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LAS VEGAS — The only thing missing from Saturday’s Mayweather-McGregor mega-match just might be the buzz around town.
Yes, there are plenty of fans in the fight capital of the world who have anxiously waited almost two years for Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor to touch gloves. And as evidenced by Friday’s weigh-in, Sin City is full of McGregor supporters. Banners and billboards dot the Strip. Everywhere you look there are signs advertising either the fight itself or where you can watch it. At coffee shops in the morning, the casino floor in the afternoon, and bars and clubs at night, Mayweather-McGregor talk dominates.
But ask the right people to compare the electricity in Vegas leading up Mayweather-McGregor to the last superfight it hosted—Pacquiao-Mayweather in 2015—and they’ll tell you Mayweather-McGregor doesn’t come close.
“It doesn’t rank against Pacquiao-Mayweather. Not at all,” says ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. “We waited years for that. It was a legitimate big time fight. It didn’t turn out to be that way, but leading up to the fight we waited years for Pacquiao-Mayweather.”
And that just might be the biggest reason why Mayweather-McGregor isn’t registering on the Richter Scale like Pacquiao-Mayweather. While the fight two years ago ultimately did not live up to it’s incredible hype, it was certainly worthy of its massive buildup and buzz. Two future Hall of Famers, the best pound-for-pound boxers at the time, finally faced off after almost five years of circling each other. The boxing world, and sports world, could barely contain itself. Vegas, says anyone who was around that weekend, was electric.
The reasons why Mayweather-McGregor feels different are numerous. There’s more of a spectacle feel to this fight between a living legend and a novice. “No. 1, you expect an annihilation,” says Smith, “and No. 2, it’s Conor McGregor’s never fought as a boxer.” The four-city world tour promoting the fight in July was off-putting to some after it devolved into a boorish spectacle of braggadocio. Insanely high ticket prices might prevent T-Mobile Arena—which holds more fans than the MGM Garden Arena where Pacquiao-Maywether went down—from being sold out which would be embarrassing for the fight’s promotion. Mayweather’s past his prime. McGregor’s out of his element. Mayweather’s a huge favorite. McGregor’s a novelty, a curiosity to many.
It all makes sense why Mayweather-McGregor isn’t poppin’ like, the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world would say, a legitimate championship fight.
Off the set of ESPN’s First Take, where he offered up his opinion on Mayweather-McGregor Friday morning, Andre Ward, who knows a thing or two about big fight weekends in Vegas, says there’s something off with Mayweather-McGregor.
“The energy is different and I can’t really put my finger on it,” says the light heavyweight champion of the world. “There’s a lot of people here. There’s some kind of buzz. It’s just different than what I’m used to. The buzz for a big fight when you have two top guys fighting is almost tangible. This is just kind of like, lookie lous. Like let’s see what’s going to happen.”
While the celebrity quotient for the fight is predicted to be massive—the likes of LeBron James, Alex Rodriguez, Jennifer Lopez, and many others A-listers are reportedly attending—expectations for an entertaining fight are low. McGregor's only been seriously training as a boxer for a few months and has looked comical at times during his training and sparring sessions. Books here in Vegas have Mayweather as a prohibitive favorite.
“I’ve told people the whole time during this build-up: don’t look for the greatest fight in boxing history. It’s an event,” says Ward. “It’s the unknown. It’s a spectacle. Just know what you’re signing up for.”
As far as spectacles go, Vegas has never hosted anything like this. As far as buzz goes, Vegas can do better.