Hype meets reality
Mayweather, McGregor face off in Las Vegas
Hype will collide with reality on Saturday in Las Vegas as boxing legend Floyd Mayweather takes on mixed martial arts superstar Conor McGregor in a battle of combat sport kings tipped to be the richest fight in history.
A little over two months after the fight was confirmed in June, Mayweather and McGregor will touch gloves at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena in a 12-round boxing contest which will be beamed to more than 200 countries and regions.
Fight promoters have breathlessly talked about the bout surpassing the $600 million generated by Mayweather’s 2015 fight with Manny Pacquiao, insisting that interest has been off chart.
“This is the biggest event that has ever happened in combat sports,” said Dana White, the chief executive of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). “This fight will reach over a billion homes worldwide.”
Ringside seats were being offered on secondary ticket markets for an eye-watering $100,250 apiece as of Thursday, even though some 1,700 seats in the 20,000-capacity venue remained unsold.
Millions of fans across the US meanwhile are expected to shell out $99.95 to watch the fight on pay-perview television, the most important economic engine of the spectacle.
The sense of anticipation has endured despite an unrelenting chorus of disparagement across the boxing world.
It has been impossible to follow the buildup to the fight without being made aware of the near-universal tide of derision. A cursory glance at the tale of the tape explains the cynicism.
Mayweather, 40, is one of the most skilled boxers of his generation, a master of ringcraft who retired in 2015 after a glittering 21-year career with a perfect 49-0 record.
McGregor, a two-time world champion in UFC, has never boxed professionally and has looked awkward and ungainly during training camp sparring sessions. He has demonstrated punching power in the UFC, but has never faced an opponent as elusive as Mayweather.
Anything other than a convincing Mayweather win will be regarded as a surprise; a McGregor victory a monumental upset.
Yet the millions who will gladly part with their cash to watch the fight in the arena or on television do not appear to be bothered by the possibility that they may be taken for an expensive ride. Irrespective of the outcome, the two men at the center of the action will be laughing all the way to the bank.
If pay-per-view targets are met, Mayweather could earn as much as $200 million, pushing his career earnings toward $1 billion. McGregor, who four years ago was living off unemployment benefit in Dublin before his emergence as a star of MMA, could pocket $100 million.
A gaudy “Money Belt” is also up for grabs to the winner, comprising 3,360 diamonds, 600 sapphires, 300 emeralds mounted in 1.5 kilos of solid gold and set in alligator leather.
Both fighters engaged in a global publicity tour to drum up interest in the fight last month that was marked by a series of lurid verbal exchanges, ranging from expletives and homophobic slurs to allegations of racism.
Yet a final news conference between the two fighters saw something close to an outbreak of civility.
McGregor insists that he is ready to stun the skeptics by knocking out Mayweather inside two rounds.
Mayweather was unfazed by McGregor’s warnings of impending calamity, instead reminding the Irishman that he had faced plenty of explosive punchers through his career – and emerged victorious.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr (left) and MMA figher Connor Mcgregor pose during a news conference on Wednesday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.