Mayweather vs McGregor: Show time
The circus is in town. For months now Floyd "Money" Mayweather and Conor McGregor have been dancing round each other in the press, online and on stage. Tonight in Las Vegas it is "put up and shut up time". Unfortunately I fear tonight could be the least entertaining part of the show. McGregor is a destructive machine in UFC, he has talked big and this fight rockets him into a new stratusphere of celebrity. He is the a current world champion, fighting in a new discipline, in the shape of his life. Mayweather is 40 years old and has not fought competitively since 2015. But he is undefeated in a career spanning almost two decades during which he has fought some of the great names in the "sport of kings" - De La Hoya, Hatton, Pacquiao. Part of that success is the fact that he is an untouchable defensive boxer with mastery of footwork and movement. So what does all that mean? Mayweather is undefeated and is going to have no intention of losing that accolade. A win here takes him past Rocky Marciano's record of 49-0 and retired. He is not going to go toe-to-toe in a slugfest with a big-hitting, younger, stronger, more ring-ready opponent when he can bob, weave and outbox him. A loss for him would be crushing and McGregor is not going to want to be knocked out by anyone at this point in his career. All this means that the night could well end with a tired McGregor holding off adefensive Mayweather until the judges award the boxing great his 50th victory. Or a "damp squib" as it is called. It would let the Irishman brag about how Mayweather couldn't stand and fight him and the boxing great can go back to retirement happy. The crowd? Not so much.
Even if Mayweather manages to knock his opponent out this will struggle to live up to the hype. But that is a testament to the promotional abilities of these two men. At one time or another they have both arguably carried the public awareness of their sport on their shoulders. There was a time when Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor were far and away the best known names in MMA. They both lost within a short period of time. Rousey never recovered, McGregor bounced back to becoema double-weight world champion. And a true icon in the process. The fact this fight has had so much press and attention is reflective of how important personality is in the fight game.
Name another top athele in either sport with a wide public persona? Anthony Joshua is a world champion, well promoted in the UK but hardly a charismatic showman outside the ring and has not got enough aura under his belt (yet) in it. Give him time but he's not there yet. In the UFC? "Mighty Mouse" Demetrious Johnson? Not really. Jon Jones is a big name but for all the wrong reasons and still not in McGregor's league. Mayweather and McGregor are set to earn a split of about $300million for this fight and they have worked for it in the run-in.
The press conferences have been firey and confrontational. McGregor mocked his oppoenet's IRS woes while Mayweather threw money and let his heavies intimidate the UFC star - neither man is stupid enough to give away the fight for free in an onstage scuffle. They have even picked their sides with McGregor often taking on the role of crowd-pleaser. It is a production professional wrestling would be proud of. Especially with the ridiculous belt the winner will take home. But tonight we might just see why pro wrestling such as WWE (formerly WWF) has lasted as long as it has. Big characters and headline-grabbing stories are WWE's MO, but once the talking is done the fight is choreographed to fit the narrative and the ending set to garner a big response from the crowd. With no script writers putting the finishing touches on this pantomime the best of the show might be behind us.