LAS VEGAS – You just knew that on June 14, the day Yahoo Sports broke the news that unbeaten superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor would fight at T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 26 in a bout that quickly became known as “The Money Fight,” that sports writers would be traipsing through the desert to head to a strip joint in search of a story.
You knew that on the first stop of the three-country, four-city press tour McGregor would wear a custom-made pinstripe suit in which the pinstripes actually said, “F— you.” And you knew he’d wear a mink on one stop and urge the crowd to chant, “F— the Mayweathers,” at another.
Speaking of the ‘F’ word, you knew it would be used thousands of times by the fighters in promotion of the event and that the ‘B’ word would be dropped by them at least twice as often. And no doubt you knew that the other ‘F’ word, the slang gay slur, would be used by one of the fighters to taunt the other.
And you knew that race and accusations of racism would play a central role in this whole promotion.
You knew, of course, that ex-world champion Paulie Malignaggi, one of the pay-per-view broadcast’s announcers, would make the unusual choice to participate in McGregor’s training camp, make himself a major part of the story, and later show up at Mayweather’s gym. And you knew that once there, Malignaggi and Mayweather would yuk it up and insinuate he would provide Mayweather with intelligence on what McGregor was working on in training.
And you knew, unquestionably, that members of the Nevada Athletic Commission, who take every opportunity to pat themselves on the back for their commitment to fighter health and safety, would not only approve a bout pitting one of the best boxers of all-time against one making his pro debut, but that they would then break their own safety rules by agreeing to allow them to wear smaller gloves.
Even though the stunt with the gloves is to create the illusion that the punches will be harder and cause more damage, it can’t be overlooked that in 2006, only months after two boxers died in separate bouts in Las Vegas, this commission enacted a series of rules designed to make the sport less dangerous. One of those was that boxers weighing 147 and under would wear eight-ounce gloves and those 148 and higher would wear 10-ounce gloves.
This, they told us, was to ensure the safety of the fighters they were duty bound to protect. For 11 years, they stuck to it until they had a bout in front of them that could generate $700 million in revenue and untold millions more for the city’s hotels, restaurants, shops, drivers and strip club dancers. Then, safety concerns weren’t so foremost in their minds and they unanimously agreed to an exception to their rules.
And you just knew there would be plenty of sanctimonious outrage from a select few sports columnists about all of this. You knew they would bring up the domestic violence convictions in Mayweather’s past, and would self-righteously vow they’d never actually watch this bout because of all of it. (That same outrage, though, probably won’t cause them to skip Dallas Cowboys games because of what Ezekiel Elliott is alleged to have done to his girlfriend, nor will it cause them to bail on the NFL in general despite the fact that the league hid crucial medical information from its players about the risks of concussions.)
This promotion has been even more over-the-top than expected, and it was expected to be the most over-the-top promotion ever.
But the fight is finally at hand and the question that exists is whether the match will give the fans their money’s worth.
Mayweather, who is a brilliant defensive fighter who rarely takes risks, insists he’s going for the knockout. While that may be dismissed as words uttered to try to sell pay-per-views, Mayweather himself admitted that he’ll consider a decision victory a loss.
If he doesn’t win resoundingly against this guy with an 0-0 record, there is a perception it would hurt his reputation.
“I don’t care about none of that,” Mayweather said. “This is a fight and I’m coming in there looking for a knockout. He’s a hell of a fighter, and I’m pretty sure he’s undefeated [in MMA] when he’s on his feet. He’s lost when they took him to the floor, but he’s a hell of a fighter on the feet.
“But he’s no Floyd Mayweather. He hasn’t seen anything like this before because there isn’t anyone like me. You can talk all you want and say all these big things – You think I ain’t heard this all before? – but you have to back them up when that bell rings and it’s only me and you in there.”
McGregor, though, lives for these moments, and he lives to prove others wrong. He takes every slight, real or imagined, personally and carries a massive chip on his shoulder.
While McGregor has no boxing matches under his belt, he says, “I’ve been boxing me whole life.”
And he says Mayweather is nowhere near big enough to compete with him.
“Look at him, that’s all you have to do,” McGregor said. “Look at those tiny hands of his. Look at that tiny head. He’s going to come into that ring at 150 pounds. I’m going to be 168, 170. I never have trouble with a smaller man like that. He is in trouble, believe me when I tell you that.”
He’s going to earn around $100 million and get his chance to prove he’s correct.
He can’t ask for anything more.
It’s up to McGregor now to make this a show worth watching.
Related coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• How Mayweather-McGregor fight should play out
• Clause in McGregor’s contract could prove costly
• Mayweather guaranteed to make $100M vs. McGregor
• How a $750K bet made Mayweather a $1B fighter
• Las Vegas facing disaster if McGregor actually wins