It has been and will continue to be called a circus promotion and a bad joke, but this summer’s boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor seems sure to make history as a betting blockbuster.
After months of hype and speculation, the megafight deal was finalized Wednesday. The undefeated boxer will come out of retirement once again to face the UFC superstar on Aug. 26 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“It’s a monster event,” South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said. “What can I tell you? I think people are underestimating what it’s going to be. It’s going to be huge.”
Mayweather-McGregor might be bigger, in terms of the pay-per-view audience and wagering handle, than the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in May 2015. Mayweather’s lackluster victory over Pacquiao drew 4.6 million PPV buys and an estimated wagering handle of about $50 million in Nevada.
"This is going to do a ton of business. It could rival the Mayweather-Pacquiao handle," said VSiN oddsmaker Vinny Magliulo, who added that the fight is not being staged on a big football weekend to maximize the handle.
"People were saying this fight would never happen. We have to get over that. People said we would never get a pro team in Las Vegas, and now we have two."
In mid-February, the South Point opened Mayweather as a 27-1 favorite and the Westgate opened 25-1. (https://www.vsin.com/in-a-boxing-mismatch-mayweather-would-be-monster-favorite-over-mcgregor/) The line has dropped to minus-1,100, with a plus-700 return on McGregor, due to one-sided action.
“Not a bet on Mayweather yet,” Vaccaro said. “There is $3,000 on the ‘dog and zero bets on Mayweather. The smarts were not going to put the money up thinking there might not be a fight.”
But the Mayweather money started to show late Wednesday afternoon, when CG Technology sports books took a $50,000 bet to win $5,000.
“We finally took a big bet on Floyd,” CG Technology vice president Matthew Holt said. “We took over 100 bets on McGregor, with the biggest one being $300.
“What I think it’s going to be the whole time is tons of small bets on McGregor and huge bets on Mayweather. The disdain for Mayweather is going to grow. Some people will bet on McGregor because they want it to happen. McGregor is going to get the blue-collar bets.”
The fight is scheduled for 12 rounds at the boxing junior middleweight limit of 154 pounds.
Now, the whirlwind media tour can begin, and the hype is expected to far surpass the quality of the fight. Mayweather and McGregor are two of the most charismatic trash talkers in sports. Throwing gas on the fire will be UFC president Dana White and the carnival barkers of the boxing promotional world.
Mayweather, 40, retired with a 49-0 record after defeating Andre Berto in September 2015. McGregor, who turns 29 in July, has a 21-3 mixed martial arts record and last fought in November, when he knocked out Eddie Alvarez.
Reactions on Twitter indicate the fight will trigger a lively debate for the next two months.
Fox Sports Radio host John Tournour of Las Vegas tweeted: “Initially everyone will predict Floyd easily over Conor but the media CIRCUS will build and many will believe that McGregor has a chance.”
UFC commentator Jon Anik tweeted: “McGregor shouldn't be a plus-1,000 underdog against anyone at his weight in a combat sports setting right now. Big game player.”
Mayweather is arguably the most skilled defensive fighter in boxing history. McGregor, a novice boxer but a tough MMA brawler from Ireland, is set up to get outclassed in the ring. There will be a creative menu of proposition bets, including: Will McGregor lose by disqualification?
A majority of fight analysts and sharp bettors are dismissing McGregor’s chances.
“Put me on that list. No shot, none whatsoever,” Holt said. “Conor is not a boxer. He has no shot. It’s the equivalent of saying to Bryce Harper, ‘Go play Tiger Woods in 18 holes of golf because you both hit the ball really hard.’
“I don’t even think Conor makes it the distance. I think Conor gets knocked out, and I think it’s going to be pretty embarrassing. It’s so ridiculous. This is probably the worst-priced event in the history of sports betting. I think it is by far. You should have to bet $200 to win $1 on Mayweather.”
Strong opinions like that will likely turn into major wagers between now and late August.
“I would not be surprised if we take a $1 million bet on this fight,” Holt said.
On May 30, the Westgate took a $50,000 bet on Mayweather at minus-8,000, sports book director Jay Kornegay said. But as of Wednesday, 92 percent of the tickets were on McGregor.
“Mayweather is just so good. Nobody can lay a hand on this guy,” Kornegay said. “Most of, if not all of his fights have been boring. McGregor will go in there swinging. I think McGregor is going to be dead after about four rounds trying to chase this guy down.
“It’s going to be a spectacle for sure, and the Irish fans will be in town. But the fight is probably going to be a huge letdown. I wonder if McGregor really seriously thinks he can win this fight. I wonder if he’s just taking this as a payday, and it’s a huge payday. He could leave the UFC and stop fighting.”
The date in late August will steal much of the media spotlight from the year’s top boxing match between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin on Sept. 16 in Las Vegas.
“It’s a brilliant move to put it a few weeks ahead of the Triple G-Canelo fight,” Vaccaro said.
Some will laugh it off as a circus promotion, but Mayweather-McGregor is sure to generate serious interest.
“It’s good for business from a bookmaker’s standpoint,” Vaccaro said. “It’s going to be a marvelous, marvelous weekend here.”