Boxing is dead – and an Irishman is dancing a jig on its grave.
UFC star Conor McGregor is 28 years old, and one of the most mesmerising stars in sport.
He is the Lionel Messi of hurt, the Usain Bolt of blood.
That standing comes despite his vocation – mixed martial arts (MMA) – being reviled by many.
Some see it as a barbaric delusion that has, somehow, gained normalcy in a bankrupt world.
Others view MMA as natural evolution – a combat sport that fuses boxing, kick-boxing and all the various martial arts into one supreme, no-holds-barred test of a warrior’s mettle.
Whether you’re an MMA fan or not, McGregor’s fights are becoming unmissable events.
It’s a bit like watching an early Mike Tyson fight or Michael Jordan in a basketball play-off: the ripple of excitement through the arena transcends sport.
And McGregor has something else: a personality, and he’s completely fearless about showing it.
In a world full of sanitised sport stars who’ll do their utmost to avoid saying anything, McGregor is the antidote. “Sorry I’m late, I just don’t give a f***,” he hollered as he skipped onto the stage at a pre-fight press conference for his bout with Eddie Alvarez last weekend.
He was dressed in a white fur coat and red skivvy, mirroring Joe Frazier’s attire for his media conference with Muhammad Ali 45 years earlier.
The former apprentice plumber, who was collecting social security cheques as recently as 2013, now has a penchant for designer suits and is the most quotable sports star on the planet – if you don’t mind profanity.
Before a cancelled fight against Rafael dos Anjos, he said: “2015 was my year; 2016 is also my year. Every year is my f****n’ year.”
But for all his tomfoolery, this is no idiot.
“Even in death, they say your vision, you can see everything,” he told Esquire last year. “It’s almost like you’re evolving to the next stage. It’s like a different plane of existence, just another form of movement, now we’re moving through the f*****g universe or I don’t know what the f***.
“Think of what’s out there.”
When asked about what motivates his smack talk about opponents, he offered a philosophical: “You tell someone the truth about themselves and they crumble.”
Whatever your ethical stance on the sport, or its most well-known promotional entity the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the numbers do not lie.
McGregor’s fight against Alvarez at UFC 205 last Sunday (AEDT) at Madison Square Garden broke the all-time gate record for the hallowed venue with $17.7 million worth of tickets sold.
Not bad for a hall that hosted Muhammad Ali’s first fight against Joe Frazier and Lennox Lewis’ showdown against Evander Holyfield.
The card is also likely to break the UFC record of pay-per-view buys, with in excess of 1.6 million.
Across Australia, pubs were crammed full of fans. If you want to know what excitement is, have a look at McGregor’s entrance.
When the lights dipped and Sinead O’Connor’s version of The Foggy Dew soared out ethereally over the 21,284 punters, the Garden was at fever pitch.
And McGregor is a man who looks like he was put on this Earth to fight. His punches carry a supernatural power.
He seems to do extreme damage with every shot he lands.
Certainly, he made short work of Alvarez – knocking him down three times in the first round before finishing it in the second.
Mayweather and Pacquiao: personalities of the past
When boxing ruled it was because of its personalities: Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard into Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and Roy Jones Jr.
But aside from the retired, toxic Floyd Mayweather Jr, and the rather dim Manny Pacquiao, there hasn’t been a personality in boxing for years.
In Australia, we’re meant to be excited about a couple of geriatrics getting in the boxing ring next year.
But with McGregor at the top and superstar Ronda Rousey set to begin her comeback at UFC 207 next month, UFC looks set for a golden age.
Now talk of a fight between Mayweather and McGregor is picking up steam. It’s a ridiculous idea.
Were it a boxing match, Mayweather would dance his way to an easy win, and if it were an MMA contest McGregor would grapple his way to victory in quick time.
With McGregor the master of his domain in UFC, why does he need Mayweather? Mayweather could perhaps be lured out of retirement for a second snooze-fest against Pacquiao, but UFC is a field he has no business in.
It’s Conor McGregor’s world. Mayweather is yesterday’s news.