If there’s one point most mainstream coverage of the newly announced Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight is hammering home, it’s that Conor has barely any chance at all of winning. The August 26th boxing bout is supposedly so uncompetitive that The Daily Beast called it “one of the most shameless money grabs ever,” a “grim, flabby spectacle” which will result in McGregor “getting pantsed.” Sportsbooks seem to agree with how the fight will go, setting Mayweather as a staggering favorite in the fight.
But since the official announcement on June 14th, the odds have gone from -1100 for Mayweather versus +700 for underdog McGregor to the much tighter -600 Mayweather vs. +400 McGregor. That means betting $600 on Floyd earns you all of $100 if he wins, while a $100 wager on McGregor gets you $400 if the Irishman pulls off a stunner. That hasn’t stopped anyone from betting on the fight, though. According to ESPN, more money has been bet on Mayweather vs. McGregor in just the past two days than all the betting for last night’s much more respectable Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev title fight.
More surprisingly, the huge majority of bets coming in have been for the underdog. At the Westgate casino in Las Vegas, 90% of the bets that have been for Conor McGregor, although the few people that are betting on Floyd Mayweather are putting down way more money: 79% of overall money bet has been on Floyd.
The volume of bets going towards McGregor is probably the big driver of tightening odds, rather than any growing belief amongst bookies that Conor’s chances are growing. While betting odds are often a good indicator of how good or bad a fighter’s chances are at winning, a fight like Mayweather vs. McGregor distorts the numbers greatly. Based on the current odds, McGregor is being given a better chance at beating Mayweather than previous Floyd opponents Marcos Maidana, Miguel Cotto, and Victor Ortiz.
What we’re really seeing here is bookies lowering the amount of return McGregor bettors can win as bets on his unlikely victory continue to pour in. If no one was putting money down on Conor, he’d probably be a more realistic +1000 or higher in an effort to entice more action. But McGregor has a massive fanbase and the entire country of Ireland behind him, and they seem willing to put their money where their mouths are when claiming he can win, even if it may be more of a symbolic act than hard held belief.