There won't be any official boxing titles up for grabs when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor meet in the ring on Saturday. But that doesn't mean there won't be plenty on the line between these two titans of combat sports, even leaving aside the hundreds of millions of dollars that hang in the balance.
For Mayweather (49-0), it's an opportunity to further burnish an already-impressive legacy in his sport. One more win would move him just ahead of Rocky Marciano (49-0) in the all-time ranks of undefeated pugilists. In a larger narrative, this win would also mark Mayweather as the man who proved that boxing still holds more sway in the sports world than does mixed martial arts.
On the flip side, a McGregor victory would bolster the standing of the UFC, both directly and by proxy, while potentially catapulting the 29-year-old Dublin native into a new, more lucrative career in boxing. And if we're talking about narratives, what better story is there than a neophyte from the Octagon taking down one of the greatest and most skilled athletes to ever step between the ropes?
But those are all more cosmetic concerns to be settled on the final Saturday in August. Here's a look at what we know for sure about this mega-fight, with odds culled from OddsShark.
Mayweather vs. McGregor
What: Fight for an enormous payday...and bragging rights
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Saturday, August 26
Time: 11:55 p.m. ET
National TV: Showtime PPV
Live Stream: Showtime PPV, UFC, Sling TV Rentals, PlayStation Store
Odds: Mayweather -450 (bet $450 to win $100), McGregor +325 (bet $100 to win $325)
Andrew Tabiti vs. Steve Cunningham, cruiserweight
Badou Jack vs. Nathan Cleverly, light heavyweight
Gervonta Davis vs. Francisco Fonseca, junior lightweight
A Case For McGregor
It's easy to discount McGregor for his utter lack of experience, but his history as a fighter suggests this might not be a cakewalk for Mayweather.
For one, McGregor comes from a sport wherein the hits can be harder and the strategy more taxing, both physically and mentally. He won't have to worry about dodging a roundhouse kick from or grappling on the ground with Mayweather, as he would if he were in the Octagon with Nate Diaz. Instead, he can focus solely on what essentially amounts to stand-up striking, which was McGregor's MMA forte anyway.
Keep in mind, too, that McGregor's only losses in UFC came by submission.
"McGregor is a tough competitor. He's undefeated standing up. He's never lost when striking. I know that I'm in for a tough fight," Mayweather said, per ESPN's Dan Rafael.
Nor is McGregor entering the ring without a discernible chin. He's used to taking punches from thinly gloved fists and bare feet rather than blows from cushioned boxing gloves. That the Nevada State Athletic Commission also unanimously approved to allow this junior middleweight bout to proceed with eight-ounce gloves—rather than the standard of 10 ounces for fights contested at or above 147 pounds—could play into McGregor's favor, however slightly.
More than anything, it's the element of mystery that could afford McGregor an edge. As much as Mayweather can study (and probably has studied) his latest foe's style in the UFC, he won't know what to expect until the bell rings on Saturday. If McGregor can dupe and confuse his seasoned opponent just long enough to land a crushing blow or two, he may well pull off the upset of the century.
Floyd is Favored For a Reason
All that said, it's no accident that Mayweather is such a heavy favorite heading into the bout. An untested (and potentially undisciplined) combatant like McGregor is perfect fodder for a fighter as patient and methodical as Floyd.
Mayweather, who might be the best defensive boxer who ever lived, will be an exceedingly difficult target for McGregor to hit. The former's quickness is critical, but it's the poisons he presents to a southpaw like McGregor that will make this a particularly dangerous chess match. If McGregor wants to hit Mayweather flush, he may have to lunge around with his left hand, leaving his face and chest exposed to Floyd's blows.
And Mayweather, as an expert in his field, will know full well how to bait a newbie into just such a trap.
Even if McGregor doesn't fall for it, he figures to have a difficult time landing enough punches to make headway on the judges' scorecards. Both fighters have talked a big game about knocking out the other, but Mayweather hasn't notched a KO since his controversial combination against Victor Ortiz in 2011 and McGregor...well, again, he's never boxed professionally.
Should this battle last all 12 rounds, Mayweather has the clear edge. And if it doesn't, it'll probably be because Money ended it early.
As much of a sure thing as this bout may seem for Mayweather, he's not heading in without at least a modicum of risk. Here's how Rafael summed it up:
"Mayweather is 40. Mayweather hasn't fought in two years. And Mayweather, of Las Vegas, is gambling his perfect record and a brilliant Hall of Fame legacy that could be ruined with one punch from a guy who looks like he barely knows how to throw a proper boxing punch."
To that end, the divide between Mayweather and McGregor here speaks to the essence of Sin City itself. If McGregor is the braggadocious tourist playing the slots, laying bets on the roulette wheel and tossing dice at the craps table, Mayweather is the casino itself. The tourist, with a tinge of skill and a hefty helping of luck, has an outside shot at a jackpot.
But in the end, the house always wins.
And in this case, that house (i.e. Mayweather) looks like he'll win by knockout in the eighth round.