Bat­tle of spec­ta­cles too close to call

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNY­DER

It prom­ises to be a spec­ta­cle of un­prece­dented pro­por­tions. Two cham­pi­ons fac­ing each other, but only one in his nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. A match that ap­pears lop­sided and an out­come that seems ob­vi­ous. Wide­spread buzz and in­ter­est among the masses for a com­pe­ti­tion we never thought pos­si­ble.

Floyd May­weather vs. Conor McGre­gor? No, silly.

I’m talk­ing Michael Phelps vs. Great White Shark.

Maybe you missed that bit of news last week, lost in the clamor about box­ing’s May­weather and MMA’s McGre­gor seal­ing a deal to meet Aug. 26. Con­sid­er­ing how the fight was first men­tioned in March 2016 – when McGre­gor re­vealed he was will­ing to box the un­de­feated, five-divi­sion cham­pion – it’s un­der­stand­able that their an­nounce­ment scored a knockout over Phelps vs. Jaws.

But as du­el­ing anom­alies go, the events are closer to a draw.

Phelps’ re­turn to rac­ing catches us off guard, so soon on the heels of his re­tire­ment af­ter last year’s Rio Olympics. But can you imag­ine be­ing re­tired at 31? Even with a 1-year-old son to keep him busy, Phelps must be bored out of his mind.

We don’t know who ap­proached whom, but Dis­cov­ery’s “Shark Week” pro­gram­ming will now in­clude the world’s most-dec­o­rated Olympian vs. the world’s most-fear­some fish. De­tails are few and hard to imag­ine, but they weren’t nec­es­sary for the net­work’s “Great Gold vs. Great White” press re­lease:

“They are one of the fastest and most ef­fi­cient preda­tors on the planet: Sharks. He is our great­est cham­pion to

ever get in the wa­ter: Michael Phelps. 39 world records. 23 Olympic golds. But he has one com­pe­ti­tion left to win. An event so mon­u­men­tal no one has ever at­tempted it be­fore. The world’s most dec­o­rated ath­lete takes on the ocean’s most ef­fi­cient preda­tor: Phelps V Shark – the race is on!”

Phelps will ap­pear on an­other Shark Week pro­gram, too, “Shark School with Michael Phelps,” in which he gets a crash course on the an­i­mals. He dis­cussed his in­ter­est in a YouTube video re­leased last week.

“We just got off a plane from South Africa yes­ter­day,” he said. “We were down there for about a week. That one was fun, do­ing some stuff with Shark Week. For me, sharks are like my No. 1 fa­vorite an­i­mal in the world. Be­ing able to see them face to face was pretty cool.”

The race airs Sun­day, July 23 at 8 p.m. Set your VCRs!

At least you don’t have to weigh cost vs. cu­rios­ity. Dis­cov­ery is in­cluded in ba­sic-ca­ble pack­ages and won’t add a penny to your monthly bill. That’s not the case with sports’ other odd­ity this sum­mer.

May­weather-McGre­gor is ex­pected to ap­proach the pay-per-view record of $99.99, set when May­weather fought Manny Pac­quiao in 2015. That bout also broke the marks for buys and rev­enue, with 4.6 mil­lion viewers gen­er­at­ing more than $400 mil­lion. May­weather is the PPV king, the main at­trac­tion in box­ing’s all-time, three­most lu­cra­tive bouts. McGre­gor is the MMA’s big­gest star and its most mag­netic draw, an in­tox­i­cat­ing mix of skill in the Oc­tagon and pro­moter in the me­dia.

At first glance, this isn’t a fair fight. McGre­gor is con­fined to box­ing rules, which elim­i­nates the kicks, take­downs and sub­mis­sions that take MMA to a dif­fer­ent level. McGre­gor has de­feated op­po­nents via “El­bows” as well as “Rear Naked Choke,” moves that pre­sum­ably will re­sult in dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion (but spice up the show) if he tries them against May­weather.

En­durance might be an­other is­sue for McGre­gor. His av­er­age MMA con­test lasts 5:34 and he clearly was ex­hausted in a loss to Nate Diaz that went nine min­utes. Con­versely, May­weather has gone the dis­tance – 36 min­utes — in 12 of his last 14 fights. He doesn’t start breath­ing hard un­til the later rounds, when McGre­gor is likely to be pooped.

Of course, none of this will mat­ter at the mo­ment of truth on fight night. That’s when folks must de­cide be­tween pay­ing to wit­ness the car wreck in live time, or wait­ing un­til the car­nage is re­broad­cast the fol­low­ing week. If his­tory is an ac­cu­rate guide, many will yield to temp­ta­tion and watch the event as it un­folds.

How­ever, de­spite the hue and cry from box­ing purists, MMA en­thu­si­asts and sports fans in gen­eral, May­weather-McGre­gor isn’t a sign of the apoca­lypse.

For that mat­ter, nei­ther is Phelps-Great White. NFL speed­sters Devin Hester and Chris John­son raced a chee­tah in sep­a­rate con­tests dur­ing Nat Geo’s “Big Cat Week” in 2013 (Hester won and John­son lost). The earth kept spin­ning.

In the hu­man vs. hu­man cat­e­gory, Muham­mad Ali fought Ja­panese pro wrestler An­to­nio Inoki to a draw in 1976. Ag­ing boxer “Mer­ci­less” Ray Mercer needed only nine sec­onds to knock out UFC heavy­weight champ Tim Sylvia in 2009. Last year, for­mer WWE su­per­star CM Punk was choked out by the UFC’s Mickey Gall, just 2:14 into the open­ing round. Each sport sur­vived.

In the up­com­ing ex­hi­bi­tions, my money is on the shark and May­weather. They seem like sure things.

But in a head-to-head com­pe­ti­tion, the bat­tle of spec­ta­cles is too close to call.

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