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Mayweather vs. McGregor: Will it be worth price?

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 13/03/2017 Martin Rogers

A fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, which now seems inevitable due to the magnetism that truckloads of money brings, would be many things.

It would be a boxing match — it qualifies for that description despite that fact that one of the combatants, Ultimate Fighting Championship superstar McGregor, has never boxed competitively either as an amateur or professional.

It would be a circus-style wave of publicity involving interrupted bouts of trash talking in an attempt to build hype and therefore profitability, a process that some would argue has started already with Mayweather and McGregor regularly indulging in social media verbal sparring.

It wouldn’t be the first time a fighter from one combat discipline has forayed into another but it would be the initial instance of someone starting that journey by taking on one of the best fighters in history, which tells you all you need to know about how slim the likelihood is of the contest actually being competitive.

But more than anything, the event would be a referendum on the public, and specifically its ability to forgive and forget.

This will be, once a few remaining logistical hurdles are overcome, a match-up created solely for fiscal purposes so it is okay to view its potential success through that lens. To make the kind of extraordinary sums desired by Mayweather, the longtime pound-for-pound boxing champ, and McGregor, the hugely popular Irish mixed martial artist, they will need to convince the masses that this is something worth paying for.

© Provided by USA Today The sales pitch will need to be that this is must-see fighting entertainment, a one-off extravaganza. A so-called Fight of the Century, if you will.

Yet that process will be made significantly more difficult because the last time a fight with such hyperbole rolled around was only two years ago, and it completely failed to deliver.

More than 4.6 million people, nearly double the previous pay-per-view record, pulled out the plastic in May 2015 to plunk down $99.95 in exchange for Mayweather’s long-awaited battle with Manny Pacquiao, and got a dismal return for their money.

It was a low-action, one-sided snoozer with a miserable undercard, and many who paid for it vowed never to be so duped again. Across the board, boxing PPV sales ever since have been way down. Mayweather’s next fight, and his most recent before announcing his retirement, was against Andre Berto 19 months ago and was estimated as having sold around 10%  of the Pacquiao figure.

This is the cord-cutting generation and a shift in how the public consumes and pays for sports isn’t coming, it is already well underway.

Yet we are in many ways still sporting romantics. While there have been enough over-trumpeted disappointments to make potential viewers wary, we still hope for more, still find ways to cheat our mind into thinking that something dramatic or improbable or historically noteworthy could take place, and that the next event could offer something we can’t miss.

That is what Mayweather v. McGregor will rely upon, if, as it looks more and more, it takes place at some point over the summer. The latest step towards it took place over the weekend, when Mayweather “officially” came out of retirement, with the caveat that he was doing so purely to fight McGregor.

Mayweather long ago became a master of sculpting his persona in such a way that statements generate maximum publicity, and often you wonder whether every piece of news that emerges about him is self-scripted.

One that certainly wasn’t came last week during Mayweather’s speaking tour of Great Britain, when a truck covered with his “TMT” company branding was targeted in an arson attack in Birmingham, England, and went up in flames.

As the publicity machine continues to whir he will hope it is not an omen for sales of his cross-sport blockbuster to do the same thing.

But it likely won’t, not because Mayweather-McGregor is viable or fair contest, or because it’ll be the Fight of the Century, or even because McGregor has any kind of chance at all, but because our memories are short.

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