Boxing legend Floyd Mayweather and mixed martial arts icon Conor McGregor have confirmed plans for a long-awaited showdown, triggering both criticism and anticipation of what is set to be one of the richest fights in history.
Mayweather and McGregor – kingpins of their sports – will climb into a boxing ring to face each other at Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena on August 26.
Mayweather, 40, will be aiming to reach the 50-0 milestone while McGregor is a heavy underdog in the 12-round boxing match.
A victory for the 28-year-old Irishman would be a monumental upset.
“Floyd is the greatest of all time and Conor is the master of our sport,” MMA promoter Dana White said. “I thought it would be an impossible deal to do, but it was the right fight at the right time and we got it done.”
Mayweather Promotions chief executive Leonard Ellerbe said the boxer’s team decided to end his 23-month retirement because the clamour for the 69.85kg showdown had been impossible to ignore.
Mayweather announced the fight on his Instagram account with a graphic saying “IT’S OFFICIAL!!!”, showing pictures of both fighters and listing Las Vegas as the location, while McGregor sent out an earlier tweet stating “THE FIGHT IS ON”.
McGregor is the top pay-per-view draw in UFC while Mayweather had been the money-spinner in some of boxing’s biggest bouts, including match-ups with Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao and US star Oscar De la Hoya.
Mayweather earned $250-million (R3.2-billion) for his Pacquiao fight. “There is a different feel from the Pacquiao fight,” Ellerbe said.
“It is the unknown factor [of fighting an MMA star].”
Neither Mayweather nor McGregor has competed this year.
Mayweather retired from pro boxing in 2015 after defeating Andre Berto, while McGregor (21-3) defeated Eddie Alvarez in November last year.
White said the key to finalising the fight was luring Mayweather out of retirement.
“Everybody is happy with this deal,” he said. The boxing format heavily favours the undefeated Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs), whom many consider to be the best pound-for- pound fighter in the world.
McGregor has not stepped into a boxing ring since he was a teenager.
Despite having little or no boxing experience, White insists his MMA client is confident of victory. McGregor is UFC’s only simultaneous two-division champion.
Ellerbe said: “Floyd is 40 and he has to prepare. We would be a bunch of damn fools to sit around and sleep on this.”
Although there will be no titles on the line, the fight will provide an opportunity for both to cash in financially. The event is expected to be a pay-for-view blockbuster.
News of the fight on Wednesday triggered waves of scorn across social media, with many branding the bout a freak show.