foot-9 McGregor is an inch taller than Mayweather and has fought at 170 pounds while “Money” has never competed heavier than 154 pounds, the weight at which this fight will be contested. And the Irishman has an 11-year age advantage over the 40-year-old American.
“No one is the same at 40 or 35,” Bennett said. “There are enough reasons that Conor is an approvable, worthy opponent. He’s primarily known in the MMA as a striker. He’s arguably the best MMA fighter out there.”
Bennett pointed to McGregor’s performance in UFC 202 against Nate Diaz as an example.
“I interviewed Virgil Hunter, who as you know is the trainer of (former super middleweight and current light heavyweight champion) Andre Ward,” said Bennett, who makes use of such record-keeping tools as Fight Fax and BoxRec and places calls to USA Boxing to find out about boxers’ amateur careers. He also views fights on YouTube. “(Hunter) used Nate Diaz 12 times for sparring Andre Ward. He said Nate was phenomenal.
“UFC 202 (a 2016 rematch between McGregor and Diaz) was pretty much a boxing match. Conor knocked him down in the first round and in the second, same thing.”
McGregor went on to avenge his loss to Diaz and took a majority decision in the back-and-forth fight.
Bennett also took into consideration the fact that Mayweather has not fought since 2015 and has stopped only two opponents since 2006 — Victor Ortiz and Ricky Hatton.
In answering a question as to why this fight would not better off be an exhibition like the Muhammad Ali-Antonio Inoki and Andre the Giant-Chuck Wepner boxer-pro wrestler bouts in 1976, Bennett, a former amateur and professional boxing judge, showed he is also student of boxing history.
“(1956 gold medalist) Pete Radamacher fought Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title in his pro debut,” Bennett said of the 1957 fight. “Is there a precedent for this fight? No. Is it an anomaly? Yes.
“I take full responsibility and accountability for it.
“We (the Nevada Athletic Commission) still look out for the health and safety of the fighter. It’s our priority.”
Bennett denied that this hybrid fight would be the first of several to come.
“It came out of left field,” he said. “It’s a bit of an anomaly. I don’t think all off a sudden it will be the norm.”
Bennett doesn’t expect boxing fans to forgive him for making the match that could possibly end the mystique of Marciano’s 49-0 record. Nor is he asking for forgiveness.
“I’m not going to win any popularity contests,” Bennett said. “But I try to do the right thing and hold myself accountable.”