Mayweather vs McGregor: The Circus Comes to Town


``Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American people.’’

…Paraphrasing the writer H.L. Mencken

``There’s a sucker born every minute.’’

…P.T. Barnum, promoter of hoaxes and founder of the Barnum and Bailey Circus

HENDERSON, NV--According to Google it is more than 2,221 air miles from here to Newark, N.J. where my personal journey began. Old men tend to measure such distances in light years—until the gift of memory emerges from the backroads of their minds. In that instant, everything old is new again.

I was six years old the day I first saw the circus come to town. It arrived at Newark’s Penn Station long before dawn and off-loaded immediately for a parade from Newark to Irvington. I remember my older sister and I walked down Baldwin Avenue to Avon just before sunrise. By the time we got there the sidewalks on both sides were packed. There were so many excited kids my age it looked as though an invading army from Lilliput had captured part of the city. We waited more than an hour and then from a few blocks away the first notes from the circus band drifted toward us accompanied by shouts of `they’re coming…they’re coming.’’

And they were…first the clowns, led by what to me seemed to be a giant clown (he was actually on stilts), then more clowns handing out balloons and suddenly there was the sound of the circus band on a horse drawn stage followed by a vision that to us was a scene straight out of the movies:

Elephants…big, beautiful elephants that I had probably seen in a picture book somewhere, but now they were here right in front of us, bigger than anything I could possibly have imagined. It was a magic moment that dwarfed everything that followed... lions in cages…the women on horseback …the jugglers…everything—but most of all, the disappearing sight of elephants, lumbering up the street where I lived.

I never forgot what Barnum and Bailey meant to this wide-eyed pre-puberty kid, so I was, indeed, moved when the most famous circus in the history of this country announced it was striking its tents forever. It now lives only in the minds of old men, who in the words of the late A.J. Liebling, remain young enough to remember what it was really like when they were really young.’’

So what triggers this rush of nostalgia at a time when current six-year olds walk around playing handheld computer games and will never know what it means when the circus come to town?

Once that moment lives in memory nothing can match it. That’s why I find it difficult to decide whether to laugh or fight back nausea over the freak show that has taken shape here in the Las Vegas Valley. The elephants and the lions and the tigers are gone but somebody sure as hell forgot to lock up the clown car. It has become the mobile propaganda machine for the freak show featuring Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Conor McGregor. The retired undefeated boxer and his MMA champion challenger will box on Aug. 26 at the T Mobile Arena.

That’s a good thing because if it achieves nothing else it will finally get them to shut the hell up. Fueled by the hot air expelled by its co-pilots Mayweather and McGregor, the clown car never had to stop for gas. Trumpeting a new ode to the P.T. Barnum quote above, they shouted their way through New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and London.

In London alone the promoters say that 50,000 turned out to see their highly intellectual faceoff. McGregor sought to make a case with racism, Mayweather fought back with homophobic slurs. They strutted back and forth across the stage.

The MMA fighter screamed about Floyd’s age and then, screamed even louder that nobody could begin to deal with the power of his left hand. Mayweather walked back and forth in concentric circles and cleverly retorted with:


It wasn’t the Lincoln-Douglas debate. It was more like Elmer Fudd challenges Daffy Duck.’’

Meanwhile the bets roll in at every Vegas sports book. Jay Kornegay, who runs one of the major sports books at the Westgate Hotel and Casino, described the Mayweather- McGregor betting trends by explaining a single day of action in late July:

``Sixteen of every 17 bets today have come in on McGregor. It almost looked like we needed some help from Mayweather bettors but that’s already happening. This reminds me of a Tyson fight where he’s a huge favorite and the underdog bettors love it. They are a study in risk and reward. They’d rather bet $20 to try to win $100. Instead of facing reality. Then Tyson knocks their guy out and their 20 bucks flies away.’’

On that day the Westgate had Mayweather as a 7-1 favorite. Meanwhile, over at South Point, Jimmy Vaccarro, who has been making book in this town for what seems like generations, said he has never seen anything like this kind of action a full month before the fight.

``Today (and we’re talking July) we took 36 bets on the MMA guy and none on Mayweather. I agree with Kornegay. For McGregor bettors it is a risk and reward situation. A guy walks up to one of my sellers and asks if he puts $50 on Mayweather what will he win and my guy tells him $8.00 And then the guy says what if he puts it on McGregor what could he win and my guy tell him $225.00.

``He put it on McGregor’’’

Showtime insists the pay-view TV buys will break every record. It could be right. For sports books this is about as hard a sell as renting a fan to a guy stuck in the Amazon Jungle in mid-summer. P.T. Barnum and Bernie Madoff would have a field day.

Pat Miletich, a legendary martial arts trainer adds to the hype with:

``It’s certainly the biggest combat event ever in the history of the world). I mean, I’m thinking Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali in Manila and Foreman-Ali in Zaire. I mean, this is going to rival, if not beat them.’’

Thankfully he did not mention Cain and Abel.

The only thing this farce lacks is a theme song. I am pleased to say I have found one. It is called ``Send in the Clowns’’ and was written by Stephan Sondheim for the 1973 Broadway musical, ``A Little Night Music.” The verse that applies ends with:

``And where are the clowns?

Quick send in the clowns

Don't bother,

They're here.’’

Both fighters announced they will be tested for drugs.

It’s a start but what about the audience?

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