With Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor set to square off, the door of possibility has swung wide open. These two towering figures in their respective disciplines will go blow for blow in a boxing match.
We’re free to imagine not only other MMA fighters battling professional pugilists, but any athlete duking it out with an adversary. In this first series, we’ll round up five matchups of players from the same sport who’d be worth seeing spar.
Muhammad Ali took on Antonio Inoki, a Japanese wrestler, in 1976 in a mixed martial arts (of sorts) contest. Inoki was allowed to kick (Ali wasn’t) and they basically danced around to a stalemate with Inoki scooting around like a crab.
Organizers learned the lesson of that fight: Divergent styles cancel each other out. So, like in the Mayweather-McGregor bout, we’ll imagine the parties below entering the ring for a traditional gloved boxing match.
Draymond Green vs. LeBron James
Considering the pair have done battle in the last three NBA Finals, it only seems right they have the opportunity to settle their differences in the ring. Of course, beyond the expected jawing from two intense (one insane) players, Green has already landed an infamous punch to King James nether regions.
In game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the eternally chirpy Warriors power forward struck James in the royal jewels as he stepped over him, eliciting a fiery response from the King. Let ‘em battle in the ring—and tell the referee to be on guard for strikes below the belt, perhaps even more than he’ll have to be at Mayweather-McGregor.
Matt Barnes vs. Derek Fisher
OK. OK. Derek Fisher retired from the NBA in 2014. But he is an active NBA coach. And he has a very active beef with one of the NBA’s dirtiest players, Matt Barnes. Of course, it isn’t because of anything that happened on court. In 2015, Fisher, then the coach of the Knicks, was romantically involved with Barnes estranged wife.
Barnes was so enraged, he hopped in the car and headed to Gloria Govan’s house, where none other than Barnes’ children let him know Fisher was there. Pledging to “beat the shit” out of Fisher when he arrived, Barnes did just that, reportedly spitting in Govan’s face as well. Clearly, these men still have a score to settle.
Dustin Johnson vs. Will MacKenzie
Similar to the aforementioned, Dustin Johnson and Will MacKenzie (and allegedly other PGA Tour players) have heaping helpings of beef between them. Prior to his 2014 suspension for alleged cocaine use, Dustin Johnson reportedly had sex with wife of PGA Tour player Will MacKenzie, Ali MacKenzie. The pair summarily split up. Stories of Johnson’s wandering eye are many on the tight-lipped PGA Tour, but the MacKenzie marriage-ender is pretty much undisputed.
This fight would also be interesting from another standpoint: MacKenzie, an accomplished surfer and something of a daredevil is genuinely fit, as is DJ, obviously. Thus, this wouldn’t be the Butter Bean-esque John Daly in the ring, but rather, two genuine athletes with plenty of venom between them (on one side at least) trading blows.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi
What better way to settle the “greatest soccer player on the planet debate” than a boxing match? Right? This matchup between the respective Real Madrid and Barcelona stars is particularly intriguing from a “tale of the tape” standpoint: Ronaldo is 6-foot-1, 176 pounds. Messi is 5-foot-7, 160 pounds.
It’s not unrealistic to think they could fight at 168 pounds (super middleweight. Obviously, Ronaldo would have a substantial reach advantage, and thus should win the fight on paper. Messi, however, may be a little quicker. What strategy would he employ to counter Ronaldo’s superior reach? Plenty of intrigue. Plus, as past winners of the Golden Boot, they could fight it out for Golden Gloves to match (yes, there’s already an amateur Golden Gloves tournament, so maybe “Golden Boxing Boot” would be better).