I guess anyone can have a bad day, right? That would seem to have been the case with Conor McGregor at the Los Angeles kickoff of the Mayweather vs McGregor press tour. Conor missed his entrance cue and came out early and even, in a most uncharacteristic fashion, had some of his verbal jabs at Floyd fall flat.
It was only in the post-announcement portion of the press tour when Conor seemed to hit his stride thanks to the fortuitous appearance of Floyd Joy Mayweather’s father, Floyd Mayweather (as Floyd has taken to pointing out, he’s not really a Junior). Father Floyd came into the room and started yelling at Conor and suddenly Conor was in his element and the two engaged in the time honoured tradition of trash-talking. The key point of trash-talking isn’t to make sense, it’s to just yell your opinion at the other guy until one of you gets exhausted.
With events the scale of this one, people don’t just show up at the next venue and do it all over again. There are production meetings to review the events of the day and make any necessary changes to make the next stop better. This was also likely the first time the two fighters have ever met and they finally were able to size each other up and get a true sense of where the other man stood.
And as the tour pulled into Toronto the retooling was evident. Everyone had a bit more pep in their step and when Conor was introduced he was met with a roar from the almost completely pro-McGregor crowd. Floyd was introduced to deafening boos and the two men met for a face-off that involved several minutes of banter. There was no confusion on seating, no misplayed intro songs, and no long-winded speeches from the money men. They trimmed all the fat off the preamble and got right to McGregor on the microphone.
Finally, his fans got the moment they had been clamouring for as Conor jumped right into hyping the crowd with an assault on a microphone that set the crowd off. Let’s be honest, Conor isn’t exactly recreating Lawrence Olivier’s soliloquies from Hamlet. His bluster mainly consists of yelling “Fook” and “You’ll do nothing” but it connects.
And it sure connected yesterday as he led the crowd in repeated “Fuck the Mayweathers” chants and then proceeded to call Stephen Espinoza a weasel which had the Mayweather camp doubling over in laughter. Then, after other various insults Conor reached the moment UFC forums had awaited for months. Boxing promotion is likely the last venue in North America where a white man can openly mock a black man for being unable to read and be met with the cheers of thousands.
This attack was met with delight on social media as well. Even paid journalists seemed to forget themselves in joining in with the moment and declaring the event the “Roast of Floyd Mayweather”. I’m sure last night there were many Hillary-voting writers who awoke in a cold sweat and raced to their computers to delete their Twitter history, all the while praying someone didn’t screenshot them laughing at the possible illiteracy of a minority.
Floyd was up next but there was no winning back this crowd despite landing the closest remark to the truth of all the trash-talk when he talked about how Dana White is the one who gets paid from Conor’s fights. After some more talk and a bit of patter between him and Conor is was time for another face off. Then it was all over as the crowd streamed out energized from seeing their hero land a knockout performance.
Yet there seems to have been a very important point lost in all of the coverage of this fight. Floyd Joy Mayweather is not only the A-side fighter, he’s the promoter. Not Showtime, not the MGM, not WME-IMG, not Dana White. Floyd Mayweather. It’s Floyd who is the one that allows Conor to insult him. It’s Floyd that approved the tour that with each step would take him further away from his home base in Las Vegas. It’s Floyd that cleared London, the closest major media center to McGregor’s homeland of Ireland, as the final stop. And if you weren’t lost in the moment in Toronto you might have noticed it was Floyd who was working the hardest to let McGregor shine.
The goal of this promotion was to find a way to legitimize a bout between the greatest fighter of his generation and someone who had never fought a professional boxing match. The way to do it was to follow the blueprint Floyd used on so many opponents. Floyd is convincing everyone that he is a buffoon and inviting them to laugh at him and get on board with McGregor. Embrace Conor’s wit and forget that he is supposed to have no chance of defeating Floyd.
And now that Floyd has the fish on the hook the rest of the promotion will be to reel it in. Take a good look around and you can see the sentiment shift as it progresses through, “this is a joke” to “I might go watch it at a bar but I won’t pay for it” to “ah what the hell, I will get some friends over and we will make a night of it”. Floyd has never truly cared what people said about him. He only cared that they paid to watch him fight. And come August 26th, pay they will.