LAS VEGAS (AP) — It’s only 2 ounces of foam, 4 if you count both hands.
Still, it was enough to make Conor McGregor quite happy. Floyd Mayweather Jr., too, because it likely means more sales for what could be the richest fight ever.
Nevada boxing regulators went out of their way to give a gift to both fighters, approving an exemption to the rule requiring 10-ounce gloves for the 154-pound fight so that both fighters can wear 8-ounce gloves.
And just like that, the fight appeared more competitive — at least to some.
Oddsmaker William Hill immediately boosted the odds of McGregor winning, though they are still low. And UFC chief Dana White didn’t wait long to trumpet the smaller gloves as a game changer.
“It affects the fight big time,” White said. “When we were in our original negotiations it was something they would not even talk about. I don’t know what changed, but I’m glad it did. It makes it so much more fun.”
The underlying school of thought is that McGregor will have a better chance of knocking Mayweather out with smaller gloves, though Mayweather has fought all but three of his professional fights with 8-ounce gloves and has never been knocked out in any of them.
But the fight needed another selling point, and Nevada State Athletic Commission members were happy to give it one.
“It’s an unusual contest for us as a commission,” chairman Anthony Marnell said.
Unusual, well, yes. The fight matches an Irish UFC champion in his first professional boxing match against a fighter who was throwing punches before he could walk and who won all 49 of his pro fights before announcing his retirement.
But commission members — who regulate both UFC and boxing in Nevada — are charged with protecting the health and safety of fighters. Their No. 1 job is to make sure as few fighters as possible get their brains scrambled in the ring or in the octagon.
And in this case, they failed.
It was bad enough that the commission approved a novice boxer to go 12 rounds with one of the best fighters of all time, no questions asked. But commission members lost any remaining credibility when they agreed to change the glove size for no real reason other than the two fighters asked for it to help build the hype.
In doing so, they ignored a letter from the Association of Ringside Physicians asking them not to.
“We hated to see them break their own rules and regulations kind of arbitrarily,” said Dr. Larry Lovelace, who heads the association and is also on the Oklahoma State Boxing Commission. “It seemed almost capricious to change from 10 ounces, which is the prescribed weight of gloves for that weight class.”
To be fair, there is no solid medical evidence about the effects of getting hit with smaller gloves. But there was enough anecdotal evidence that the Nevada commission in 2006 adopted regulations that call for 8-ounce gloves in fights 147 pounds or smaller, and 10-ounce gloves for anything above that.
In the 11 years since, that has been the rule. Until Wednesday, there had been no exceptions.
But tickets and pay-per-view had to be sold. More people had to be convinced that McGregor actually has a chance in the ring with Mayweather.
And convinced they were, at least the ones betting at William Hill. Oddsmakers there lowered the lopsided odds favoring Mayweather from minus-600 to minus-550 because they will be fighting with smaller gloves.
McGregor himself predicted the smaller gloves would make the night even easier for him.
“I believe now that gloves are eight ounces, I don’t believe he makes it out of the second round,” McGregor said. “I do not see him absorbing the blows in the first two rounds.”
Most in boxing scoff at that, saying the size of the gloves would matter only if they were both forced to fight in 4-ounce UFC gloves that are open past the knuckle. There’s also a school of thought that smaller gloves will actually help Mayweather by making his hands even quicker.
But by allowing smaller gloves, commission members did more than just try to lure a few more people to Las Vegas next week. They made a decision that, in theory at least, could affect the outcome of the fight.
And by any standard, that’s a bad decision to make.