Hype meets re­al­ity

May­weather, McGre­gor face off in Las Vegas

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS - AFP

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.

Photo: AFP

Boxer Floyd May­weather Jr (left) and MMA figher Con­nor Mcgre­gor pose dur­ing a news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

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