Boxing

Fear of the unknown the only weapon Conor McGregor has against Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather jr and Conor McGregor pose for photographers during Wednesday's news conference in Las Vegas. Picture by AP

Boxing: Conor McGregor (0-0-0) v Floyd Mayweather jr (49-0-0) (tomorrow, 5am approx, live on Sky Sports Box Office)

EVEN now, less than a day away, it is almost impossible to comprehend just how Conor McGregor has ended up sharing a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather jr.

We know how, of course – because money talks almost as much as the two men in question.

And when you look at the manoeuvrings of both throughout their career, it should come as no real surprise that we’ve ended up here, in Sin City, emotions split somewhere between rapture and revulsion.

McGregor’s mixed martial art skills cannot be questioned, but he has become the UFC’s poster boy as much because of his carefully-crafted persona as his ability inside the octagon.

In his own words: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, maaaaaannn.”

Much of his bombast and braggadocio is viewed as a nod to the late, great Muhammad Ali, but the prolificness of his profanities and crass celebration of his own financial worth are plucked straight from the Mayweather handbook.

Don’t forget, this is the man who walked away from a multi-million pound deal with Top Rank in the middle of the last decade because he didn’t have the profile he felt his talent deserved.

And so ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd was born, the trash-talking titan who lured punters into pay-per-view event time and again.

Yet fight fans were not setting their alarms so bleary eyes could bear witness to his silky skills while the sun came up. At 6am, the worst possible antidote to sleep is watching Floyd Mayweather go another 12 rounds without a glove laid near him.

Instead, more and more people tuned in because they were holding on to the ever-diminishing hope that, maybe this time, they would see him put on his arse.

In 49 fights against actual boxers, highly skilled professionals, most of whom had paid their dues to the sport in distinguished careers, that day never came.

Yet, even against a man who hasn’t boxed so much as a single round for pay, the pre-fight narrative remains the same.

What happens if McGregor lands that left hand on his chin?

Mayweather hasn’t fought for two years. He’s 40 now. Need any more reason to believe? Take it from the man himself.

“I’m older. I’m not the same fighter I was two years ago. I’m not the same fighter I was five years ago. I’ve lost a step.”

Call me cynical, but that sounds like someone trying to sell a fight.

So what is that it that has made a boxing match between a legend of the sport and an untested novice viable? What is it that will make so many naysayers reluctantly press the red button on their remote when push comes to shove?

You can argue McGregor’s youth versus Floyd’s advancing years. You can argue the Dubliner’s undoubted punching power. But really, McGregor’s greatest asset – and the biggest feather in the cap of the whole promotion - is the unknown. The sense that anything can happen, a point perhaps proved by McGregor's rise and rise.

Tyson Fury brought an unpredictability and sense of chaos that completely destabilised Wladimir Klitschko. Whether McGregor has the discipline and the skill-set to carry out a similar strategy remains to be seen, but has to be highly doubtful.

He says he’s going to war. Argentine brawler Marcos Maidana attempted to rough Mayweather up in their two 2014 meetings, sitting on his chest and raining in potentially disorientating blows on the top and side of his head.

It wasn’t pretty, Mayweather ended up with more bruises that usual, but Maidana ended up being outclassed on both occasions.

Future Hall of Famer Shane Mosley caught him with as clean a shot as you could ever dream of when they met in 2010, landing right on the button and dipping Mayweather’s legs.

How did he react? He held on, rode out the storm, then dominated the rest of the fight. Barely one clean shot has been landed on him since, and it’s especially hard to make a case for that changing in the next 24 hours.

McGregor deserves huge credit for his part in making this event happen but it will be remembered for the circus that surrounded it, and the money ultimately generated, rather than what transpires between the ropes.

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