So, after all the shadow-boxing, showboating and sledging, it’s actually happening. Ring legend Floyd Mayweather Jr and Octagon phenomenon Conor McGregor will go toe-to-toe in Las Vegas on August 26.
A slightly over-excited Mark Sylvester runs the rule over the clash.
What if the best of the best in UFC climbs in with the best of the best in boxing?
And here we are.
There’s almost nothing sports fans like to do more than play the game of what-if? What if Maradona played against Messi? Senna raced Hamilton? Ali fought Joshua? Well, now one of the great what-if’s will be answered.
Arguably the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time, Floyd ‘The Money’ Mayweather, puts his 49-fight unblemished record on the line against the man who sent expletive-laden shockwaves through UFC, Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor.
So, let’s put one thing to bed from the off… there’s no way this is just a star-spangled, razzmatazz-drizzled, diamond-encrusted exhibition.
It’s not a freak show, and it’s not a farce. Of course both fighters are making colossal sums of cash. They deserve to. And anyone who thinks it’s just about the money – even for ‘The Money’ – should go through these guy’s training regime over the next two months!
It’s simply not how warriors like this pair operate.
They both have egos that can be seen from space and levels of self-belief that defy all scientific measurement. They have skill-sets to die for and their reputations – and those of their sports – are on the line. A line where pain rules!
On paper, at first glance – and even with a long, lingering look – the odds seemed stacked in Mayweather’s favour.
He’s fighting in his neon-soaked back yard, inside a ring with sides you can count on one hand, against an opponent who’s never spent one second scrapping to the Queensbury Rules.
And, for the record, let’s never forget Mayweather has held world titles at FIVE weights, and made the likes of Manny Pacquaio and Oscar De La Hoya look like they’d got lost and ended up in the wrong fight.
Fortunately for McGregor, the fight’s not on paper.
The ring may be a strange shape and takedowns will be seriously frowned on, but the Irishman does hold some aces up his beautifully tailored, Saville Row sleeve.
At 28 he’s 12 years younger than the veteran Mayweather. At 5ft 9in he has a slight height advantage and his 74in reach puts him 2in beyond Mayweather.
He’s also one of the best stand-ups in UFC, and separated bigger and heavier men than Mayweather from their senses.
While ‘The Money’ is doing his research into McGregor, he might just want to look away as McGregor’s seismic arrival onto the UFC’s top table was announced with a 13-second pole-axing of UFC Featherweight champ, Jose Aldo.
In fact, in terms of KO’s, ‘The Notorious’ is the fighter with the dynamite in his fists here, with 18 of his 23 wins in MMA coming as a result of opponents collapsing like cheap deckchairs under the weight of his heavy hands.
McGregor’s also the ultimate showman who’s plan A, B and pretty much through to Z, is to attack. He’s a fighter who loves the big stage. And this one is super-sized.
But the $200m question is if he can actually beat Mayweather.
‘The Money’ has plenty of power, and has carved an exalted place in boxing history by making it pretty much impossible for anyone to hit him, let alone beat him. He blocks, parries and simply eludes punches like no other boxer, before pummelling opponents to defeat.
McGregor does have enough power to take out Mayweather, but he might find he’s flailing like a rookie piñata player as the ring icon sticks to a tried and trusted script that normally ends with his hands in the air.
Maybe Mayweather has some ring rust after 23 months out, since ‘retiring’ after a landslide points victory over a big-hitting Andre Berto – who, by the by, failed to land too many hits, big OR small!
But probably not.
Mayweather always turns up as conditioned as a prime thoroughbred.
Unless he takes a sledgehammer to the head in training, his footwork, defence and speed are likely to be as metronomic as ever.
Which means McGregor must get in early and land the kind of punch 49 professional boxers have utterly failed to do.
He could. Really he could. But, if he doesn’t, the chances are he’ll spend a long night being peppered by Mayweather’s fists and will leave the ring not quite knowing how he lost.
But, and this is a biggie, this is a fight like no other. Normal rules may just be left at the door.