Weekend Post (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE -

THE mo­ment of truth draws ever closer as Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather pre­pare for their ex­traor­di­nary fight to­mor­row morn­ing. It is gear­ing up for the fi­nal round of mickey-tak­ing and ques­tion­able trash-talk­ing, and to­mor­row the un­re­tired Amer­i­can boxer Mayweather will face UFC Conor McGregor in Sin City.

Crowds will pack the T-Mo­bile arena, but mil­lions more will be glued to the fight via TV around the world.

Fol­low­ing a long pe­riod of spec­u­la­tion about whether this fight would ever take place, the last few months have fea­tured high lev­els of an­i­mos­ity on both sides.

This will ei­ther be a boxing bout for the ages or a cross-code money-spin­ning abom­i­na­tion, de­pend­ing on your point of view.

Whichever camp you’re here’s all you need to know about the fight be­tween the man with a 49-0 boxing record and the Ir­ish fighter who has never taken part in, in pro­fes­sional boxing. And while the times haven’t been an­nounced, it will cer­tainly be a late night or very early start for view­ers in South Africa. Su­per­sport will tele­vise the fight and will cross to Las Ve­gas at 3am for the ac­tion-packed un­der­card, with the main bout expected to start just af­ter 5am. The bout will be housed in the T-Mo­bile arena on the Las Ve­gas Strip in Ne­vada. The venue has held ma­jor fights in the past, in­clud­ing UFC 202, in which McGregor beat Nate Diaz on points. Fight pro­mot­ers have breath­lessly talked about the bout sur­pass­ing the ß508- mil­lion (al­most R8-bil­lion) 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,” MMA’s Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship chief ex­ec­u­tive Dana White said. “This fight will reach over a bil­lion homes world­wide.” Ring­side seats were be­ing of­fered on sec­ondary ticket mar­kets for an eye-wa­ter­ing $100 250 (more than R1.3-mil­lion) apiece as of Thurs­day, even though some 1 700 seats in the 20 000-ca­pac­ity venue re­mained un­sold. The sense of an­tic­ipa- tion has en­dured de­spite an un­re­lent­ing cho­rus of dis­par­age­ment across the boxing world.

Farce. Freak­show. Cir­cus. Mis­match. Rip-off. Bad for boxing.

Mayweather, 40, is one of the most skilled box­ers of his gen­er­a­tion, a master of ring craft 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.

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.

Stephen Espinoza, the head of ca­ble net­work Show­time Sports, which is sell­ing the fight on pay-per-view in the US, said many would tune in on the off-chance of wit­ness­ing “some­thing in­cred­i­ble”.

“We did some fo­cus group test­ing, and the ca­sual fans were ab­so­lutely adamant,” Espinoza said.

“Their response al­most uni­ver­sally was ‘We don’t care if it’s a mis­match. We don’t care if it’s non-com­pet­i­tive – if there’s a .01 chance that some­thing in­cred­i­ble could happen, we need to watch it.”

Ir­re­spec­tive of the out­come, the two men at the cen­tre 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 (more than R2.2-bil­lion), push­ing his ca­reer earn­ings to­wards $1-bil­lion (more than R13-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 (more than R1.3-bil­lion) .

A gaudy “money belt” is also up for grabs to the win­ner, com­pris­ing 3 360 di­a­monds, 600 sap­phires, 300 emer­alds mounted in 1.5kg of solid gold and set in al­li­ga­tor leather.

Both fight­ers en­gaged in a global pub- lic­ity tour to drum up in­ter­est. McGregor in­sists that he is ready to stun the scep­tics by knock­ing out Mayweather in­side two rounds. “I will go for­ward and put the pressure on and break this old man,” McGregor said. “I don’t see him last­ing two rounds. I think I could end him in one round if I want. Ev­ery­one is go­ing to eat their words on Satur­day.” A re­laxed-look­ing 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. “We can both do a lot of talk­ing, but it comes down to the skills,” said Mayweather, a 1/4 favour

ite with some book­mak­ers. “Af­ter 21 years I’ve been hit with ev­ery­thing and I’m still right here.

“I go out there and do what I do. I’ve been here be­fore and fought many dif­fer­ent fight­ers with dif­fer­ent styles.

“There have been plenty of guys who talked a lot of trash, but when it’s all said and done, I came out vic­to­ri­ous.” – Daily Tele­graph, TimesLIVE and AFP

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