Most signs point to the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor duel in the desert breaking boxing wagering handle records, and that also means there could be a record number of disappointed underdog bettors in late August.
Mayweather, 49-0 and skilled at the highest level in the ring, figures to encounter few problems against a tough-talking UFC superstar who’s going into his first professional boxing match.
Still, Mayweather is getting little respect from the betting public. Las Vegas sports books are buried in underdog action, with more than 90 percent of the tickets on McGregor.
The fight, set for Aug. 26 at T-Mobile Arena, is 7½ weeks away and a majority of the wagering will take place in the final week. But the fight hype started months ago, and bettors and bookmakers are embracing everything about the event.
“I cannot wait. It’s going to be an absolute monster,” said veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro of the South Point. “I can’t imagine that this doesn’t go crazy. Everybody will be juiced up. It will be a great weekend.”
In other words, bookmakers are not complaining about the one-sided action. There is plenty more action on the horizon.
“I think we’re going to see some pretty strong Mayweather money show up,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said.
So far, Rood said, it’s an accumulation of small money on McGregor. MGM Resorts is hosting the fight and will take many of the biggest bets, yet Rood said no wagers of $100,000 or more have surfaced. He has seen only a handful of five-figure plays on both sides.
“Nothing big yet,” Rood said.
Vaccaro expects that to change sometime in August, saying, “There have got to be eight to 10 people who will bet $1 million on this fight.”
Mayweather is a minus-700 favorite, with a plus-500 return on McGregor, at the South Point. Mayweather is minus-750 at MGM’s books. That price range represents a dramatic drop. In mid-February, the South Point opened Mayweather as a 27-1 favorite and the Westgate opened 25-1.
When the megafight was finalized in mid-June, the line had dropped to minus-1,100. (https://www.vsin.com/monster-wagering-handle-projected-for-mayweather-mcgregor/
A ‘dream’ fight for bookmakers
“This fight is a bookmaker’s dream,” CG Technology vice president Matthew Holt said.
It’s a dream scenario for several reasons. For now, it’s creating action and interest during the slowest days of the summer. When all is said and done, the handle will be huge. And in the meantime, a bookmaker can manage his position and get any money he needs by adjusting the fight price.
“We are close to $400,000 liability to McGregor,” Holt said. “But we know the Floyd money is coming. We are pretty confident we’re going to get the Floyd money, and more importantly, we’re not afraid of the liability.
“We have already been asked by a lot of big players, ‘How much can I bet on Floyd on fight week?’”
Vaccaro said the South Point’s liability to McGregor is around $130,000, but he shrugs off that number as no big deal. As of Monday, the South Point had written 317 tickets on McGregor and 21 on Mayweather.
Rood said the ticket count at MGM’s books — a 70-to-1 ratio for McGregor — is “ridiculous.”
It’s a fight that will pit the sharps versus the squares, with sharp money on Mayweather. The squares are betting now while the true sharps wait for the line to bottom out.
“How low will it go?” Vaccaro said, before guessing minus-500 as the low point.
William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said he could see the price going as low as minus-400.
“I think this fight is going to be all over the map as far as prices go,” Rood said.
The gap in money will narrow some by mid-August, but McGregor support will continue to show for at least a few reasons. A worldwide media promotion is about to begin, and when McGregor, a world-class trash talker, wins the war of words he’ll make more believers. When his Irish fans flood into Las Vegas for fight week, they will bet the ‘dog with both fists.
And, of course, the media and the carnival barkers surrounding the fight game will play up McGregor’s chances. Count on hearing this argument frequently: Mayweather is 40 and has been retired since September 2015; McGregor, who turns 29 on July 14, is much younger, bigger and packs the type of left-handed power that should strike fear in the favorite.
McGregor's boxing coach made headlines this week by predicting his fighter will knock out Mayweather. (What else would he say?)
Tim Dahlberg, a Las Vegas-based national columnist for The Associated Press, is not propping up the underdog. Dahlberg is a longtime boxing writer who believes Mayweather is far too skilled for McGregor.
"The UFC fans are true believers and they believe in Conor McGregor, and it's going to be a shock to them when they see how this fight turns out," Dahlberg said Monday on a VSiN show.
Asked what would be parallel to a McGregor win, Dahlberg replied, "The Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl next year."
Handle records made to be broken
It’s routine now for wagering records to fall in Nevada. In February, the Super Bowl handle of $138.5 million set a record in the state, and an estimated record of $315 million was wagered on the NCAA basketball tournament in March and early April. The overall sports betting handle in Nevada was a record $4.5 billion in 2016.
Boxing also has records set to be broken. Mayweather-McGregor is widely projected to be bigger, in terms of the pay-per-view audience and wagering handle, than the overhyped Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao match at MGM Grand Garden in May 2015. Mayweather’s dull pillow fight with Pacquiao drew 4.6 million PPV buys and an estimated wagering handle of $50 million in Nevada.
“I make this about 98 percent to get over the $50 million mark,” Vaccaro said. “I believe we will top it by about $5 million.”
Rood said MGM’s books drew a handle of more than $20 million on Mayweather-Pacquiao.
“I’m hoping we’re going to do the same type of numbers,” Rood said. “It’s a guess. But early indications are it will be strong.”
The South Point’s handle is currently around $200,000, with the largest bet being $30,000 on Mayweather at minus-600. The CG Technology and Westgate books each reported wagers of $50,000 on Mayweather.
“We did $4 million on Mayweather-Pacquiao and we are just a little joint up the street,” Vaccaro said.
As bookmakers start to post more creative propositions, the betting will increase. When the fighters face off and start talking, the betting will increase.
“We have not had a press conference yet. Once there’s a press conference and you put these two guys on a mic, this thing is going to go crazy,” Holt said.
“This fight has such a global presence to it. The pace is so far ahead of Mayweather-Pacquiao, it’s almost assured it will break the record. At this point, it’s by how much?”