LONDON — Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor on Friday concluded what will in all likelihood be the most entertaining portion of a two-month hyperbolic odyssey that will conclude Aug. 26 with arguably the greatest pound-for-pound boxer in history stepping into the ring against a man who has never been in a professional boxing match before.
Then again, that all depends on your definition of entertaining.
If neither trash talk laced with racist, sexist and homophobic overtones, nor an athletic contest that on paper appears more one-sided than the Harlem Globetrotters facing the Washington Generals is your cup of tea, there’s a good chance none of this multimillion-dollar circus masquerading as a boxing match is for you. But when all the pay-per-view numbers are tallied from the Mayweather-McGregor fight next month there’s also a good chance that it will go down as the biggest pay-per-view event in history.
The four cities in three countries in four days world tour that Mayweather and McGregor wrapped up Friday in London provided more lowlights than highlights, but it also fed into the rabid fan bases of both fighters. It also tapped into a casual audience that simply can’t get enough of lowbrow reality television shows based on confrontation and drama.
All things being equal, no one should really care about a boxer who is 49-0 facing someone who just got his boxing license in Nevada two months ago. But, of course, all things aren’t equal and this isn’t really about a boxing match.
McGregor isn’t just some guy making his professional boxing debut next month in front of a record pay-per-view audience for a nine-figure payday. He’s the UFC lightweight champion and the most popular mixed martial artist on the planet. He’s also one of the best trash-talkers and promoters the fight game has ever seen. No one can sell a fight with his words quite like McGregor, except for maybe Mayweather, and that’s the only reason why a fight that should theoretically be over before it even begins is selling for $100 on pay-per-view and fetching $10,000 for tickets.
Truth be told, people are paying for what they have witnessed for free during a press tour that began in Los Angeles on Tuesday, went to Toronto on Wednesday, made a forgettable pit stop in New York on Thursday before finally, mercifully concluding Friday in London.
If you think the wheels came off this train wreck after the second tour stop, it’s doubtful that anything that happens in the ring after the second round will be much better. As much as both sides wanted to promote the fight globally and own the headlines for a week, it was clear the back-to-back-to-back-to-back nature of the schedule impacted everyone involved.
Mayweather essentially lost his voice and had to drink tea all day to get through Friday’s event. McGregor simply wanted to go back home and celebrate his 29th birthday with his girlfriend and newborn son after leaving New York. And the best one-liners that were used Tuesday or Wednesday came off as stale and unoriginal when they were recycled again Thursday and Friday. Nevertheless, each news conference attracted a crowd of over 10,000 people, and the crowd at the SSE Arena in London was perhaps the loudest of the tour and rivaled many of McGregor’s fights in terms of noise and energy.
When it was over, 10,000 McGregor fans were chanting and singing in the streets outside. It was hard to remember that what had just transpired was nothing more than a news conference for a fight in six weeks.
“This has to rank No. 1 in fight promotion tours,” Mayweather said. “I’ve been on other tours, traveling around the world, and this is by far the most exciting, electrifying tour that I’ve been on. It’s been a crazy tour.”
Make no mistake about it, no matter where you stand on the press tour, Mayweather and McGregor’s war of words face-to-face this week and on other media and social platforms in the past and over the next month is why people will end up paying three figures to watch the fight on pay-per-view and up to five figures to watch the fight in person. No one is doing that because they want to watch Mayweather at 40 years old win another boring fight by decision or because they think McGregor has a future as a boxer. They’re buying it because of the spectacle, and we just saw the biggest and most entertaining part of that spectacle play out.
“What you saw between these guys is as much a part of the fight as the fight itself,” UFC president Dana White said. “These are two of the best to ever do it physically and mentally and verbally, and you’ve seen that this week. It has escalated every event because just like in a fight, when you get hurt to the body, you try not to show that you got hurt to the body.
“When you get rocked, you try to not show that you got rocked, and they both got rocked a couple times and tried to not show it. The battle that’s gone on between these guys is epic. It’s not a croquet game or a tennis match. These guys are going to try to knock each other unconscious in a month and a half. I don’t think there’s too many mean things you can say worse than getting knocked unconscious.”
Of course, some of the things Mayweather and McGregor said weren’t just “mean,” they were downright vulgar and revolting and have no place in sports, but that’s what happens when you try to stage a four-city show aimed to rival the WWE without a script and an edict to be shocking and sell pay-per-view.
You run the risk of making a fool of yourself, which both Mayweather and McGregor did at various points over the past few days.
With the news conferences now in their rearview mirrors, Mayweather and McGregor will both head to Las Vegas to finish up their training camp before entering the ring Aug. 26. Depending on how the fight goes, there’s a good chance years from now we’ll be talking more about this week’s world tour news conferences than whatever happens in the ring.
“The world tour was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, something of this magnitude, I don’t think in either sport we’ve seen anything like this,” McGregor said. “The No. 1 goal was to [have] fun with it, to enjoy it. The whole thing has been amazing. It was just a press conference, but it transformed into something different.”
Different is certainly one word to describe it. And given some of the other words that were thrown around this week on stage, it’s probably the safest thing to say as well.