Conor McGregor’s ability to visualize and realize the impossible has gotten him to this stage, a place where victory would elevate him to otherworldly status among sporting figures.
The unlikely boxing match inspired by the fighters’ verbally artistic exchanges and an international swarm of curiosity arrives Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
There, the talking that has positioned the bout to become the greatest-selling combat sports event in history will stop, and the boxing will begin.
In a way, that moment already has arrived. Seconds after McGregor weighed 153 pounds, one pound under boxing’s super-welterweight limit, and Mayweather (49-0) came in at his usual 149.5 pounds, they approached to face off for the cameras.
Mayweather remained stone-faced as McGregor roared, embodying the hero many came to see. The pro-McGregor crowd was the majority of the estimated 13,500 people that attended the weigh-in with many waving green, orange and white Irish flags, belting out cheers and songs hailing their brave countryman.
Even as McGregor said, “That’s the worst shape I’ve ever seen him. I’m going to breeze through him, trust me on that,” in response to Mayweather’s weight, the message was clear:
McGregor’s words don’t matter anymore. Mayweather has the Irishman where he wants him.
“Weight doesn’t win fights. Fighting wins fights,” Mayweather said after returning from a two-year retirement for a chance to collect in excess of $300 million and retire at 50-0. “It won’t go the distance. This will become Conor McGregor’s last fight also.
“I’ve been here before. I know what it takes when it’s a fight of this magnitude. The fans cannot fight for you. Forty-nine times I went out there [in the ring], it was one-on-one.”
Overwhelmed by the chatter between the fast-witted Irishman and Mayweather, who found himself reverting to his old-school mouthy wizardry, an analytic breakdown of the matchup has been lost in the entertainment.
CompuBox’s Bob Canobbio crunched the numbers that reveal Mayweather’s elusiveness and skill, starting with his No. 1 standing with a plus-25 punches-landed advantage average over 15 welterweight fights. The average welterweight lands 30.8 percent of his punches. Mayweather’s opponents land 18.9 percent.
More impressively, former four-division champion Juan Manuel Marquez landed an all-time low 69 punches on Mayweather.
Seven of Mayweather’s past 15 opponents have landed less than 100 punches on him, and of that group that includes Marquez, Manny Pacquiao, Zab Judah and Shane Mosley, their landed punches total was at least 59.4 percent less than the average punches-landed total in their prior five fights.
“I know he’s going to come out and keep switching,” Mayweather said. “He’s going to be orthodox, then southpaw and go back and forth. I’m going to do what I do, listen to the instructions given to me by my dad, [father-trainer] Floyd Mayweather Sr., and keep my composure.”
Mayweather also has said he’s motivated to remove the distaste from fans who felt ripped off by investing in his yawn-filled victory over Pacquiao.
“Not the performance of my lifetime because I’ve had a hell of some fights. I do want to go out there and get it in there from the opening bell,” Mayweather said. “He’s going to come at me. I’ve dealt with that before. And what he needs to realize is that if he is going to come at me, he’s got to keep that same endurance for 12 rounds.”
Mayweather Sr. said his son is anticipating showing the lessons of a lifetime of work against the debuting McGregor.
“You’re going to see a bunch of knots on [McGregor’s] head, that’s what’s coming,” Mayweather Sr. said.
The bettors sense this. One placed a $1 million bet on Mayweather at one of the MGM properties Friday, and another bookmaker said the action is “buzzing, the heavy money on Floyd,” according to Westgate Superbook director Jay Kornegay. The average bet on Mayweather Friday was $8,086, Kornegay said, and the McGregor average was $205.
There’s a vision, and there’s reality.
And as Mayweather walked out of his gym late Thursday night, the nearness of achieving his dream caused his eyes to moisten.
“I can say I gave the sport my whole life. This is the only thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I didn’t give the sport my whole life to say there’s another fighter better than me. If I felt like there’s another fighter better than Floyd Mayweather, than I probably would’ve taken an ‘L’ a long time ago.”