Last week Conor McGregor, the reigning UFC Lightweight Champion, and former UFC Featherweight Champion, claimed that he has agreed a deal to fight retired boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr – a ‘super fight’ that has been in the making for over a year now.

Many are divided as to the implications of the fight for boxing, with legends Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya calling it embarrassing for the sport. Although McGregor learned to fight as a youth in the Crumlin Boxing Club in Ireland, the general consensus is that this is a mismatch of the largest proportions – McGregor doesn’t stand a chance in a boxing ring against the likes of Mayweather, but equally Mayweather wouldn’t last long in the octagon. Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has been making his voice heard in the press, claiming that he has “young stars who would beat [McGregor].

The concept of a cross discipline super fight seems to be symbolic of the zeitgeist – a Batman vs Superman style blockbuster or a Rocky Balboa vs Hulk Hogan moment. It is noteworthy that these two fighters would not be the first in history to do this. The best example is certainly when Muhammad Ali travelled to Tokyo on 26 June 1976 to fight professional wrestler Antonio Inoki for a fight that had its own special rules and is considered to have laid the foundations for modern MMA.

Much like Ali and Inoki in 1976, the quantities of money involved seem to be driving this deal to completion.

This has prompted Sports Shorts to consider a crucial procedural element necessary for the fight to go ahead – the granting of a boxing licence, something that McGregor has sought in the state of Nevada.

Firstly, how do boxing licences work in the UK?

In the UK, licences are issued by the British Boxing Board of Control (the “BBBoC”) who state that their rules and regulations are “designed to minimise risk and to ensure that boxers are fully prepared fit and properly matched to enjoy a rewarding career with some financial benefit.”

To apply for a professional Boxer’s licence applicants must supply:

  • Fully completed original application form
  • 4 Passport photographs
  • Original Birth Certificate or Passport
  • Boxer/Manager Contracts
  • Amateur Record Card
  • Licence fee payment (to be advised at time of application)

Once received, that information is sent to the Area Secretary. This is followed by an interview and recommendation from the Area Council (there are seven, spread across the UK), after which the following needs to be submitted:

  • Medical with opticians report
  • MRI/MRA brain scan report
  • HIV blood test result
  • Hepatitis C blood test result
  • Hepatitis B surface antigen blood test result
  • Evidence of commencement of Hepatitis B vaccinations

The BBBoC also expects that all applicants have had experience in amateur boxing, hence the need to provide an amateur sports card. A notable exception to this rule was Matt Skelton who only had experience in kickboxing, professional wrestling and MMA before being given a licence. Another exception was cricket legend Andrew Flintoff, who was controversially licenced in 2012. Boxers are also required to be trained and supervised by a licensed trainer and must enter into a standard Boxer or Manager Agreement with a licensed manager of the Board.

It is important to note that the BBBoC take this commitment to safety very seriously. Nick Blackwell, former British Middleweight Champion, was famously placed in an induced coma following a collapse at the end of his defeat by Chris Eubank Jnr in March 2016. Forced to retire, Blackwell obtained a trainer’s licence in October 2016, after which he entered the ring for a sparring session which put him back into hospital. An investigation by the BBBoC led to the suspension of Hasan Karkardi, Blackwell’s sparring partner in this instance, and trainer Liam Wilkins.

Since McGregor is seeking a licence in Nevada, this is all theoretical. However, save for the exception of being ‘properly matched’, we can probably assume that McGregor would tick all of the boxes to be licenced here in the UK.

How does McGregor get licenced in the State of Nevada?

Interestingly, a boxing licence in the State of Nevada carries the same requirements as a licence for a kickboxer or mixed martial artist – two disciplines McGregor is experienced in. Such a Licence is granted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and requires:

  • Two passport size photographs
  • $50 license fee
  • Current Federal ID card – If a professional boxer or mixed martial artist.
  • Report of Physical Examination Report Professional Boxer/Unarmed Combatant including an original laboratory report with the fighters name and the date the HIV test and Hepatitis B Surface Antigen, Hepatitis C Antibody and CBC tests were taken. The HIV test must be done within 30 days of submitting all requirements to become licensed. The Hepatitis B & C and the CBC tests can be done within the calendar year.
  • Dilated ophthalmologic examination by an OPHTHALMOLOGIST only – This must be done more than 24 hours before the fight.
  • MRI of brain without contrast and MRA cerebral circulation- If either previously done, forward results for review. This is a onetime requirement, unless otherwise ordered.

The local government must then approve the fight, and approve the merits of each athlete in their ability to win the fight. With Conor having, at best, minimal amateur youth experience, and Mayweather often labelled one of the greatest of all time, a Nevada Licence does not seem like a dead cert on paper.

Despite this, Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, has all but confirmed McGregor’s boxing licence:

“Conor is intimately familiar with our licensing procedures, having fought here multiple times for the UFC. When he has time, and all sides have come to a contractual agreement, I’m sure he will fulfill our requirements, and we look forward to having him fight in Nevada.”

Why Nevada?

McGregor is actually already licenced to box in the state of California (and has been since 2016), but it is clear that Nevada is the preferred destination for the fighters and the organisers. Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather has fought almost exclusively in Nevada since November 2011, a state with comparatively favourable tax laws surrounding probative income. Given the sums of money involved, it is likely that the fighters want to keep as much in their pockets as possible.

Money talks

Irrespective of what boxing “purists” may have to say about the merits of the bout, there appears to be more than enough sports fans who want to see the fight and, more importantly, are prepared to pay for the privilege of doing so.

Despite the notoriously tough negotiator Mayweather having yet to agree terms, it seems increasingly likely that the fight will be finalised in the coming weeks. Given that some estimates put Mayweather’s potential earnings, for a fight which many believe will be an easy night’s work for the 40 year old, at around USD$100m, the astronomical sums on offer should make those final negotiations that bit easier. After all, Floyd “Money” Mayweather is a man who is far from shy of flaunting his wealth.

And the man in the opposite corner will also do very well out of the contest. McGregor, who has studiously cultivated a similar brash persona in the world of MMA, could take home up to USD$75m, a purse he could never achieve whilst fighting in the UFC.

As so often in the fight game, money talks.