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Mayweather And McGregor Set To Meet For Blockbuster Boxing Fight

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Let's switch gears for a minute and talk about fight night. That is tonight. World champion Floyd Mayweather, undefeated in his professional career, is taking on UFC reigning lightweight fighter Conor McGregor. They square off tonight in a live pay-per-view special that has been hyped for months by fans and the fighters. And it's also put off at least some would-be fans because of the pre-show antics. McGregor has been making statements against Mayweather that a lot of people consider racist, such as telling his opponent to dance for me, boy. And Mayweather has tossed anti-gay slurs back at McGregor, not to mention Mayweather's whole history with domestic violence.

With all of that, maybe because of that, the fight is turning out to be the most lucrative in boxing history, with estimates of $300 to $500 million in revenue. But we have questions - well, one really - why? Why so much attention? Why so much money? So we called up Gautham Nagesh. He runs a boxing news website, Stiff Jab. And he's been covering the sport for almost a decade now. Gautham, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us once again.

GAUTHAM NAGESH: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So why? Why all the hype? Why so much money? Is this even really a boxing match?

NAGESH: Well, in theory, it is a boxing match because it's going to take place under boxing rules tonight. Even though Conor McGregor is mostly famous for being a mixed martial artist, he has agreed to become a boxer for one fight, at least, in order to get a chance at Floyd Mayweather, the sport's biggest star. And UFC has sort of overtaken boxing in the public consciousness in many aspects. One aspect where it hasn't is in the amount of money the fighters get paid. And so Conor McGregor is the biggest star in the UFC, but he only makes a fraction of the money that Floyd Mayweather makes, hence the appeal of coming over to boxing and fighting Floyd.

MARTIN: So let's talk about the trash talk because, you know, trash talk is a part of a lot of sports. It's certainly a part of boxing. I mean, Muhammad Ali was, you know, an artist at this. But the things these men seem to be saying has really turned off a lot of people, even a lot of sportswriters, I mean, the racial slurs, the homophobic slurs. What's your take on this as a person who's in the sport - follows it closely?

NAGESH: Well, I think certainly it's been ugly at times. Conor McGregor's comments, I think, in - perhaps at the New York press conference where he said he was black below his waist, I think that's completely out of line. Some of the things that were said about female fans. And then, of course, Floyd has this very long, clear record of domestic violence. And so understandably, there are a lot of people who are put off by this behavior.

I think, just as a reporter, it's fair to say that while a large portion of the public finds it reprehensible, the sorts of people who buy pay-per-view fights, I think, expect some degree of unsavory aspects to the people who fight, whether or not that's true. In my experience, it isn't. Boxers are generally some of the most decent people I've ever met. But boxing, as I've said before, is not necessarily the occupation that anyone, including boxers, would pick for their children. I mean, when you really step back - again, we are watching men who are paid to fight each other and risk death for the entertainment of the public.

MARTIN: Is there any sense within the boxing world that this degrades the sport? I mean, boxing is an Olympic sport. And is there any sense in which this degrades it? What do you think?

NAGESH: I think there are many people who feel that way. I think it's fair to feel that way. Larry Merchant used to always say that nothing can destroy boxing and nothing can save it. Boxing has seen much worse things - fixed fights, tournaments broadcast on TV that turned out to be shambolic, you know, gambling rituals. This is hardly the worst thing that's happened in boxing. With that said, if Conor McGregor were to somehow beat Floyd Mayweather tonight, that might be the worst possible thing that could happen for boxing because it would render the sport, in some ways, irrelevant.

MARTIN: That was Gautham Nagesh, founder of the boxing website Stiff Jab. We reached him in Detroit. Gautham, thanks so much for joining us.

NAGESH: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAMB OF GOD'S "ASHES OF THE WAKE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.