Last week’s Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor world tour wasn’t like anything we’ve seen. Somewhere in the span of 72 hours along the way from Los Angeles to London, the hype pushing the Aug. 26 boxing bout between Mayweather, the undefeated boxing superstar, and McGregor, the only fighter ever to simultaneously hold two UFC weight-class titles, ran a gamut from exciting to repulsive and back again.
By the end of the week, everyone was ready for a break. Now that the dust has settled, it’s clear there are some things that hit the mark over the course of the tour, while others missed by a mile. A rundown:
Hit: Mayweather on Day 1
The opening day of the tour, at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, was the first inkling that something big was brewing. Eleven-thousand people showed up on a steaming hot summer Tuesday afternoon, with scalpers doing brisk business out on Figueroa Street for tickets that had been distributed for free. Inside the arena, while the bulk of the crowd supported McGregor, Mayweather had his strongest day on stage. McGregor, even while wearing a pinstripe suit that spelled out an expletive, appeared to be a bit overwhelmed by the moment, while Mayweather was a commanding presence on stage. Mayweather flaunted his position as the card’s A-side at the outset, and showed off what he purported to be an uncashed $100,000,000 check. While Floyd’s material would wear thin over the week, it was fresh on Day One. In a media gathering afterward, Mayweather’s father, Floyd Sr., stole the show in a 10-minute back-and-forth bit of bantering with McGregor.
Hit: McGregor and Toronto on Day Two
The tour’s apex was undoubtedly the second stop in Toronto, where a crowd estimated at 15,000 showed up Wednesday at an outdoor venue. Those who showed up strongly favored McGregor, who bounced back strong after his tentative performance the first day. The crowd booed anyone who wasn’t affiliated with the UFC lightweight champion, from Mayweather to Showtime Sports vice-president Stephen Espinoza. Mayweather, for his part, did his best to roll with the punches and adopt the heel role, at one pointing grabbing an Irish flag from the crowd and parading around with it before McGregor responded by taking Mayweather’s backpack and exposing there wasn’t nearly as much money in it as Mayweather had intimated. McGregor on Day Two was the best showing for either fighter on the tour.
Miss: Showtime/Mayweather Promotions’ tour format
There are some things boxing does better than the UFC. The UFC, however, handles media conferences and tours better than their counterparts, hands down, and there’s rarely more obvious proof than what happened last week.
Boxing pressers have been following the same tired routine since roughly the time of John L. Sullivan. Unrelated entertainment acts take the stage. With the exception of a hip-hop artist Drake in Toronto, it was mostly a parade of B-listers. Self-important executives then give windbag speeches no one wants to hear. Then the fighters are strutted around like it’s some sort of human version of the Westminster Dog Show.
This worked great for a couple days because of the sheer magnetism of the fighters involved. Then it went off the rails by Day Three, as the fighters tried to top themselves and fell flat. This isn’t the 1960s, when a media tour went from city to city promoting closed circuit, and when it came to your town, that was the only chance to see the fighters. Promoters seemed to fail to take into account that a coast-to-coast audience was taking in the tour as a whole on their TV screens and computers.
If the UFC had a hand in the production, maybe we would have seen public workouts, or actual questions from the media at a press conference, or a number of other ideas.
Showtime also let itself be put in the position to be played for buffoons by McGregor. When Mayweather was cracking on McGregor in Los Angeles, not only did McGregor’s mic go out, so did UFC president Dana White’s mic. McGregor instantly blamed Showtime. Showtime blamed the facility. On later tour stops, Mayweather was able to get the person controlling the sound to play music at his command, so you decide for yourself who is telling the truth. Either way, McGregor made Espinoza his foil throughout the festivities, calling him “a [expletive] weasel” on numerous occasions, and Espinoza’s speeches were drowned out by a chorus of jeers over the tour’s final days.
Miss: It all goes off the rails
And then, there was Brooklyn. There’s a reason why standup comics perform by and large the same show on a tour and don’t attempt a new set from scratch every night. There’s only so much material to be had.
Thursday’s event at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, in front of another packed house, started several hours late, putting the crowd in an anxious mood from the jump. McGregor showed up wearing a mink coat over a bare chest.
McGregor then went on to address comments made over the opening two days of the tour in which he referred to Mayweather as “boy,” and made terrible attempts at humor that made everyone involved uncomfortable. First he claimed to be black from the waist down, then he did a dance he claimed was for African-American women in the audience, and people watching from coast to coast squirmed uncomfortably.
It’s hard to cede the moral high ground to Mayweather, a convicted woman abuser who spent nearly three months in jail in 2012 on domestic violence charges. After the Brooklyn event, Mayweather said McGregor crossed the line.
But Mayweather didn’t last long on his moral perch. On the final day of the tour, Friday in London, Mayweather, who had made borderline misogynistic comments throughout the week, continued laying them on, and then threw a homophobic slur McGregor’s way for good measure.
A week that started with such excitement ended with everyone involved feeling like they needed a shower.
Hit: Mayweather Promotions
Much has been made about who “won” the week, as people on both the MMA and boxing sides scored each stop on the tour as if they were handling the round-by-round judging of a fight.
But never let it be forgotten, through any of this, that Mayweather is the lead promoter. While McGregor will make more money than he ever dreamed of making in one night, Mayweather is the one who’s going home with the bulk of the loot after the fight.
Everything that happens between now and bell time helps fuel the hype for the show. If McGregor “won” the week, which is certainly up for debate, that’s OK, too, because Mayweather needs the public to believe this fight is worth spending money to see. If general columnists who weren’t going to watch the fight either way use McGregor and Mayweather as a platform to air their views on racism, homophobia, and society’s ills, that too only serves to further push the hype beyond the normal scope of the combat sports world. Mayweather might not have won the verbal battles with McGregor, but all of this week’s bluster – the good, the bad, and the ugly – is helping “Money” live up to his nickname.