Who is fighting?
Floyd Mayweather Jr is the finest boxer of his generation, unbeaten in 49 paying fights and 26 world championship contests with titles in five weight classes, who has never even been down or seriously hurt as a professional.
For years he was billed as Pretty Boy Floyd, an extraordinary boxer with little profile beyond hardcore fight fans. Then, in 2007, he bought out his contract with promoter Bob Arum for $750,000 and recast himself as the made-for-TV pantomime villain Money Mayweather, embracing the fact that more customers pay to watch him lose than to watch him win.
It has paid off handsomely – Mayweather has gone from a $2m-a-fight boxer to one of the highest-earning sportsmen ever. This is no less than a miracle given his risk-averse, defensive style that appeals to a subset of aficionados but not the broader public that has always preferred slugging to boxing.
The week before his first UFC fight, in 2013, Conor McGregor was a plumber’s apprentice in Dublin collecting a $235 welfare check. Since then, he has become the biggest name in mixed martial arts, and the first fighter to hold UFC championships in two divisions when he knocked out Eddie Alvarez last year. Like Mayweather, he is known for his brash style and penchant for trash talk.
What rules are they using?
The scheduled 12-round bout will take place under the unified rules of boxing at the junior welterweight limit of 154lbs. This poses a problem for McGregor, who has never boxed professionally or even at the senior amateur level, against any experienced boxer – let alone an opponent of Mayweather’s caliber. The circus match, dismissed by purists as a money-spinning farce, has been likened to a 5,000m race between Usain Bolt and Mo Farah or a trumpet competition between Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix.
Has this kind of thing happened before?
The closest historical analogue is Muhammad Ali’s risible fight with the Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki in 1976, which is widely regarded as the most embarrassing moment of the Greatest’s career.
Ali, then in his second reign as world heavyweight champion, traveled to Tokyo to fight Inoki under a negotiated set of rules that drew from boxing and wrestling, a sort of precursor to what is known as mixed martial arts today. Inoki spent nearly all of the 15-round on his back, kicking at Ali’s legs, causing a pair of blood clots that would affect his mobility for the rest of his fighting days. When it was over, the judges scored it a draw and the angry spectators threw garbage into the ring.
How much will they get paid?
There are two parts to both fighters’ salaries for Saturday’s fight:
1) The guaranteed purse disclosed by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
2) An additional cut based on how the promotion performs, the exact details and breakdown of which will not be disclosed and are protected under a confidentiality agreement.
Mayweather will earn a minimum purse of $100m, matching the career-high guarantee he made for his 2015 megafight with Manny Pacquiao. That takeaway is expected to balloon past $200m once the pay-per-view receipts, closed-circuit revenues and foreign sales are tallied.
McGregor’s contracted purse is $30m, which is 10 times his previous career-high guarantee of $3m for his rematch with Nate Diaz last year. His total earnings are expected to exceed $75m once his share of the promotion is accounted for.
So they’re both winners, really.
How do I watch it?
The Showtime pay-per-view telecast, which includes three preliminary bouts, costs $99.95 in the US. The fight will also be shown in movie theaters across the country and closed-circuit locations in Las Vegas. That’s if you can’t afford a pair of tickets on the secondary market, which on Saturday morning were down to $2,447 for a pair in the nosebleeds.