The wonderful freak fight is less than two weeks away and in Las Vegas the sideshow attractions are starting to arrive for the carnival.
In one of the city’s gyms Conor McGregor has hired one of the world’s finest referees, Joe Cortez, to help him get an increased understanding of boxing’s rules, especially under the stress of sparring, and to generally improve the Dublin fighter’s boxing etiquette.
“I will be the King of boxing,” declared McGregor after another bizarre shuffle and lunge session in the ring; his warm-up routine is comedy gold, but I’m not sure it is meant to be funny.
In another part of the fabled city and in another gym Floyd Mayweather has acquired a nasty edge as yet again the world’s best boxer is losing the popularity race; Mayweather just might be a spiteful man on the night when the grappling horde, the boxing faithful, the conmen, the thieves, the rollers, the lost souls and their entourages of endless dreamers shut down the city for a fight to end all fights.
McGregor has taken possession of his garish gown for the night, courtesy of the Versace heiress and flown fresh from Milan to be worn in front of millions once the lights have dimmed at the T-Mobile Arena on the 26th of this month. It is a cloak that Liberace, the true extravagant prince of Las Vegas, would have worn with pride.
A lot of dead men and women from the Las Vegas circuit would applaud McGregor’s style, his endless striving to shine. He is a Las Vegas child, make no mistake.
At Mayweather’s headquarters the fighter’s cacophonous gaggle, a chorus without too many scruples, roar his every fart, duck and punch with the glazed-eyed adoration of a two-bob religious mob. He is their tiny leader, a topless messiah, impossibly clean at every moment – he has several men with towels ready to collect the slightest sign of perspiration – and during his sessions he has worked hard on boxing’s basics; McGregor has worked on outrageous punch routines in public and has hopefully taken the advice from former world champion Larry Holmes in his private sessions.
Holmes is convinced there will be a real fight and that McGregor has to simply walk in, hands up, body low, back Mayweather to the corner and bang away. Nice idea, Ricky Hatton and a dozen others tried it. Hatton, like McGregor, had total belief that Mayweather was incapable of hurting him and that was part of his awful downfall.
The first of the fans will pour into the city this week, occupying the cheaper seats at the few remaining sordid bars where something like Guinness is served and offering their endless takes on the fight. McGregor will be their specialist topic as they scream his odds, ignoring history, facts and the awful reality that so many men discover once they are left to fight in a boxing ring. The kind words from Holmes, a man of great knowledge, will be sweet on the ears of Mayweather.
“Everybody has a plan until they get hit,” is one of boxing’s oldest maxims.
McGregor will have to watch his elbows, his head and his wild punches when the bell sounds. He is an instinctive fighter with unpredictable movements, Mayweather will moan at every single chance he has and the referee on the night will listen. The fight’s unique profile will mean that accidents and unintentional clashes of heads will all take on an added significance because McGregor is both a novice boxer and skilled at dislocating his opponent’s elbows.
It is perhaps too easy to forget that Henry Cooper, the British heavyweight idol from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, always tried to injure a boxer’s elbow in a clinch. It was part of the sport’s dark arts at the time, but would lead to a riot on fight night in Las Vegas.
McGregor’s tiny hope of competing is surely that Mayweather has grown so terribly old during his 24-month exile and that not only his timing but his memory has deserted him. It is the type of crazy wish by a grown man that could only ever come true in the fantasy land that Las Vegas is. Next week the magic will start and it will be one of the truly great events.
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