Las Vegas - Hype will collide with reality here on Saturday 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
A little over two months after the fight was confirmed in
June, Mayweather and McGregor will touch gloves at Las Vegas's T-Mobile Arena
in a 12-round boxing contest which will be beamed to more than 200 countries
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 MMA's Ultimate
"This fight will reach over a billion homes
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 United States meanwhile are
expected to shell out $99.95 to watch the fight on pay-per-view 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.
Farce. Freakshow. Circus. Mismatch. Rip-off. Bad for boxing.
It has been impossible to follow the build-up 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
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
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.
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.'
"And that's why they're going 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, pushing his career earnings towards $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
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
Yet a final press conference between the two fighters on
Wednesday saw something close to an outbreak of civility, with both men
refraining from the trash-talking in a strangely subdued showdown.
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
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 favourite with some bookmakers.
"After 21 years I've been hit with everything and I'm
still right here. One thing you must know about combat sports, if you give it,
you must be able to take it.
"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."