Mayweather-McGregor promo tour gets off to frenzied start

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Conor McGregor will go head-to-head in an unusual battle Saturday.

Jae C. Hong/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor established something long before their unusual Aug. 26 matchup at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

There are no losers.

The only question is, how high can you count?

Pay-per-view sales for this will likely exceed the record 4.6 million buys for Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in 2015. Mayweather can earn anywhere from $200-350 million and McGregor at least $50 million for this unique matchup between mixed martial arts and boxing superstars.

Credit those who have turned the outlines of another Rocky movie, or a shared stage as unlikely as Pavarotti and Springsteen, into a high-octane, frenzied affair. Fans paid thousands of dollars for arena seats to witness perhaps the greatest defensive fighter of all time against an opponent making his professional boxing debut. Those who can’t attend go the pay-per-view route.

This is the magic of social media. It was the forum Mayweather and McGregor used to verbally spar, taunt and finally close a blockbuster event. A press tour produced “rancor” between them. You Tube videos predict how each will fare.

Retired two-division champion Paulie Malignaggi baptized McGregor in the boxing world by complimenting him after a sparring session. He then became livid when a leaked video appeared to show him being knocked down. Malignaggi declined to continue in the McGregor camp and insisted the whole sparring session be shown. UFC President Dana White, the baron of bluntness, then called Malignaggi some names we can’t print. But it kept the “feud” percolating and the cash register singing.

Late last week, organizers added another log to the fire by announcing a rare switch to 8-ounce gloves for this 154-pound instead of the normal 10-ounce equipment. The move was designed to drive sales behind the concept of harder punching.

This is an event for the ages because it’s an event BETWEEN the ages.

Classic boxing fans, an older demographic, can’t believe McGregor belongs in a boxing ring. How can he succeed when epic fighters like Canelo Alvarez and Pacquiao barely laid a glove on Mayweather? How does someone used to short MMA fights go 12 rounds? Traditional boxing fans can appreciate a 12-round fight, replete with nuance, but MMA fans don’t see that.

This group, many in their 20s and 30s, want the instant gratification of McGregor’s fists. He does, after all, own the fastest MMA title-fight knockout, 13 seconds, over Jose Aldo. And he landed the punch while backpedaling. In their reasoning, what if McGregor catches Mayweather, just once? If that happens, regardless of the outcome, they obtained their money’s worth.

There are some additional aspects to consider. Mayweather is the promoter. He would not have exited retirement unless a high-finance, low-risk scenario presented itself. Which it did. McGregor is accustomed to using his feet in MMA bouts but if he does that here, he forfeits much of his purse.

Another factor concerns chins. It’s doubtful that McGregor has faced opponents who can take the punishment a professional boxer can. Nor show the defensive skills. MMA champions whatever defense it has during ground fighting, but stand-up strikers would be booed if they double-jabbed, bobbed and weaved or clinched, as professional boxers do.

You then must consider the card. It’s all boxing, there’s no boxing-MMA crossover. Will MMA fans enjoy that?

The odds are a bit conspicuous. Mayweather opened at an 11-1 favorite and hovered around 5-1 throughout much of the buildup. That’s a very low number considering their difference in experience. The odds stayed low because MMA fans have done most of the betting. They will also do most of the buying. In one respect, they should be guaranteed victory because McGregor’s expectations are low.

No purpose would be served with an early Mayweather knockout. He would want to showcase boxing, defense and the Sweet Science, while winning and making MMA fans want another event like this.

This is a personal encore too. I broadcast Mayweather’s amateur fights, when he battled for free in 1996. His pro career involved many calls for me, including his Atlantic City blockbuster with Arturo Gatti, the battles with Oscar DeLa Hoya, Canelo, Victor Ortiz and others. On this night, I will broadcast the world feed of the preview show and main card with Brian Kenny and Sugar Ray Leonard. It will be nice to work with them again.