By TIM DAHLBERG, AP Sports Columnist
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The real fun will come before the fight, and what a spectacle it should be. Put Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor on a stage together to promote their fight and anything can happen.
Put them together in a ring, though, and it’s an absolute mismatch.
That’s the first thing to consider when all the talk begins about what a devastating puncher McGregor is. The first thing to think about when it’s suggested that Mayweather may have lost some of his skills after two years of traveling the world in his private jet.
If you thought you were snookered out of $100 when Mayweather fought a snoozer against Manny Pacquiao, you might keep a firm hand on your wallet. The greatest defensive fighter of his time against a guy who has never thrown a punch in a pro boxing match?
Let the yawning begin.
This could be 12 rounds of tedium on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas that makes Mayweather-Pacquiao look like Hagler-Hearns in comparison. It might be some kind of bizarre disqualification when McGregor finds out Mayweather doesn’t stick his chin out to be hit the way some UFC fighters do or really does try to kick Mayweather when he’s down.
What it won’t be is any kind of legitimate fight, no matter how much rabid UFC fans want desperately to believe it will be.
That’s no knock on McGregor, who is a ferocious puncher in the octagon with a personality to match his power. Indeed, he would likely be heavily favored over Mayweather had the two decided to do the fight under UFC rules.
One of the great trash talkers, too, who was just warming up on Wednesday when he told UFC chief Dana White what his intentions are.
“Conor told me this morning the McGregor clan has been taking over villages for 300 years,” White said, “and that Floyd’s village is next.”
Good stuff, and there’s lots more to come. McGregor can turn a phrase as well as he can throw a punch or a water bottle at an opponent.
If this was a reality show it would be a hit in the ratings. Just imagine the scene when McGregor rolls into Mayweather’s new strip club in Las Vegas and mimics his propensity for throwing cash around.
But this is a boxing match, and Mayweather is a masterful boxer. He was throwing punches before he could walk, and if he had elected to stay in retirement he’d still be considered one of the top 10 fighters ever.
Two years out of the ring won’t change that. Age won’t be a factor, either, and Mayweather has never let himself get out of shape.
Oddsmakers in this gambling city understand that, setting the initial line at a whopping 11-1 in Mayweather’s favor. It would be even higher than that, but UFC fans will be lining up with $20 bills in hand to bet their man as an underdog.
“Realistically if we were just putting up a number and didn’t have to take bets on it, Floyd would be 100-1,” said Nick Bogdanovich, oddsmaker for the William Hill chain.
Mayweather was out on a run in Los Angeles when the fight was announced, training intensely already like he always does. Someone else will have to watch over the strip club for a few months while he focuses on the task at hand.
There’s huge money at stake, even for a fighter who made more than $200 million for beating Pacquiao. No one is making predictions, but it’s likely the hybrid fight will at least end up in second place in pay-per-view sales behind the $400 million or so brought in by the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.
Balance that against the chance McGregor may ruin his brand — and that of the UFC — by being embarrassed by Mayweather in the ring, and the money wins out.
Even White, who was initially skeptical about putting his star in a boxing match, seems ready now to push the idea that he could actually win.
“I’ve stopped doubting this kid a long time ago,” White said. “The reason he’s such a superstar is this guy will fight anyone, anywhere, at any time.”
Give McGregor credit for doing that, but give him even more credit for what turned out to be a masterful plan to make the fight happen. It was two years ago that he first suggested he could beat Mayweather in a boxing ring, and he’s trolled Mayweather ever since, jabbing at every opening until he finally got him to sign on the dotted line.
Sure, it’s a freak show of sorts, bordering on something you see in WWE. But both fighters know their roles, and they will play them well.
So enjoy the ride, because it should be a wild one.
Just understand that the fun almost surely ends when the opening bell rings.