Hype meets reality as Mayweather and McGregor face off ahead of super fight

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Hype will collide with reality here 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 history.

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 and territories.

Fight promoters have breathlessly talked about the bout surpassing the $600 million (508 million euros) 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 Fighting Championship.

“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 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 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.

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 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 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 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 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.”

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"This is not even close to my toughest challenge ever. I will crumble him," says McGregor ahead of Mayweather clash

David Cooper 23/08/2017
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Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor traded verbal jabs as the circus-like countdown to their money-spinning superfight cranked into overdrive on the Las Vegas Strip.

Thousands of fans including a sizeable contingent of Irish supporters thronged the heart of the Nevada boxing capital to greet Mayweather and McGregor at their separate grand arrival ceremonies.

Mayweather, the 40-year-old undefeated former welterweight boxing champion, has been lured out of retirement to face McGregor, a star of mixed martial arts’ UFC.

The two men meet in a 12-round contest under boxing rules on Saturday which is tipped to become the richest fight in history.

The cross-combat collision has appalled boxing purists, with many decrying the event as a farcical publicity stunt more in keeping with the choreographed traditions ofWWE wrestling.

Mayweather and McGregor – who clashed repeatedly during an expletive-laden world press tour to drum up interest for the fight last month – insist however that they are ready to deliver a battle for the ages.

McGregor, a massive underdog in what will be his first professional boxing fight, insisted Tuesday he was ready to stun the oddsmakers.

“This is not even close to my toughest challenge ever. I will crumble him,” McGregor roared.

“I have adapted perfectly to boxing, I am very pleased and ready. I’m a special man, I will prove that August 26, this will go one or two rounds, maybe I will bang him out and hurt him.

“If he survives, I will decide whether I embarrass or seriously hurt him.

“I’m calm and cool, same as I am in every fight. I’m fit, sharp and I’m gonna be ruthless in there. I believe he’ll be unconscious inside one round.”

McGregor and Mayweather passed each other after their separate introductions, with McGregor taunting the American with a shout of “Why didn’t you want to face off?” — triggering a melee between their two entourages.

“HE NEEDS TO SHUT HIS MOUTH”

A relaxed-looking Mayweather meanwhile had earlier predicted the fight wouldn’t last the full 12 rounds.

“I talked to you before and said that this fight wouldn’t go the distance,” Mayweather said.

“If you’re going to bet, bet it won’t go (the distance).”

Floyd Mayweather at the grand arrival

Floyd Mayweather at the grand arrival

Mayweather did his best to play down his status as a heavy favourite, insisting that his two-year layoff from the ring had blunted his prowess.

“That’s what makes this fight so intriguing, I’ve been out a few years, feel like I’ve lost a few steps,” Mayweather said.

“So we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Earlier Tuesday, Mayweather had taunted McGregor over his fitness, telling the US website FightHype that he believed his opponent would struggle to make the 154-pound limit for Saturday’s bout.

“Conor McGregor is extremely heavy right now,” Mayweather said. “I think he’s 164 so he’s still got 10 pounds to go.”

McGregor hit back at Mayweather’s comments.

“He needs to shut his mouth,” McGregor said. “It is a fool of a thing. Let him keep praying, praying for weight, for fatigue, praying for me to take a backward step. All he is doing is praying, but he is praying to the new god of boxing.”

McGregor could face a painful financial penalty if he is unable to tip the scales inside the limit. Boxers often have the option of cancelling a fight or collecting a larger share of the purse if an opponent fails to make weight.

Estimates vary but some projections indicate Mayweather could make as much as $200 million from Saturday’s contest, with McGregor collecting around $100 million.

Mayweather has fought at 154 pounds before but is more used to fighting at welterweight (150 pounds). McGregor however has fought at 170 pounds in MMA.

Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor

McGregor, 29, last week insisted he was in peak condition following a gruelling training camp that had taken him to “hell and back” and left him primed to face either a long or short fight.

“There is no way in hell that I’m not ready to fight in the deepest of trenches in this contest,” McGregor said.

“We are ready for both scenarios. I’m ready to go to war for 12 rounds and I’m ready to put him away early on.”

Provided by AFP Sport

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Commanding Crawford conquers Middle Earth after Indongo demolition

Andy Lewis 21/08/2017
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One for the purists: Terence Crawford is one the best fighters on the planet.

A week from now, when Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor’s ghastly pantomime act has passed, boxing fans should revisit Terence Crawford’s three-round demolition of Julius Indongo. Seven or eight minutes of watching Crawford go to work will be the perfect tonic, a reminder of what the very best of this sport actually looks like.

There is no hard sell with the 29-year-old Nebraskan, no mink coats, no stage-managed persona, scripted one liners or crude narrative. Instead, you get elite skills, the elevated ring IQ of a great champion and a ruthless streak which sets him apart from his rivals.

It might not shift as many tickets, but this is boxing, not the WWE, and Crawford is among the very best in the world. If there was any doubt about his credentials then it was permanently erased by one of the finest body shots you are likely to see.

It sucked the life out of the dangerous Indongo and left him folded on the canvas, writhing in agony as Crawford celebrated in front of his home crowd. And with that signature knockout victory, he not only cemented his place among the top handful of fighters in the world, but also made history by becoming the first man in 12 years to unify all four major belts in a weight division.

“I’m blessed and humbled to be the undisputed champion of the world – it means everything to me,” said Crawford, who captured Indongo’s WBA and IBF belts to add to the WBC and WBO straps he already held. “I’m the only one who can say I am the undisputed champion of the world, and that’s big.

There’s nobody else who can say that they are undisputed in their weight division.”

As it has been for Crawford ever since he entered the 140-pound arena, this was all too easy for him. Indongo arrived with a reputation as a good traveller and a big puncher having previously wiped out Eduard Troyanovsky inside a round in Moscow and then putting a solid beating on Ricky Burns in Glasgow.

But as the beanpole Namibian looked to be the aggressor from mid-range, Crawford fired back with short, straight counters and deliberately targeted the body. A right hand put Indongo down in the second before a perfect left finished the job in the next. “It was something we had been working on,” explained Crawford.

“My coach told me he would throw those wild shots and would leave himself open down the middle, to the body.” Indongo said: “I couldn’t breathe, it hurt so bad. When he hit me that hard to the body, not only did it hurt, it took my mind away. I couldn’t think.”

No fighter has been in possession of all four major alphabet titles since Jermain Taylor relieved Bernard Hopkins of his middleweight collection in 2005, while the 140lbs weight class had never been fully unified before. Yet having conquered the division, Crawford now looks set to relinquish the belts and step up to welterweight and chase titles in a third class against bigger and better opposition.

However, with three of the four 147-pound crowns being held by PBC-signed fighters – Keith Thurman (WBA & WBC) and Errol Spence (IBF) – the path to the top looks full of political roadblocks. The obvious route to championship gold is to face the winner of the rematch between Top Rank stablemate Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn, where the WBO title will be on the line.

“Hopefully, we will match Crawford with the winner of that fight,” promoter Bob Arum said, also revealing he plans to seat him ringside in Australia to watch the action. “I’m all for it,” added Crawford.

“When you start boxing when you’re seven years old, that’s your dream, to become world champion, and after that you want to become something bigger than world champion. “You just don’t stop there – you go to the highest level possible. I need that 147-pound belt. That’s my next accomplishment.”

Good Week

Andre Ward

The WBA, WBO and IBF light heavyweight champion landed himself a prime gig as an analyst for the Crawford/Indongo card, heightening talk that he is set to pen a bumper contract with Top Rank.

The event in Nebraska was the third of Top Rank’s new series on ESPN, and Ward had already been strongly linked with Bob Arum’s promotional outfit. ‘Son of God’ had been with Roc Nation Sports, but Jay-Z’s company appear to be moving away from boxing in a hurry.

Bad Week

Carl Frampton

‘The Jackal’ saw his Belfast homecoming officially cancelled amid rumours of a split with manager/ promoter Barry McGuigan. Frampton was slated to face Mexico’s Andre Gutierrez in his home town last month but the fight was postponed at the 11th hour after his opponent suffered serious facial injuries slipping in the shower.

The bout has now been scrapped and Frampton is rumoured to be looking for new representation following reports of a rift with McGuigan, whose son Shane trains the 30-year-old.

Flashback

Tyson let out of the cage

It was 22 years ago this week the sporting world came to a standstill as Mike Tyson made his heavyweight comeback after four years in prison. In what was then the highest grossing fight of all time, worth an estimated $96m, Tyson annihilated no-hoper Peter McNeeley in 89 seconds at the MGM Grand.

It ended in farce as McNeeley’s manager invaded the ring to save his man further punishment in what officially went down as a disqualification. Tyson beat Frank Bruno for the WBC title the following year.

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