Vincent Hogan: Mayweather-McGregor circus is loud, lewd - and laughing all the way to the bank
As a desert bird flies, the distance from where the verbal baiting ended (officially at least) yesterday and the fighting begins in the early hours of Sunday morning is little more than a scorched 800 metres.
But walking from the MGM Grand’s KA Theatre to the T-Mobile Arena takes you to the corner of where Tropicana Avenue intersects with Las Vegas Boulevard and, accordingly, under the avocado glare of the Statue of Liberty and towards a soaring, almost Legoland replica of the Manhattan skyline.
All is illusion in Sin City. Maybe even this fight itself.
Media queued between velvet ropes for an hour and a half before being released like cattle to a feeding trough in the theatre that is normally home to Cirque Du Soleil for the concluding pre-fight press conference. On arrival, we were warned from the stage, in a female voice with sergeant-major sharpness, “Sit in the wrong place and we will cut your bracelet and revoke your credential”.
A small smattering of Irish soccer shirts could be seen circling the card tables and slot machines outside, clearly hoping to snatch a glimpse of two men, naturally, destined to enter through a back door. For the idea of either one mingling easily with the public on a casino floor, after all that’s been said and done now, would be nothing less than incendiary.
Chaos has tended to reside at any engagement between the two and McGregor seemed to be drawn into two separate squabbles outside the Toshiba Plaza on Tuesday, one with the boxer Paulie Malignaggi for whom the past weeks appear to have been distilled into some kind of personal publicity tour.
The lust for another audience with Conor McGregor and Mayweather – with so much of the outside world squirming at the worst of their excesses these past weeks – was a reminder that in this neon nightmare, good taste will forever be subsumed by the appetite for profit. With three days to the fight, it already seems safe to say that Mayweather-McGregor will be the most lucrative contest in boxing history.
This despite McGregor never having boxed professionally and ‘The Moneyman’ being out of the ring for almost two years.
Fox Sports have set up a temporary studio on the wide, paved forecourt of the fight venue and everywhere you turn on the Vegas Strip, giant images of the two protagonists glare down from billboards the size of Liberty Hall.
All of the racially motivated slurs and stereotypes have, it seems, passed for banter and we got more in much the same vein yesterday as McGregor and Mayweather concluded their formal media requirements.
It being fashionable to be late for these gatherings, the conference got under way half an hour behind schedule without its main characters, a cast of grey-faced men in suits gathered at the dais, as one put it, “while we wait for the fighters to join us”.
It all became stuffy and corporate, in light relief from the lurid narrative that has been making these gentlemen money.
There would be some vulgarity, much banality and a great deal of hollering to come of course, as everyone expected. But it did have the faint air of fatigue setting in too, of two fighters perhaps becoming ever so faintly weary of the sense of circus.
McGregor’s people eventually arrived maybe 45 minutes late, taking their seats to the front of the auditorium, before McGregor himself stepped through the black curtain in three-piece suit and shades. Immediately, he became embroiled in a heated exchange with one of Mayweather’s supporters, dismissing him as “a fool”.
He promised, “I will go forward and I will break this old man,” suggesting that Mayweather had made a big mistake agreeing to eight-ounce gloves.
And all the time you could not escape McGregor’s self-marketing achievement here. The miracle that’s been worked.
Less than five years ago, he was collecting the dole from Lucan Post Office and has predicted he will “clear the hundred million mark” for getting in the ring while, depending on source, Mayweather may be benefiting to anything between twice and three times that extraordinary mark. The figures are almost beyond rational processing.
In interviews with McGregor, the UFC has taken to titling the fight as “arguably the greatest sporting event of our lifetime”, rhetoric – naturally – that won’t draw as much as a quizzical glance in a city habitually called the “fight capital of the world”.
The winner of the weekend fight will be presented with a rather gaudy contrivance called ‘The Money Belt’, made – perhaps appropriately – out of crocodile skin.
No question, the world may be repulsed on so many levels by what it is that has brought us here but, financial predictions suggest that that same world will also cast a squinting glance when these men climb between the ropes. Boxing’s final megastar against the biggest personality ever to step into the octagon, two loud and lewd personalities, laughing all the way to the bank.