There’s a pretty big fight tomorrow night. McGregor v. Mayweather. Don’t know if you’ve heard about it. Probably not. It’s been going pretty under the radar. Since you haven’t heard about it, I doubt you know all the reported stakes. The sport of boxing is on the line, you know. It’s USA vs. the world, black vs. white, rich guy vs. rich guy. It’s the fight to end all fights (until the next one). But the most important question to me is would Conor McGregor, the heavy, heavy underdog and current non-professional boxer, beating actual professional boxer Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match be the greatest upset of all time?
It really depends on what you consider an upset. Obviously, an upset is just an unexpected result. But upsets come in all shapes and sizes. How do you compare an underdog winning a playoff series against an underdog winning one game? Or how do you compare a really unexpected win (say, a 14 or 15 seed in the NCAA tournament) against a series of less extreme upsets that still add up to pretty astronomical odds (like a sub-5 seed winning the NCAA tournament). How do you compare all of that to something like Leicester City? How about team sports vs. individual sports? I mean, statistically speaking, the Jaguars selling out every home game is probably less likely than an NFL team going 19-0. But would you consider that a greater upset than when the Patriots beat the Rams in Superbowl XXXVI, the most shocking and unlikely Superbowl result I can personally remember? The sport also matters, too. Football, baseball, and hockey all see lower seeded teams advance deep into the playoffs and frequently win championships. That’s just the nature of their respective tournaments: goalies get hot and carry teams, bats go hot and cold at the drop of a hat, and, as the saying goes, Any Given Sunday. NBA Basketball and soccer never see random teams win, and rarely see upsets of note at all. Basketball is so small scale that whoever has the best player almost always wins, and the system and culture of pro soccer is inherently unfair for anyone outside of, at most, 15 teams in the world. Then add in the fact that, for me, anything that takes more than one game is a better upset. Anyone can win one game. Fluky things happen every year in the NFL playoffs and NCAA Tournament. Particularly in the latter, the term upset has almost lost it’s meaning because we now expect the lower seeds to win. Theoretically, a team with the right game plan and matchups could beat anyone on the right day, even the greatest football team of all time that was about to complete a perfect season (not that that would ever happen). So anytime the lesser team has to beat a better team multiple times, it becomes more and more unlikely that lesser team will prevail. So, in my opinion, Leicester City winning the 2016 Premier League title is the greatest upset of all time and all upsets really need to be judged against it. Would Conor McGregor winning be a bigger upset than Leicester City winning the Premier League?
No, I don’t think it would. Sure Floyd is a clear favorite. The biggest line I’ve seen had him at -2500. It’ll be less than that closer to the fight, but that’s still significant. But there’s a couple of things working against this fight’s great upset potential. First of all, I’m rooting for Conor. As someone with primarily Irish heritage, I feel like it’s my duty to give him the Official Brian’s Den Seal of Approval, which is more valuable than leprechaun gold (Side rant: What do people who are actually from other countries think about Americans who say they’re from there? Like, if I went up to Conor and was like, “Hey, man, my ancestors’ ancestors were from Ireland. That means we’re friends, right?” What would someone from Rome think about all the “Italians” who have never left their neighborhood in Brooklyn? Even if you’re like, twentieth generation, I think it’s sacred law that if you have any Portuguese blood in you, you’re required to act like you were born and raised in Lisbon and have served thirty years in the Portuguese army because you love your homeland so much. I feel like someone who is actually from that country would just roll their eyes and secretly hate everyone who claims allegiance to them. I don’t know, just a random thought I have sometimes). Speaking of gold, boxing (and individual sports in general) are too shady for anything to be an upset without any suspicions attached to them. Who’s to say one of them won’t just take a dive? I mean, Floyd can’t even pay his taxes anymore, maybe he needs cash. Or, if it goes to decision, what if the judges are biased or compromised? It’s happened before. Like, this year. And it’ll happen again. Any sport that relies on people who aren’t competing remaining impartial is asking for trouble. Outside of knockouts, pretty much every boxing decision is open for scrutiny and accusations. I prefer my upsets to be clear: One team or person scored more indisputable points than the other. Conor winning by decision is so unlikely that it’s virtually impossible, but, even if he did, you know people would come out of the woodwork claiming it was fixed, just like they will if Floyd wins by decision but doesn’t dominate Conor like most people expect him to. I need First Take to debate what my upset’s legacy is, not whether or not my upset was legitimate. So, no Conor winning will not be the greatest upset off all time. Mostly because he won’t win.
PICK: Mayweather by decision