Gor­don Marino, an in­struc­tor of phi­los­o­phy and box­ing, views Con­or Mc­Gre­gor as an exi­sten­tial threat to the sport he loves.

Marino is an au­thor and a pro­fes­sor of phi­los­o­phy at St. Olaf who has writ­ten a­bout the sweet sci­ence for pub­li­ca­tions in­clud­ing the Star Tribune, Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He has coached box­ers in Min­ne­so­ta while teach­ing Kier­ke­gaard in North­field.

“Ex­is­ten­tial­ism fo­cus­es on in­di­vid­u­al choi­ces,” Marino said. “That’s cer­tain­ly a big theme in box­ing. People don’t re­al­ize that phi­los­o­phy is a lot like box­ing. In both en­ter­prises, peo­ple are con­stant­ly spar­ring. You work on an i­de­a for a year, then some­one asks you a ques­tion and knocks the pins out from un­der you.”

Sat­ur­day night, Floyd May­weath­er will fight Mc­Gre­gor in Las Vegas. Marino hopes May­weath­er stays firm­ly upon his pins.

Marino, who coached box­ing at Vir­ginia Mil­i­tar­y Institute, is wor­ried. Box­ing lacks star pow­er and on Sat­ur­day night the sport’s great­est draw, the 40-year-old “Money” May­weath­er, is risk­ing his rep­u­ta­tion and per­haps box­ing’s fu­ture in what prom­is­es to be a brawl with Mc­Gre­gor, a mixed mar­tial art­ist and Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Championship star.

Most ana­lysts give Mc­Gre­gor little chance. He will not be able to use mar­tial arts or wres­tling moves on May­weath­er. He will have to beat May­weath­er with his fists, and May­weath­er is one of the great evad­ers and counterpunches in box­ing his­to­ry.

Still, Marino frets.

“Mc­Gre­gor is an un­u­su­al char­ac­ter,” Marino said. “He’s a world-class ath­lete. He has un­u­su­al move­ments. He’s hard to time. He’s ex­treme­ly strong and loose-joint­ed and ex­treme­ly com­fort­a­ble with vi­o­lence.

“I’ve trained fight­ers to go up against mixed mar­tial ar­tists. The MMA guys al­most al­ways lose, but they’re not afraid to lose. May­weath­er has so much at stake, he has to be afraid to lose. Mc­Gre­gor seems to think he’s going to win.”

Will Marino watch? “I have been blow­ing off this fight,” Marino said. “Now I’m get­ting in­ter­est­ed. When I was a grow­ing up, if you want­ed to be a badass, you took up box­ing. Now it’s MMA. If Mc­Gre­gor can make a fight of it for 12 rounds, that will be bad for box­ing. I’ve nev­er root­ed for May­weath­er be­fore. In this case, I’m hop­ing for a first-round knock­out.”

Box­ing thrives when the sport’s biggest names are big names in soci­ety. Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson were bet­ter known than some U.S. pres­i­dents around the globe. May­weath­er pos­sess­es more cross­o­ver ap­peal than any oth­er fight­er a­live, but he is some­times more of a show­man dur­ing weigh-in than dur­ing the ac­tu­al fight.

He bored the world while beat­ing Man­ny Pacquiao. If he is cau­tious against Mc­Gre­gor, he will look weak in the eyes of a judgmental sports world.

“Against Pacquiao, his level of in­ac­tion was dis­turb­ing,” Marino said. “If he does that against this guy, I’m wor­ried a­bout box­ing’s health.

“Box­ing is al­ways fi­nan­cial­ly de­pend­ent to some ex­tent on fig­ures like Ali and Tyson, to bring in the cross­o­ver crowd. May­weath­er didn’t go for the knock­out against Pacquiao, and that hurt the pop­u­lar­i­ty of the sport.”

I inter­viewed May­weath­er in 2007. Rather, I lis­tened to him talk for half an hour. He was so ob­sessed with his pay-per-view rat­ings that he said he would tell his maids to turn the doz­ens of tele­vi­sions in his Las Vegas man­sion to his fights.

He prob­a­bly didn’t need to boost the rat­ings. The revenue for the fight Sat­ur­day is ex­pect­ed to be a­bout $700 mil­lion, with May­weath­er tak­ing the lion’s share of an es­ti­mate $300 mil­lion purse.

May­weath­er can be and should be a show­man. For the sake of box­ing, May­weath­er needs to be both dom­i­nant and flam­boy­ant Sat­ur­day.

“I don’t think Mc­Gre­gor has a chance of win­ning,” Marino said. “May­weath­er is a tre­men­dous counterpuncher. But I have to ad­mit, I’ve be­come in­ter­est­ed. I feel like I have no choice but to watch.”

Jim Souhan’s pod­cast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twit­ter: @SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com