AT first glance, the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight week is just like any other Floyd Mayweather fight week.
There’s the soaring image of Mayweather alongside his rival which plasters one side of the MGM Grand, his fighting home for so many years. There’s the souvenir t-shirts, poker tables, ashtrays and keyrings. There’s ‘The Money Team’ caps decorating the muscle-bound and the obese flaunting their appetites. There’s the obscene glitz and glamour, the selfies and the expense. The grand arrivals, the pre-fight promises, and the last ditch efforts to sell the contest disguised as rumours of unrest. There’s the media – here in their hundreds – attempting to catch every word with their recording devices of choice. Oh, and there’s the WBC and their latest needless belt.
Yep, the chaos of fight week is upon us.
Some things are different, though.
This one is bigger. Not better, definitely not better, but certainly bigger. The Media Centre, usually housed in the corner of the MGM Grand, is a tent the size of a football field situated opposite Luxor hotel and casino, away from the gaze of any passing crowd. To gain access to it, you need to beep in and out with an electronic wristband – gone are the glitzy lanyards that used to hang around our necks like beacons to opportunist souvenir snatchers.
The venue has changed too. The T-Mobile Arena will play host. It will be the first time in 11 years that Mayweather has competed somewhere other than the MGM Grand. He will have a different dressing room, a different ring walk, an altogether different atmosphere.
Then there’s the weather. The unbearable August heat. The desert storms that offer brief breaks from the scorching sun. Mayweather, for many years, has kept his fighting to the calmer months of May and September. So Mayweather-McGregor has been a break from the old routine. And not, for the vast majority of boxing fans, a welcome one.
The opponent, of course, is the reason. The debutant, the MMA superstar, the boxing breaker and enterer. The cocky Irishman who effortlessly brought out the worst of Mayweather during last month’s profanity-soaked world tour which stretched over four days, four cities and beyond its welcome. And Conor McGregor, we’re told, might just be about to change everything.
When McGregor wins, he says, he’s going to create a boxing and MMA hybrid. Imagine that. McGregor is not only threatening to win, he’s threatening an apocalypse. The end of the boxing world as we know it.
But at yesterday’s final press conference, Mayweather regained control.
Gone was the ruffled and foul-mouthed creature who unleashed a whopping 89 profanities as he tried in vain to quieten McGregor as they invaded Los Angeles, Toronto, New York and London on their promotional warpath. This was a calm and measured Mayweather, one who offered respect to Saturday night’s opponent, a man who has never boxed professionally in his life. A man who, within the confines of all sanity and logic, is the most straightforward assignment Mayweather has encountered this century.
Unlike the smattering of observers who are picking McGregor to win – and Las Vegas fight weeks have a habit of sending the sane insane – Mayweather spoke like a man who cannot wait to expose his opponent’s limitations, take the money, and run.
This was never supposed to be the end game for Mayweather but he’s more than happy to play it. And boxing – which for so long allowed itself to be exploited for financial gain and in turn is to blame for this whole mess – now needs this Mayweather fight week to end like all Mayweather fight weeks: With a comprehensive Mayweather victory.