Start with this: It’s happening.
The fantasy matchup of all fantasy matchups — the one that we thought was designed to sink under the weight of ego, fear, and posturing — looks like the real deal. According to Yahoo Sports, undefeated (and retired) boxer Floyd Mayweather will strap up to fight UFC champ and real-live Notre Dame mascot Conor McGregor on August 26 in Las Vegas.
That the fight is happening at all is a major coup; since talk started back in May 2016 of a possible Mayweather-McGregor matchup (because Floyd started it), it’s always felt a little more like a staredown, or a dick-measuring contest, or a lever for McGregor to use to secure an ever-larger payday from his bosses at UFC. And why wouldn’t it feel like that? Mayweather hung ’em up, after a joke of a fight against the outmatched Andre Berto to bring his record to 49–0. And McGregor … isn’t a boxer. Which always felt like enough of a hedge against such a matchup ever coming together. And yet here we are.
Setting aside the real possibility that one party pulls out, or of a convenient disagreement over the purse split, or of any number of other potential roadblocks between now and August, two questions immediately come to mind.
The first — why is this actually happening? — has an easy answer: money. Yahoo suggests that each fighter stands to make $100 million from the matchup. I would fight Floyd Mayweather for $100 million. (Floyd’s late-career move from boxer to boxer-and-promoter — he’d rent out the arena, and pay everyone from concessions vendors to his opponent out of his own pocket — suggests he might not settle for a 50–50 split.) McGregor, as a two-division champion, has essentially nothing left to prove in the octagon; even a loss in the most high-profile fight in years would propel him on the “eventually starring in Fast and the Furious movies” trajectory he seems to be pursuing. That, and the $100 million.
The second question — who will win? — also has an obvious answer: Floyd Mayweather. Best I can tell, the two men have agreed to a boxing match. McGregor is an elite mixed martial artist, and I’ve greatly enjoyed watching him destroy (and mouth off at) opponents with a rare blend of speed and one-shot power. But Floyd Mayweather — even a two-years-retired Floyd Mayweather, a 40-year-old Floyd Mayweather, a Floyd Mayweather who spends his days withdrawing pallets of cash from the bank to use in his own strip club — is a boxer. More than that: He’s the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, possessed of defensive skills that the word “elite” doesn’t come close to describing. If these two are boxing, I know who I’m picking.
But even a fight that Floyd enters as a massive favorite (Bet365 has him at minus-1000, though that will likely drop as we approach August) is enough to qualify as the biggest event of the year, easily. It’s certainly the biggest matchup since Mayweather fought Manny Pacquiao in 2015. And it’s going to suck all the oxygen out of the Gennady Golovkin–Canelo Alvarez fight happening September 16, even though that fight — between two real boxers! — is the one with real implications for the sport.
And that, officially, is enough grumbling. Because this fight is actually a blessing, and the most exciting thing to happen to boxing in years. This is two world-class douchebags with two-plus months to work up their best insults. (Round 1 goes to McGregor.) This is one over-the-hill boxer attempting to summon the magic against a talent we know essentially nothing about, and one martial artist trying to prove that his dominance won’t be dulled by 12-ounce gloves and a complete lack of professional experience in the discipline. This is Mayweather-McGregor. And even if it’s a terrible fight, I’m ready to talk about it at every bar I enter between now and August 26. Dukes up, gentlemen.