The showdown between MMA star Conor McGregor and retired Boxing World Champion Floyd Mayweather Jnr looks to be inevitable. With the trash talking forever lingering refusing to go away for the past year and with the huge amounts of money involved it only seems a matter of time before the fight is officially announced. My opinion on the fight itself is a waste of time, but who could blame the two fighters for wanting this to happen, Floyd Mayweather Jnr knows his worth and knows he can make a huge amount of money for what is essentially an easy nights work for him, even considering the fact he is 40 and well into retirement, McGregor can make more than he ever has from just this one fight alone, both are shrewd Businessmen, Mayweather Jnr is not called ‘Money’ for nothing and its not just the fighters who stand to make a lot of money from this fight if it takes place. Plenty of other people and businesses stand to gain large sums of money.
But it wouldn’t be the first time we have seen a crossover fight between Boxing and MMA, in the past we saw the legendary Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter Royce Gracie dismantle a mediocre but handy Boxer in Art Jimmerson in the first ever UFC to be held back in 1993. Considering Royce Gracie won the first UFC(as well as the second and fourth editions) and destroyed each opponent as quick as he did Art Jimmerson it didn’t really prove anything in regards to the old Boxing v MMA debates. As well as this bout, we have seen the likes of former Boxing WBO Heavyweight Champion Ray Mercer knock out the UFC Heavyweight Champion at the time, Tim Sylvia in only 9 seconds. Mercer was 48yrs old at the time. Another Boxing champion who like Mercer was well past his prime decided to try his hand in the Octagon. James Toney, a legend in Boxing circles made the ill advised move at 42 to fight UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Toney came in weighing an overweight 257lbs at 5’10 and it came as no surprise that Couture finished him off with ease in the first round.
There is another fight, well really it was an exhibition, that reminds me more of the Conor McGregor v Floyd Mayweather Jnr match up, because it is just as laughable. It featured a Boxer who was the greatest of his time(just like Mayweather Jnr) who had been retired for over a year(also like Mayweather Jnr who currently has been retired a little over 19 months) and decided to come back and challenge an opponent who like McGregor, was one of the best in his profession. No, it is not the match up between Muhammad Ali and Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki which took place in 1976 whilst Ali was still active and many point to as the first crossover bout between a Boxer and Mixed Martial Artist but an exhibition match held in 1979, still involving Muhammad Ali, but his opponent was Lyle Alzado, an American Football player known for his violent temper and regarded as one of the best players in the league at his position of Defensive End.
Alzado was at the peak of his powers in the NFL game, he was described in various ways ‘violent, combative player known for his short temper’ and ‘famous for his intense and intimidating style of play’. It was Alzado’s temper which bought forth the NFL rule against throwing a helmet having done so himself to an opponents helmet. Just as McGregor is 27 and in his peak and has an amateur Boxing background, Alzado was 30 and was a talented amateur Boxer during his College years, making it as far as the semi-finals of the 1969 Midwest Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament and had participated by some accounts in 44 fights. Alzado was angling for a new contract in the NFL and decided to float the idea of quitting American Football to become a pro Boxer in an effort to gently persuade his team, the Denver Broncos into re-signing him. Just like McGregor v Mayweather, money was the driving force behind Alzado’s goal of fighting Ali. When a proposed exhibiton bout for Ali fell through, the idea of Lyle Alzado vs Muhammad Ali suddenly gained traction, in large part thanks to a Denver promoter, Denver of course being the NFL team whom Alzado played for.
‘Rocky was crazy, too,” Alzado said. ‘If I didn’t think that I could do well and have an opportunity and chance to beat him, I wouldn’t be getting in the ring. You know, I’m fighting against the man who’s probably done more than any athlete in the past century, but at the same time, I’m not afraid of anybody, physically. I’ve always dreamed of being heavyweight champion of the world. I don’t want to go into the ring publicized as ‘the great white hope.’ It sounds corny, but I just want to bring the heavyweight title to Colorado.’
Ali himself, who was 37, retired and overweight wasn’t very impressed at the thought of a football player beating him in the ring ‘I’m way overweight; I’ve done a little bit of runnin’, but I have enough to whip any football player in the world in the ring,” Ali said. “It took me 25 years to throw a left jab, to learn how to dance the moves to pace yourself. Ain’t no man who can come out of football and jump into my field now and master Muhammad Ali.’ The fact that Ali weighed in for fight the at 235lbs, pretty much a stone heavier than any of his fights at around 20lbs heavier than a peak Ali seemed to show as much. ‘I’m not in shape to fight no Joe Frazier or Foreman,”he said. “But I’m in shape for a football player.’ Alzado himself, came in at a much heavier 285lbs, both fighters stood at 6’3 tall.
Ali was up to his usual tricks in the build up to the fight, putting on a show for fans and reporters alike to help boost ticket sales and interest in the fight. ‘I’m going to make one prediction,’ he said. ‘They called me up and they said, ‘We want you to fight this guy.’ I said, ‘Are you serious?’ They wanted three rounds. I said no, the guy might be in shape to go three. He might land a punch, might get lucky. I’m gonna suggest we go eight rounds. Because eight three-minute rounds are enough to tire out Superman. I can’t play football. No matter how great I am at boxing, I can’t do nothing but box. He’s a football player, and I’m telling y’all that this is going to be a terrible annihilation. I’m gonna have to lighten up on this man.’
The fight itself was held at midday in the open Mile High Stadium in Mid July Denver of 1979, and was attended by an estimated 20,000 fans. It turned out to be a drab affair for the Boxing enthusiasts but the football fans in attendance were treated to some entertainment, lasting the whole eight rounds, Ali was clearly out of shape and did not push himself especially in the midday heat, admitting afterwards he never really trained for the fight, preferring instead to fight in a manner of what he really thought of the match, an exhibition and also circus affair as he played to the crowd. Alzado did land a few blows, which was the only moments of the fight Ali looked a little more serious and returned fire, reminding Alzado of just who he was in the ring with. Alzado mostly fought on the ropes but showed the difference in size and strength between the two, the football lineman at times lifting Ali off his feet when going in for the clinch. The fight was an unscored eight round match but announcers gave Ali the unofficial decision.
Ali, already showing signs of Parkinsons, would come out of retirement the following year to face his former sparring partner and current world champion Larry Holmes before fighting again against Trevor Berbick and admitting the magic had finally disappeared from the one they once called ‘The Greatest’. Lyle Alzado would return to the NFL and continue to carve out a reputation for himself, ending his career with the silver and black of the Los Angeles Raiders and aptly earning the nickname ‘Darth Vaider’ for his style of play. He would die aged just 43 in 1992 from a Brain Tumour.
Boxing Coach Strength and Conditioning Coach Boxing Writer for the Ringside Report Boxing Author of: (Available for download on Amazon) The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit! Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle