Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor: Top Storylines as Showdown Looms

Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2017

Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor: Top Storylines as Showdown Looms

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Perhaps you've heard about it.

    There's this boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and this mixed martial arts star, Conor McGregor, and they don't seem to like each other all that much.

    They spent several days telling each other that earlier this summer, touching down in four cities and covering thousands of miles while engaging in the most vulgar, provocative and microphone-friendly display this side of a presidential press conference.

    They've since retreated to neutral corners, emerging occasionally via social media and open workouts to let the other guys know just what sort of trouble he's in come Aug. 26 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

    It's the sort of once-in-a-generation tide that's raised all web-based and traditional media boats, thanks to myriad storylines that include training-camp intrigue, mind-numbing financials and old-fashioned boxing odds and glove controversies.

    Take a look at the list and revel in the real news.

Conor vs. Paulie: As the Sparring Videos Turn

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    (Warning: Video contains some NSFW language.)

    So, maybe this was what Paulie Malignaggi wanted all along.

    The two-division world champion-turned-Showtime analyst became a part of the Mayweather-McGregor narrative when he agreed to join the Irishman's camp as a sparring partner. The relationship quickly fractured over a knockdown that Team McGregor deems legitimate and Team Paulie labels baloney.

    Both sides have hemmed and hawed about exactly how much of the sparring video has been released. Malignaggi claims only the edited version shows the MMA star as superior, and he insists the full 36-minute version would indicate he controlled the action for roughly 10 of 12 overall rounds.

    Malignaggi upped the ante with a full-on challenge to fight him next St. Patrick's Day, if, as he told The MMA Hour (via MMAFighting.com), "He doesn't get the living s--t beaten out of him" by Mayweather.

A Glove by Any Other Weight

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    Alex Menendez/Getty Images

    A garden-variety, 154-pound fight in Las Vegas, in order to get cleared by the Nevada Athletic Commission, requires the combatants to wear 10-ounce gloves.

    Of course, no one in their right mind would consider this a garden-variety, 154-pound fight.

    To that end, the commission will hear from representatives of the Mayweather and McGregor camps at its August meeting regarding their requests to let the fighters wear eight-ounce gloves come Aug. 26.

    The Association of Ringside Physicians stated its opposition to the idea in a letter to the commission Tuesday (via MMAWeekly.com), suggesting that "unless there is scientific evidence to support the view that such a change might improve (the) safety of this bout, we would strongly caution against allowing current regulations to be overruled."

    The commission will discuss the issue during a Wednesday session that will also result in the naming of the referee and judges for the fight.

This Fight Is, Well...Money

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    The fiscal heights to be reached are dizzying.

    Of course, Mayweather is accustomed to such wallet-busting climbs after having taken part in the three biggest-selling pay-per-view boxing events of all time—defeats of Manny Pacquiao (2015), Oscar De La Hoya (2007) and Canelo Alvarez (2013), respectively—so he's taking it all in heady stride.

    He made more than $200 million for the win against Pacquiao, and most estimates suggest he'll approach or exceed that paycheck this time for the duel with the UFC superstar. McGregor, who cashed a public-assistance check shortly before his UFC debut several years ago, will jump a tax bracket or two, too.

    Elsewhere, the PPV price tag has been set at $99.95 for high-definition and $89.95 for a plain-old standard signal. With an educated guess of somewhere near five million buys, that'd mean something in the neighborhood of $475 million in revenue.

    As for tickets, the Mayweather-Pacquiao is also the bar to jump, having totaled $79.1 million for 16,219 tickets at an average cost of $4,451.

The Odds Are Narrowing

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    It's difficult to find a mainstream fight journalist who'll predict a McGregor victory.

    But others are jumping on the Irishman's betting bandwagon.

    McGregor backers initially would have raked in a $950 windfall for a $100 bet in the event of an upset, but that profit number has since dipped to $325, according to OddsShark. Similarly, a $100 profit on Mayweather would have required a steep $2,250 outlay, but that's now down to a more manageable $450.

    Incidentally, Mayweather was a significantly bigger favorite in his supposed 2015 swan song against Andre Berto, who'd entered the ring as a former welterweight title claimant with five successful defenses from 2008-11.

    Money also had a bigger betting edge heading into meetings with ex-champs Marcos Maidana, Robert Guerrero and Carlos Baldomir.

Seizing the Pirates

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    Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    If part of your Aug. 26 plan was to save the near-$100 pay-per-view price tag and scan the digital underground for a viable (and free) live stream, the brass at Showtime has a message:

    We're coming for you.

    The Hollywood Reporter said Showtime Networks Inc. is preemptively suing to stop more than 40 websites from airing an unauthorized stream of the Mayweather-McGregor fight. It's going after sites that are already "populated with articles that are stuffed with keywords related to the fight" and alleges those sites have engaged in keyword-stuffing as a form of traffic-enhancing SEO.

    The corporation is asking the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, to issue an injunction to stop the defendants and their partners from making the fight available or transferring their sites to another registrant.

    Showtime and its partner for the Mayweather-Pacquiao PPV, HBO, sued for anticipated copyright infringement prior to the fight until the following morning and was granted a temporary injunction.

Wherefore Art Thou, Ticket Sales?

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Maybe it's a blockbuster of gargantuan proportions. 

    Maybe it's the biggest flop since the XFL.

    How you see it depends on what side of the Mayweather-McGregor fence you sit.

    The LA Times' Lance Pugmire struck a blow for the disappointment side with an Aug. 7 piece in which he said as many as 7,000 tickets remained available, with less than three weeks before fight night.

    Meanwhile, Mayweather Promotions executive Leonard Ellerbe preached calm, pointing out at a recent Mayweather media workout (via ESPN's Darren Rovell) that more than $60 million worth had already been sold. That more than doubled the projected finish for Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 16.

    The previous record for a boxing gate: $72.2 million for Mayweather-Pacquiao.

    "Right now, we have over $60 million in the box office," Ellerbe said. "And you tell me, what part of that remotely looks like ticket sales are slow? This isn't a damn Rolling Stones concert. That's the only thing that sells out in seconds."

Mayweather Concedes a Weakness

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    A humbler, gentler Mayweather?

    That's what it sounded like when he recently told ESPN (via USA Today) that the Aug. 26 fight leans toward Conor McGregor thanks to the perils of athletic aging.

    "When you look at myself and Conor McGregor on paper, he's taller, has a longer reach, he's a bigger man from top to bottom," Mayweather said. "He's a lot younger, so youth is on his side. And I've been off a couple of years. And I'm in my 40s."

    Indeed, Mayweather was already 38 when he wrapped up his career's most recent chapter with 2015 defeats of Manny Pacquiao and Andre Berto and ran his record to a pristine 49-0. He looked especially weary and insisted after the Berto fight that he'd not return to break his tie with Rocky Marciano.

    In the meantime, McGregor has fought four times, blitzing Jose Aldo and stopping Eddie Alvarez while splitting a contentious two-fight duel with Nate Diaz.

    "I'm older. I'm not the same fighter I was two years ago," Mayweather said. "I'm not the same fighter I was five years ago. I lost a step."

Must-See TV...At a Price

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    Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

    In case you hadn't caught on already, this won't come cheaply.

    The Showtime-produced PPV matches the $89.95 standard-definition price point established by the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in 2015, an extravaganza that was jointly shown by HBO and Showtime and netted a boxing-record 4.6 million buys.

    The high-def signal this time around will go for another $10 more, and some have suggested the sheer novelty of the boxer vs. MMA star matchup will fuel another record purchase rate.

    No wonder Dana White is smiling.

    "When you talk about superfights, this is a superfight—two different guys from two different sports going in and putting it on the line," the UFC czar said, according to MMAJunkie.com.

    "Obviously, you can't charge what you would normally charge for a pay-per-view. And saying there was pushback on the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, there was anything butit's the biggest fight ever in the history of pay-per-view."

Stacking the Undercard Deck

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    Alex Pantling/Getty Images

    No one is shelling out $100 for the pay-per-view or a few grand for an Aug. 26 seat in the T-Mobile Arena to see anything other than Mayweather and McGregor.

    But the undercard is pretty damned good, too.

    The PPV show will feature one legitimate and one dubious title fight alongside the main event stars, along with a duel between an unbeaten cruiserweight prospect and a respected and popular championship veteran.

    The pay-TV portion of the late-summer circus starts with 200-pounders Andrew Tabiti and Steve Cunningham, to be followed by a matchup of Mayweather protege Badou Jack and Nathan Cleverly for the WBA's second-tier light heavyweight belt behind legit world champ Andre Ward.

    The final appetizer before the boxing vs. MMA finale is a 130-pound championship match including future star Gervonta Davis and unbeaten challenger Francisco Fonseca. 

    Not to mention a pre-PPV undercard on Fox that'll feature Shawn Porter and Thomas Dulorme.

    "I'm really excited to fight as the co-main event on the biggest card in combat sports history," Davis said in a Mayweather Promotions press release. "I plan to put on a great show for everyone in attendance in Las Vegas and for those who purchase the PPV. I want to thank my team for this incredible opportunity. I'm ready for Floyd Mayweather to pass his torch to me. To my fans, I appreciate all of you."