- - Thursday, August 24, 2017


There have been many attempts to find the right comparison for what undefeated boxing great Floyd Mayweather and mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor are purporting to do Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Most efforts to describe this weekend’s circus act have centered on other pugilistic exhibitions featuring a boxer stepping into the ring with someone other than another boxer — most notably the forgettable 1976 promotional farce between heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and Japanese wrestling great Antonio Inoki. That farce ended with — please note — no winner, a draw.

AUDIO: Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman with Thom Loverro

Don’t be surprised if the outcome Saturday night in Vegas ends up being something similar to what fans got in Tokyo that June 26 day.

But the actual matchup — a championship boxer vs. an opponent in their first professional boxing match — might more closely resemble an event that took place 60 years ago, nearly to the day that Mayweather and McGregor square off.

On Aug. 22, 1957, heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson faced Pete Rademacher — making his debut as a professional boxer, just like McGregor, a UFC veteran, is doing Saturday night.

Then, like now, many observers believed the matchup was a joke. But then, like now, the hoopla captured the imagination of the country (though Patterson vs. Rademacher had more credibility than Mayweather vs. McGregor does).

Rademacher, a former University of Washington football star, was a celebrated amateur boxer. He won the Seattle Golden Gloves four times, the United States amateur heavyweight championship in 1953, and knocked out Russian heavyweight Lev Moukhine in the first round to win the gold medal in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

Rademacher seemed ready to begin a successful pro career that might end with the heavyweight title. (Worth noting here that Muhammad Ali — then Cassius Clay — would take four years to become heavyweight champion after winning the 1960 Olympics gold medal. And Joe Frazier also took four years from his 1964 Olympic gold medal to win a piece of the heavyweight championship in 1968.)

Pete Rademacher had a different schedule. He wanted to fight Patterson for the title right away — his first professional fight.

Patterson was a 1952 gold medal winner and became heavyweight champion in 1956 — again, four years later — by winning an elimination tournament after Rocky Marciano retired. Patterson was only 21, the youngest heavyweight champion ever at the time. He successfully defended his title in by stopping Tommy Jackson in the 10th round in July 1957.

Rademacher pitched the fight to Patterson’s manager, Cus D’Amato, who said he would agree if Patterson received a guaranteed purse of $250,000. Rademacher convinced a group of businessmen he knew while stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., to put up the money for the fight.

Patterson had such little regard for Rademacher that he agreed to fight him a month after knocking out Jackson. Rademacher — like McGregor — thought he had the advantage going into the fight when they agreed to use 8-ounce gloves. But, like the conventional wisdom going into Mayweather-McGregor, few gave the first-time pro boxer any chance.

Former heavyweight champion Joe Louis called the 1957 fight “the worst mismatch in boxing history.” United Press reported that the day of the fight, there were no betting odds because it was considered to be such a mismatch. The National Boxing Association refused to sanction the event.

There was no live television or radio of the bout, which took place at Sicks Stadium in Seattle. Nearly 17,000 showed up, and they thought they were seeing history in the making when Rademacher knocked Patterson down in the second round. But Patterson gave Rademacher a beatdown after that, knocking him down seven times before the fight was stopped in the sixth round.

Think about this — Rademacher was a trained amateur boxer, the best in the world in his weight class — and he took a beating from the 22-year-old Patterson, who gave up about 15 pounds to Rademacher.

McGregor has never competed in boxing anywhere close to the level that Rademacher did, and he is now about to face a fighter in Mayweather considered to be much more accomplished in his craft than Patterson was.

Yet this fight is far more celebrated — and far more profitable — than Patterson-Rademacher could have only imagined.

It’s also considerably less credible.

My educated guess is that we won’t see anything close to what those fans watched at Sicks Stadium more than 60 years ago — a legitimate fight.

The smart bet on the outcome of Mayweather-McGregor is a no-decision — an injury to one of the participants within four rounds. If it goes beyond four rounds, look for an injury to one of the two participants, with the decision based on the scorecards at the time, which will favor Mayweather.

The bottom line is there will be no clear-cut victor in the ring. But there will be winners: Mayweather, McGregor, and everyone who pockets money from this record pay-per-view — potentially $1 billion when all is said and done — carnival of fisticuffs. They’ll then go back to their lives, much richer for it.

You can figure out for yourself who the losers will be.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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