Conor McGregor had thousands laughing at Floyd Mayweather’s expense but must now prove his punches are better than his punchlines.
Few athletes could demand and capture our attention in consecutive nights armed with just microphones. Fifty thousand people congregated in four cities across three countries to see two men who uniquely transcend sport and entertainment, with their ‘world tour’ of press conferences generating over eight million views on the official YouTube link alone by Friday night. Such popularity, for anybody still questioning this fight’s validity, is why Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor is happening.
I have seen rock bands at London’s SSE Arena, the venue on Friday night, with less stage presence than McGregor who, on his 29th birthday, was at his wittiest and funniest. Whether there is substance behind his ability to mesmerise his cult-like fanbase remains to be seen, but there is certainly an unshakeable self-belief that is impossible to measure.
“His frame is just too small, Floyd will not take the shot,” McGregor said on Friday. “The legs and the core and the stability does not support him against this animal. He’s in over his head, and he doesn’t know what he’s got himself into.
“I’ve fought many a man under many a rule-set. When I come face to face with men, I look at their facial structure. I look at their skull.
“I know how he moves, what shots have hurt him.
“He’s got to take this fight against me – a young, ruthless, vicious animal.
“The beautiful thing about the fight game is that you can say what you want, but you’ve got to answer for it.”
McGregor’s size advantage was a common theme from Tuesday in Los Angeles, the first stop, when he wore a pinstripe suit laden with expletives. So was his mockery of Mayweather’s reported tax issues, news which McGregor could have written an entire routine around. The American was no slouch on the microphone, reminding McGregor daily that he was a “quitter” on account of three submission losses in MMA, mockery which literally had its own theme tune by Friday.
The genuinely hilarious moments interspersed throughout the week threatened to force both men to drop their facades and smile. “I’m 40 but I feel 20,” Mayweather crowed…
“You act 10!”
Memorable, also, was McGregor’s impromptu exchange with Mayweather’s father, Floyd Sr, who gatecrashed on Tuesday by hurling insults from the back of the room.
“You misadvised him, it’s your fault!” McGregor quipped prompting shadow-boxing from Floyd Sr, who insisted he could still whoop the Irishman. It was all good-natured.
Even more colourful was the outfit donned by McGregor in New York – bare-chested in a fur coat, wearing trousers that Mick Jagger might deem too garish, he was drowned in dollar bills thrown by Mayweather. He later described the image as “iconic”.
Yet the nagging reality that Mayweather remained the big brother never went away. The lack of an event in Dublin spoke volumes about who was calling the shots, and so does the sheer fact that McGregor is stepping into a new sport, rather than Mayweather.
By the end, as each man’s private jet engines were revved up to deliver them home, we were soberly reminded that Mayweather and McGregor are not comedians nor pop stars, but fighters. The coming weeks will be fun, but the fight itself is where they will express themselves best.