Amir Khan fears “boxing will be over” if Conor McGregor defeats Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The welterweight differs from the many who consider the crossover match-up bad for the sport, believing it has given it a timely boost, and has also predicted Mayweather will “walk through” his opponent.
Khan is, however, wary of the wider consequences should McGregor secure what would be the unlikeliest of wins on his professional boxing debut against the fighter widely regarded as the finest of the modern era.
His concern is that so may of boxing’s followers will thereafter be seduced by MMA, and that McGregor’s and the UFC’s present popularity also serves as “a warning” to the sport he has dedicated his life to.
“If McGregor wins, boxing is over,” the 30-year-old said. “Disaster, big time.
“It should be a warning to boxing. There are a lot of titles out there.
“It gives more people an opportunity for a title. (But in) UFC there is only one champion which makes it harder for them. The way boxing is going is fine. (But) it is a warning that you must step your game up.
“I can’t see (McGregor) winning though. To have this fight will take whichever sport to a different level.
“It is going to be a good fight for the first couple of rounds but I see Mayweather getting a stoppage. This could be Mayweather’s chance to finish his career on a high against a big name.
“He’s fighting a guy who hasn’t had a fight: people are forgetting that. They know his MMA career is good. It will be exciting for a couple of rounds then Mayweather will walk through him.
“It’s a good fight, it’s a money fight. It’s going to make a lot of money and boxing is a business.”
The likelihood remains that Saturday’s fight will prove so uncompetitive in Mayweather’s favour that interest in other potential crossover match-ups will cease. Khan’s own long-term pursuit of a fight with the American ended in frustration, but he is positive about McGregor facing him instead.
“It’s good for boxing,” he said. “Boxing needs this. The pay-per-view numbers have been s*** recently. Boxing needs a fight like this to get boxing back up again.
“The winner of this will give the fans an idea of which sport to follow and which sport is better. If Mayweather wins then boxing goes on a high, if McGregor wins then people will follow MMA.
“If (McGregor) wins it’s different. It moves the goalposts. You’d take (a fight against him) because it’s a big name. To do a fight like that in the UK would be massive; I’d even go to Ireland and fight him there.
“You might beat him in the ring but walking out of the ring might be a bit of an issue. Let’s see how he does.
“People are thinking too far ahead. I was speaking to (McGregor’s former sparring partner) Paulie Malignaggi and he said he is really bad at boxing but he does throw some good shots in MMA. Some people only do well when they have that adrenaline rush.”
Sport360's Stuart Appleby visited UFC Gym Middle East in Business Bay to find out who people are backing in the big Las Vegas showdown.
Here, five people from the Dubai-based gym give their verdicts on the fight.
Meanwhile, have you found a place to watch the historic boxing bout yet?
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Floyd Mayweather is expected to fight for the last time in his light-middleweight match-up with Conor McGregor on Saturday.
Here, Press Association Sport revisits five of his finest wins.
The long-awaited fight between arguably the two greatest fighters of their generation proved the biggest and richest in history, regardless of it probably taking place six years after their collective peak.
Pacquiao, then 36 and two years younger than Mayweather, was the biggest loser with that timing, when in the absence of the irresistible ferocity of his prime, Mayweather produced his latest masterclass to ease to a comfortable points victory.
The only time he really threatened Mayweather was in the fourth round when he landed a powerful left hand, but the American again adjusted, winning via scores of 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112 on the three judges’ scorecards.
While Pacquiao was widely considered Mayweather’s greatest threat as the world’s finest fighter, it was Mexico’s Alvarez who had the potential to provide his toughest test.
Both significantly bigger and younger, the then 23-year-old Alvarez’s greatest hope of victory came in bullying the decorated American but he consistently struggled to impose himself as Mayweather produced an extraordinary display, punishing any attempts to put him under pressure.
After again dominating with his jab and classy combinations, Mayweather was awarded victory by scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 114-114 in a controversial majority decision that led to judge CJ Ross standing down amid ridicule after she scored the fight a draw.
Against another modern great, Mayweather survived perhaps the biggest punch of his career to produce a true masterclass and earn a one-sided, unanimous decision.
The powerful Mosley landed a big right hand that buckled his knees and forced him to hold on a minute into the second round, but after recovering Mayweather concluded that round in control and thereafter excelled.
He timed and read his fellow American to such perfection to the extent that Mosley could have been withdrawn to save further punishment.
In a fight billed ‘Undefeated’, Mayweather ultimately outclassed a near-peak Hatton to inflict the first defeat of the Briton’s professional career by stopping him in 10 rounds.
Hatton, widely considered a stylistic challenge for Mayweather owing to his pressure fighting and high work-rate, was the world’s leading light-welterweight and largely matched the WBC welterweight champion physically.
However, after a promising start, he began to fall behind on points in the middle rounds. Mayweather began to read him until timing the powerful left hook that sent him to the canvas and led to the stoppage shortly after he returned to his feet.
The first of Mayweather’s match-ups that became a true ‘superfight’ involved him stepping up to light-middleweight – having won his first world title five divisions beneath that at super-featherweight – and producing an educated and classy performance that arguably deserved more than the split-decision victory he received.
Two judges had Mayweather winning 116-112 and 115-113, while the third had De La Hoya via a score of 115-113 but, beyond a sometimes superior work-rate, he did little to overcome Mayweather’s defence and better quality of punching.