As the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor action heated up this week in Las Vegas, William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said the betting handle for Saturday’s boxing match at T-Mobile Arena would be eclipsed only by the Super Bowl.
“It’s going to be the biggest fight handle ever. Period,” he said. “Whether it’s boxing, gladiators or ‘Game of Thrones.’ ”
Bogdanovich uttered his classic quote before a bettor walked into a William Hill sports book Thursday and placed a $1.2 million wager on Mayweather at minus-500. Around the same time at the Bellagio, a bettor made a $1 million wager on Mayweather at minus-550, and MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said he had an inquiry for another $1 million wager.
The $1.2 million wager would pay $240,000, and the $1 million bet would pay $182,000.
Despite the seven-figure bets on Mayweather, Nevada sports books still stand to lose millions and could suffer their largest event loss ever if McGregor upsets Mayweather (49-0, 26 knockouts) in the UFC star’s pro boxing debut.
The vast majority of the money is on Mayweather, but the books still need him to win as more than 90 percent of the tickets are on McGregor.
“We certainly don’t need McGregor to win in the first four rounds,” Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said.
As expected, the big money on Mayweather started to show at the books a few days before the fight. Before Thursday’s flash flood of cash — which included a $300,000 wager at MGM Resorts — an MGM Resorts bettor made a $500,000 wager and a William Hill bettor made a $300,000 wager Wednesday on his mobile phone app.
Rood said he expects 80 to 90 percent of the handle to show in the final 36 to 48 hours before the fight.
Mayweather opened as a 27-1 favorite at South Point and McGregor a 12-1 underdog when the odds were first posted Feb. 16 for a possible fight. Heavy action on the underdog dropped Mayweather’s price to as low as minus-475 before it climbed back to a consensus of minus-550.
“I firmly believe that even at (minus) 550, that’s still historic value, from a wagering perspective, on Mayweather,” Rood said. “That is extremely cheap.”
Mayweather was a 30-1 favorite over Andre Berto, a two-time former world champion, in his last fight. Bogdanovich and Matthew Holt, vice president of CG Technology sports books, said the true odds on the fight are Mayweather as a 70-1 favorite.
“Conor’s never been in a true boxing match in his life and Floyd’s the best there’s ever been,” Bogdanovich said.
Said Holt: “It may end up being the most mispriced event in sports history.”
The biggest bets on McGregor have been $150,000 at William Hill, $75,000 at MGM Resorts and $50,000 at South Point on Thursday, but none was placed by sharp bettors, who are backing Mayweather en masse.
For those unwilling to lay minus-550, fight handicapper Lou Finocchiaro (@GambLou) recommends a play on Mayweather to win by KO/TKO/DQ (minus-160).
“I feel Conor has more of a shot than people in Las Vegas are giving him. But I do think, at the end of the day, that Floyd’s going to find a way to outslick Conor in the early rounds and make McGregor chase him,” Finocchiaro said. “When this gets to round six or seven, I can see Conor gassed.”
Bogdanovich also sees Mayweather stopping McGregor.
“McGregor is going to try to hit him with everything he can. That takes a lot of energy when you’re swinging for the fences every round,” he said. “Eventually it will add up and Floyd will stop him late in the fight.
“Twelve rounds is a long way to go when you’ve never gone it before. Floyd’s done it many times.”
McGregor has fought 37 five-minute rounds to 387 three-minute rounds for Mayweather.
Longtime boxing promoter and publicist Jim Hunter also envisions McGregor tiring but sees Mayweather winning by decision (plus-250).
“He’ll have to know how to cut off the ring against Mayweather or he’ll be chasing him all night and it will be a dreary match,” Hunter said. “Also, he’ll be throwing more punches than he does in MMA, and you expend a lot more energy missing punches, which most people do against Mayweather, than landing one.
“I, frankly, don’t see any way Mayweather is going to lose this fight.”
The most popular prop at William Hill is on Mayweather to win by disqualification (plus-500), a scenario that reportedly could cost McGregor 90 percent of his $75 million purse. Finocchiaro can still see it happening.
“If those Irish droves show up on Saturday and Floyd’s starting to tag him, I believe there’s a real chance that the young, proud McGregor — in front of those Irish who’ve had 20 Guinness Stouts — can snap,” he said. “I don’t put it past either his pride or his instinct taking over and saying ‘The hell with it’ and kicking Floyd or using some type of UFC move.
“If McGregor were to go rogue and elbow Floyd and put him out, it’s a DQ, Floyd’s 50-0 and has his money and McGregor walks away a winner because he kicked Floyd’s ass.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.