Somehow our favourite brute, Conor McGregor, walks into the weekend as one of the most talked about figures on the planet, about to take part in the richest boxing match in history. He is a winner before a punch is thrown, with wild sums of $100m being talked about as his cut of the cake.
His opponent, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, is a figure no less worthy of establishment revulsion, a gauche libertine bloated by bombast who has made his ability to make money a career motif. He is set to bank an obscene $300m from this tawdry duel, enriched by our appetite for a freakshow.
Both are the product of the society in which we live. They belong to us every bit as much as the elites who look down with disdain. McGregor mocks us with his beautifully tailored suits, a traditional symbol of power and prestige. The cars and the boats, the bling in which both protagonists indulge are further shows of defiance that scream “look you bastards, my money is as good as yours”.
McGregor is a caricature, a gross crudity, a base vision of the capitalist underclass, and detested for it, yet are the values he espouses not those we share, only disguised by manners, class and taste? McGregor is what you get when, in a realm geared to those that have, the winners ignore and become disconnected from the losers.
Mayweather is the authentic figure in this mad pageant, a boxer, whose genius for not being hit has made him one of the pre-eminent pugilists of the age. Yet, as Matthew d’Ancona observed in his excellent Evening Standard column, if a celebrity TV star can become president of the United States, why can’t a man who has never boxed before challenge one of the greatest boxers of the modern era expecting to triumph.
And if you thought it was weird waking up to Brexit and Trump in the White House, imagine what tomorrow might bring with McGregor on the throne in Sin City; King Conor of Las Vegas has a ring to it, and there could be no better fit.
Iconic Irish boxer, Barry McGuigan, pointed out that McGregor is so brilliant at managing the social media space he has even persuaded boxing aficionados that he has skin in this game.
He glories in his role as self-appointed people’s champion, the bloke who survived the Dublin barrio to make his mark in the world.
Well, he has certainly done that. In the combat zone of mixed martial arts he is the face of the sport’s blue riband franchise UFC, but only recently has he made it pay with $1m purses a rarity still for the rank and file. This is jackpot time for him. And pared down to his underpants with his rippling torso fully flexed he is a plausible threat.
So was Ricky Hatton, who stood on the same Vegas stage a decade ago looking like a mini Arnold Schwarzenegger shouting “let’s ave it”. The Hitman could box, an undefeated world champion when he stepped in the ring. He left it on the seat of his pants, his broken face a mosaic of shattered hope.“I f***in’ slipped,” Hatton said in broad Manc. Humour was all he had left.