LOS ANGELES – Expectations were soaring and Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor delivered big-time on Tuesday before 11,000 fans at the Staples Center, as they kicked off their world tour for their Aug. 26 boxing match in Las Vegas with a healthy dose of trash talk and pre-fight hype.
McGregor was brought onto the stage first, and pranced around wearing a navy blue pinstripe suit with a white shirt and a pink tie. The suit, though, was not everything it appeared to be.
The UFC lightweight champion looked like a banker or an attorney from a distance, but up close, it became apparent that his pinstripes were made up of two words that formed a nasty epithet.
And while nothing too over-the-top happened during the news conference, even though the fighters jawed nose-to-nose and a nervous UFC president Dana White jumped between them to prevent an altercation, the most fun came at McGregor’s news conference later.
Mayweather’s 64-year-old father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., managed to get into the room and started a lengthy back-and-forth with McGregor.
“I will beat your ass,” Mayweather Sr. shouted from the back of the room.
McGregor, who has been taunting Mayweather Jr. about his age, didn’t miss a beat.
“You’ll have your chance on August the 26th, Junior,” McGregor said to Mayweather Sr.
McGregor’s words only enraged the elder Mayweather, who ended up throwing combinations at air after about 20 minutes of jawing with McGregor.
“He’ll beat the [expletive] out of you, I guarantee you that,” Mayweather Sr. said.
McGregor, who predicted he’d finish Mayweather inside of four rounds, is one of the best trash talkers in the business and he hit Mayweather Sr. with some of his best stuff.
“Your boy is going to sleep and he’s going to look so good in his sleep, I know he is,” McGregor said. “Your boy is going to look good asleep. I’ll tell you what, though. He’s going to wake up a better man.”
Mayweather Jr. was uncharacteristically animated earlier on the stage when it was his turn to speak. He walked across the stage, cursed at McGregor several times, threatened to knock him out and said he didn’t care if McGregor wore four-ounce gloves, eight-ounce gloves or 10-ounce gloves.
Under the rules of the Nevada Athletic Commission, fighters above 147 pounds in a boxing match wear 10-ounce gloves, while those lighter wear eight-ounce gloves. MMA fighters wear four-ounce, open-fingered gloves.
McGregor said Mayweather put all sorts of stipulations on the gloves he could wear.
“There were many exchanges,” McGregor said of the time on the stage when the two were jawing at each other, inches apart. “The main one was [about] the gloves. He was saying we could do eight ounces or four ounces. I said, ‘Hold on, you were crying the gloves had to be 10-ounces and they couldn’t be gloves made in Mexico. They couldn’t be Mexican gloves. They couldn’t be made out of horsehair.’
“I didn’t even know there were gloves made out of horsehair. We’ve only been wearing gloves a couple of years in my business. I don’t even need gloves.”
But Mayweather told the crowd, “I don’t care if it’s a ring or an Octagon. Put me in it and I kick ass.”
Later, he was talking about why he essentially played McGregor’s game. He alluded to the size of the crowd by saying he wanted to give them a show.
“I’m self-motivated and I don’t need a fighter to motivate me,” Mayweather said. “But, we have to give them what they want to see. That’s what the people wanted to see. To have a sold-out arena and just give them something that was real smooth and calm, they don’t want that. That’s not what they want. These fans, they were here for entertainment and that’s what we were here to give them.”
Mayweather was asked multiple times whether he was concerned McGregor might resort to MMA tactics if things were going badly for them. Mayweather brushed it off each time and said it was on the referee to control the action in the ring.
“I don’t believe that will happen, because if it does, it will cost him a whole lot of money,” Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe said.
There is language in the contract that prevents that, though neither side would specify the exact verbiage. The Nevada Athletic Commission rules explicitly ban MMA tactics in a boxing match. It has the ability to fine a fighter 100 percent of his purse for a violation of its rules.
But when he was in his back-and-forth with Mayweather Sr., McGregor intimated something could happen during the tour.
“Senior, tell [your son] as long as he speaks my name with respect, I will abide by the boxing rules,” a grinning McGregor said. “I’ll abide by the Marquess of Queensbury rules, only if he speaks my name with respect. If he disrespects me on this tour or during this build-up, then maybe I’ll just bounce an elbow off his eyebrow.”
Mayweather Jr. wore a cap with the number 48 on it, which he said was in tribute to his most iconic win, his 2015 victory over Manny Pacquiao in the bout that currently holds the mark for most pay-per-views sold, at a staggering 4.6 million. The next closest is 2.6 million, set by Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya in 2007.
This fight has a chance to come close to, or exceed, the numbers the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight did. White suggested it has a shot to hit 5 million.
“I think we beat the Pacquiao fight [pay-per-view sales] because globally, this is a much bigger fight,” White said. “I agree that the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight was a big fight, but globally, with Conor’s popularity in Europe, Australia, Brazil, Canada, I think that makes this a much bigger fight.”
And they’re going to sell it relentlessly over the next seven weeks, and particularly over the next three days as the tour moves on to Toronto, New York and London.
Mayweather is a big favorite, and he knows he needs to make people think McGregor has a chance.
“He’s young, in his 20s,” Mayweather said. “I’m in my 40s. He’s active. I’m not active. I’m surprised [the odds] aren’t closer.”
Expect to hear much of the same for the next seven weeks. It’s a fight that seemed far-fetched as recently as six months ago, and now, promoters believe there is a chance to gross more than $600 million in one night and sell more than 5 million pay-per-views.
“This is obviously the biggest fight I’ve ever been a part of or ever gone to,” White said. “I think it’s this huge because the UFC is so big; Floyd Mayweather is undefeated and arguably the greatest of all time. I don’t know, but people have just rallied behind this thing.
“The boxing side goes, ‘This guy is a pro boxer going against a guy who is an amateur.’ But at the end of the day, I think a lot of people believe like I believe that this is a fight. Yeah, it’s under boxing rules but this is a fight and the MMA guys have heard me say it forever: Don’t judge a fight until it’s over. You never know what is going to happen when two guys get in there and start throwing punches, especially a guy who hits like a truck. Conor McGregor, when he hits people, he hurts them and when he hurts them, he puts them away.”
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