I’m quite comfortable writing you this letter because I know it’ll intimidate you and at the same time offer a generous warning about what’s going to happen when we enter the boxing ring in three weeks and all our insipid promotional talk won’t matter. You aren’t going to make this boy dance and I’m not going to choke you till your tongue hangs to your waist. I’ll let Nate Diaz choke your ass. I’m going to whip it.
Here’s how it’ll develop. You’re going to rant and gesticulate like a doomed man as you stomp toward the ring and, though you won’t know it, you’ll already be tired. I’ll enter the ring like a cool, undefeated champion, and feel strong and confident in my lifelong home bordered by three ropes and four ring posts. You’re going to be in a strange place inhabited by distorted enemies, and you’ll respond with blind energy. You’ll insult me. You’ll prance. You’ll try to convince yourself you’re all right. But as the referee gives us final instructions, you’ll stand so unnaturally stiff many will assume there’s a foreign object up your ass.
I’m actually a little worried about you. I’m used to fighting accomplished professional boxers, many of them champions, and I decisively beat all of them. Where does that leave you? From the opening bell you’ll be desperate and attacking and throwing wild left crosses that’ll miss by a city block. You’re a novice boxer, Conor. You haven’t had a single professional fight. Hell, you haven’t had any legitimate amateur boxing matches. If I weren’t going to earn more than a hundred million, enough to pay off my federal tax bill, I wouldn’t insult myself or the fans by doing this.
I’m not going to worry about roars from your ignorant fans every time you whiff the Las Vegas air. They’ve been waiting years and will pay thousands for bad seats here or a hundred for a place on the sofa next to beer-swilling buddies, and they’ll have to celebrate when they can. They won’t have long. You get tired fast, don’t you? Your first fight against Nate Diaz you shouted before round two that you could fight all night. A couple minutes later you gassed and he choked and you tapped out. Granted, you improved a lot in the rematch but still sucked air in the third round and were almost punched out by a guy who’s a submission fighter not a championship boxer.
I don’t know exactly when your tank’s going to empty but after four, five, or six rounds, during which I’ll be nailing your head every time I punch, more than any ten of your opponents combined, you’re going to wilt as you learn what it means to step into a boxing ring with a great champion. Then you’re going to fall. If you’re lucky they’ll stop it first time you taste the canvas, and prevent me from nailing you again when you’re open as a heavy bag.
After the fight we’ll embrace. I think we already like each other a little and will feel real warmth about earning more in one night than any two athletes ever have. And I’ll say something like this, “Good luck in mixed martial arts where you’re the champ.”
“Let’s do this again, but in the octagon,” you’ll say.
“Don’t try to beat a man at his own game.”