Even before mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor announced his professional boxing debut in a Las Vegas ring against Floyd Mayweather, one of the all-time greats, sports journalists and fans alike were fascinated by the prospect.
Either outcome in the fight would have been a huge story – a McGregor win would have been one of the greatest ever sporting upsets, while a Mayweather victory would give him 50 wins from 50 fights, surpassing Rocky Marciano as history’s most successful pro boxer.
The brash personae of both men turned the series of pre-fight press conferences through the summer into a thrilling and outrageous world tour – these became events in themselves, achieving unprecedented coverage.
Every aspect of the fight got serious column inches: the action in the ring and the seeming impossibility (or growing possibility) of an upset; the rise of McGregor’s UFC discipline at the potential expense of its traditional cousin; the huge amounts of cash due to be made from the fight; and the unsavoury demeanour and back-stories (Mayweather has served time for domestic violence) of the two participants.
The fight has been dripping with hype, which has undoubtedly helped push up pay-per-view purchases. In turn, the fighters step away from what turned out to be an absorbing contest unfeasibly richer – the figure being bandied about is a payday of up to $100m for each, probably more when sponsor deals are added.
It may not have been a triumph of political correctness, but as an exercise in drumming up business through media attention, it was an absolute knockout.