Mayweather vs McGregor: The Perfect Example of How Hype Shapes Betting Odds

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, the furore surrounding the upcoming boxing bout between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor cannot have escaped you.

The former undefeated multi-weight champion takes on the MMA superstar in a huge fight designed to make all involved plenty of money. The promotional tour has already begun, stopping by California, Toronto and London, and the hype is almost unbearable. Tickets are expected to retail at $500 – and heaven knows how much more on the black market.

But a fair and reasonable question is….why? Here we have a retired boxer, admittedly one of the best of all time with a 49-0 record, taking on a guy who has ever fought a professional boxing bout in his life. It is nothing more than a circus, truth be told.

Even so, there’s that other little question: what if? What if McGregor can land a big shot that puts Mayweather on the canvas and, incredibly, ends his undefeated streak. It would be one of the biggest shocks in sporting history, make no mistake.

So there’s that angle for anyone wishing to purchase the PPV, and another is that, with great hyperbole, comes great watchability. McGregor is the master showman in and out of the ring/octagon, and his ability to hype this fight – a fight in which he stands minimal chance of winning – is the secret to its curiosity amongst the watching public.

The Irishman has shouted, sworn and belittled Mayweather in the build-up so far, and we are still more than a month from the first bell ringing on Saturday August 26. What tricks he has still up his sleeve is anybody’s guess.

One upshot from McGregor’s expert brinkmanship is that people – not boxing people admittedly, but the average Joe – are starting to believe in him. His fiery proclamations of early knockouts have caused quite the stir in the mid-region of many a young man (and woman, no doubt), and caused his odds to win the fight shorten considerably.

But if all the experts are telling them that McGregor doesn’t stand a chance, why is nobody listening?

Money Talks

“He’ll [Mayweather] be using his sharp jab and his movement and I think McGregor will really struggle – just to get near him, never mind land a punch.”

Those were the words of former world champion Carl Froch, who was talking to Sky Sports. They echo the sentiments of many other pundits and those in the know, and yet the clamour to back McGregor to win the dust-up remains fervent.

The below photo has been borrowed from Pinnacle Sports, and shows how the odds of McGregor of winning have changed chronologically:

Conor McGregor Changing Odds

When the fight was formally announced, McGregor was available at odds of 6.410, which is around 11/2 in UK parlance. That’s a huge price for what is two men of equal(ish) size fighting.

Those shortened to around 9/2 as the press tour started, and have since drifted to around 5/1 since that ended.

So why has McGregor’s price changed so much in the past month or so, without a punch being thrown?

It is a simple case of punters taking things at face value. Social media is ablaze with talk of the fight, and with the Irishman posting videos to his Instagram feed of his sparring work, people have probably thought ‘wow, he can punch!’ (important side note: every fighter looks great in sparring).

Then there were the tabloid rumours that McGregor had subsequently been knocked out in sparring – naturally, a price drift followed.

The truth is that nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, and the bits we do see – McGregor proclaiming himself to be the greatest man that ever lived – is, well, just part of the salesman’s show.

If Mayweather was fighting an amateur boxer making their professional debut he would be a huge favourite; his opponent probably at 50/1 or more. There is no reason for McGregor to be approximately 6/1 to win this fight, and punters are advised to leave him well alone in the markets.