The great Vegas gamble

On Monday in Las Vegas, moments before the solar eclipse, rain began falling heavily on the Strip, unusual to say the least for the middle of August or indeed the middle of the desert.

Conor McGregor fans in Las Vegas for his boxing fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr on Saturday.

However, as this famous old fight city prepares for the biggest event in the history of organised combat sport, it is very much the calm before the storm. Either that, or we’ve all been sold an incredibly expensive dummy. This cross-sport attraction has seemingly caught the attention of the entire planet, with 49-0 all-time-great Floyd Mayweather resurfacing from his two-year retirement to put his undefeated record on the line in a bid to move to the fabled 50-0, overtaking the great Rocky Marciano in the process.

And if that wasn’t enough, he’s doing it against Conor McGregor, who is, depending what side of the fence you sit, either the world’s most charismatic and electrifying athlete or an intolerable gobshite.

The reality may lie somewhere in between, but what is not disputed is that he has talked himself into a contest which, as he keeps pointing out, will quadruple his net worth in 36 minutes of unarmed combat.

There is not an active boxer who could have generated this much interest by fighting Mayweather, indeed the forecast is that organisers expect the occasion to glean more than the 4 million pay-per-view buys which the America’s disappointing showdown with Manny Pacquiao set the record with.

However, take a stroll down the Las Vegas strip, through the air-conditioned casinos and into the 24-hour bars and, at this point at least, you’d be hard pressed to notice that an event of this magnitude his now only days away.

The buzz at this point of fight week before the Pacquiao fight, for instance, was ten fold. You couldn’t move without over-hearing an opinion on the clash. That was a real fight and it showed.

This one, part pantomime, part circus, will also be settled in the ring by two men stripped down to their shorts and protected by only 8oz orthopaedic foam gloves. The main difference is, perhaps, that deep down, most people know the outcome.

Yesterday was the so-called grand arrivals, when, it is said, that both fighters officially ‘arrive’ for fight week. They turned up in cars, swaggered into centre stage, and then cleared off again. Usually, for Mayweather fights, this occasion takes place in the lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel, where hundreds of fans pack in to watch.

This time, however, it took place on the plaza outside the T-Mobile Arena, where Saturday’s fight will take place, and the attendance was not in line with the perceived scale of the event. Perhaps it was the 38 degree heat but it was actually a little subdued.

That will all certainly change as the week approaches its business head. McGregor’s hefty cohort do not traditionally cross the Atlantic until the Thursday of Friday and they are sure to make a real impression on the place, much like they do when the Dublin man fights here in the UFC, where he is the organisation’s first two-weight champion.

Even Mayweather does not seem to be treating fight week with the same gravity as he usually does. For a man with his entire legacy on the line, that seems bizarre. As an undefeated superstar, world champion in five weight classes, he must be sleeping well each night with the prospect of a lucrative showdown against a zero-fight novice on the horizon.

But he is not hitting the hay particularly early, as he has been keen to point out. He claimed in an Instagram post that he will be spending each night at the Vegas strip club that he owns, Girl Collection. That suggestion has been dismissed by many who believe Mayweather is just attempting a few early mind games.

McGregor, meanwhile, is taking things altogether more seriously as he puts the finishing touches to one of the most talked about training camps ever known. His sparring sessions with former two-time world champion Paulie Malignaggi have, for some reason, been endlessly dissected over the past 10 days. In reality, what happened in that ring between the pair of them will count for absolutely nothing when McGregor touches gloves with Mayweather on Saturday.

Can he do it? Such an upset would be about as common as a solar eclipse... or perhaps rain in the desert.


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