It’s said that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know this is: Fans get the fights they deserve.
That brings us to Tuesday afternoon and the dreamlike scene at Staples Center, where an estimated 10,800 spectators watched Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor exchange vulgarities to promote their Aug. 26 mismatch.
If the challenge here was to convince a skeptical public that a mixed martial artist with no previous boxing experience could be competitive in a boxing match against the greatest boxer of his generation, the crowd relieved the performers of their obligation.
The fans didn’t have to be convinced. They were already sold.
They roared when McGregor entered the arena and walked on the stage. They booed when Mayweather did the same.
Maybe they weren’t certain of a McGregor victory, but they looked and sounded as if they believed that the charismatic Irishman has a chance. Or perhaps they wanted to believe he has chance. Whatever misguided emotion was in their hearts, it was strong enough to make them ditch work to back their man at a news conference. Similar turnouts are expected later this week at stops in Toronto, New York and London.
This naivete has a price: $99.95 for the pay-per-view broadcast of the fight in high definition.
And this will sell, with UFC President Dana White predicting the fight will establish a new benchmark for pay-per-view sales, breaking the record of 4.6 million set by Mayweather’s lopsided decision win over Manny Pacquiao in 2015.
The predictability of the outcome, coupled with the significant financial stakes, made the truth borderline off-limits Tuesday — which, in case you haven’t figured out by now, is that Mayweather will win easily.
Mayweather is brash, but had to show some uncharacteristic humility to make it seem as if McGregor will be more than a pinata.
Asked if he was surprised by the number of people who think McGregor can beat him, Mayweather replied, “He does have a chance. Every time two warriors go out there and compete, anything can happen.”
But as a longtime champion boxer, wasn’t he offended to see he was listed as only a 7-1 favorite in Las Vegas sports books?
“He’s young,” Mayweather said. “He’s in his 20s, I’m in my 40s. He’s active. I’m not active. I mean, I’m surprised it’s not a lot closer.”
Stephen Espinoza, general manager of Showtime Sports, defended the price of the pay-per-view broadcast, asking for judgment to be delayed until the undercard fights were announced. Plus, he said, boxing is unpredictable, and he pointed to some of Mayweather’s previous victories.
“We thought the Canelo [Alvarez] fight was going to be super-competitive,” Espinoza said.
“I didn’t,” I told him.
“We thought Pacquiao would be competitive,” Espinoza said.
“I didn’t,” I said.
“The reality,” he said, “is it can’t be any less competitive than Pacquiao and Canelo.”
That wasn’t the greatest pitch. But I couldn’t really blame Espinoza, whom I consider smart and likable. What else was he supposed to say? The price was set at $99.95 because people will pay $99.95.
The anything-can-happen-in-boxing case was also made by Leonard Ellerbe, chief executive of Mayweather’s promotional company.
“I’ve seen Floyd in a fight where he’s fractured both of his hands,” Ellerbe said.
I offered the opinion that if a fighter’s primary route to victory consists of his opponent’s breaking both hands, his chances weren’t very good.
“That dude is coming to win,” Ellerbe said. “Sometimes what you have inside of your heart, that’s enough to get you by.”
Arturo Gatti had as much heart as anyone who has ever fought, and Mayweather blew him out.
When McGregor spoke, it wasn’t hard to figure out why so many people have fallen under his spell. He’s a fighting version of LaVar Ball, saying outrageous things with a little twinkle in his eye that makes listeners uncertain whether he’s serious or joking.
Speaking in the press room after the public portion of the news conference, McGregor made a crack about Mayweather’s age, saying he couldn’t distinguish the longtime champion from his father, Floyd Sr. That prompted Floyd Sr. to shout at McGregor.
“You get your chance on Aug. 26, Junior,” McGregor replied with a smile.
The audience laughed, but McGregor wasn’t finished.
“He could have been 49-0, rode off into the sunset,” he said. “Trust me, he got greedy here. That was a big mistake. You misadvised him. You should have kept him retired. It’s your fault.”
It was all nonsense, of course.
About the only truth spoken on this day was by Mayweather as he described how he agreed to take on McGregor.
“The fans demanded this fight,” he said.
He was right. If not for them, this wouldn’t be happening. And when they ask themselves how they could have paid $100 for a handful of rounds of one-sided action, they will have only themselves to blame.
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez