Floyd denies agreement but bout still on the cards

Conor McGregor celebrates his win over Eddie Alvarez in their lightweight championship bout at UFC 205. Following that victory, he became the first man to simultaneously hold UFC titles in two weight divisions.
Conor McGregor celebrates his win over Eddie Alvarez in their lightweight championship bout at UFC 205. Following that victory, he became the first man to simultaneously hold UFC titles in two weight divisions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • It appears that, at some point, boxer Floyd Mayweather and martial arts star Conor McGregor will step into a ring.

On Tuesday, the "happily retired" Mayweather denied the fight was a done deal but urged McGregor's representatives to "get the fight done".

Until they do, though, it is going to be a tedious, one-step-forward-two-steps-back process, in which every report that the fight is all but set brings a quick reminder that the fight is not, in fact, set.

This recalls nothing so much as the protracted negotiations between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, and this time it will likely all be resolved after a better payoff is arrived at.

The possibility of a fight between Mayweather and McGregor appeared to get a boost when a few months ago Ultimate Fighting Championship boss Dana White said he would pay US$25 million (S$35.57 million) to each.

On Tuesday, Mayweather, 39, released this statement in reaction to reports that he and McGregor had agreed on terms: "Although there has been several rumours circulating thru media suggesting that I will have an upcoming fight, I'd like to set that record straight and state that there has been no deals made on my behalf in regards to a bout with any fighter at this time.

"I am happily retired and enjoying my life! Rest assured that if any changes come about, I will be the first to let the world know!"

If those words sounded familiar, it might have been because the American posted a nearly identical message on social media shortly before that statement, which apparently included some judicious tweaks (such as changing "floating around media" to "circulating thru media" and putting exclamation points at the end of the final two sentences).

The words also echoed this statement, almost exactly two years ago: "I haven't signed yet, and he hasn't signed yet, you know. It's just been speculations and rumours, but hopefully we can make the fight happen."

Mayweather offered that comment just a few days before both he and Filipino southpaw Pacquiao finally signed a contract to fight, so all those "speculations and rumours" turned out to be on point. And there is reason to think that they are this time as well.

It is not known whether McGregor has met Mayweather yet, but it is known that the UFC champion was on Tuesday in Las Vegas, where the boxer tends to conduct business.

In keeping with his penchant for bravado, the Irishman took the opportunity to taunt Mayweather for his "happily retired" line: "I am in Las Vegas. Floyd has retired on my arrival."

Seven hours later, Mayweather tweeted: "Listen Conor McGregor, if you really want to get this fight done... take care of your business with the UFC and have your people get in touch with my people."

Mayweather may be technically retired, having insisted his win over Andre Berto in September 2015 was the final bout of his career.

But it is clear that the undefeated (49-0) fighter wants to take on the 28-year-old McGregor, whom he sees as popular enough to ensure he gets another gigantic payday for his efforts.

WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'Floyd denies agreement but bout still on the cards'. Print Edition | Subscribe