BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Floyd Mayweather Jr. doesn’t just play chess, he controls the board.
The undefeated boxer stressed that point several times on Thursday night, letting the world know that while Conor McGregor is parading around in viral suits and mocking Mayweather’s financial situation, this is what he wanted all along.
“I had to come back for this last hurrah,” Mayweather said. “Once I threw bait out there and he said something and then I threw more bait out there and he bit on it, I said, ‘Now it’s time for me to control the chess board. I’m no longer on the chess board, I control the chess board.’”
While McGregor has clearly been the more outspoken and visible fighter during this whirlwind week, there is validity to Mayweather’s claim.
One look at Mayweather’s demeanor on Thursday and it is pretty clear that he is content with McGregor doing the heavy lifting in the promotional department and backing himself into a corner.
While the UFC star strutted up and down and guaranteed a knockout within four rounds, the seasoned veteran dismissed him, opting to document the circus on social media and refusing to look McGregor in the eye for much of the evening.
“I knew this was going to be a big event, a huge event, and we have to give people what they want to see. I’m still a huge name,” Mayweather said. “To be a living legend in the sport, to be an icon in the sport [that’s enough of a draw itself].”
The truth is, Mayweather Promotions doesn’t need the boxer to don his “Pretty Boy” or “Money” persona this time around. This fight sells itself, and unlike many of Mayweather’s blockbuster bout – most recently against Manny Pacquiao in 2015 – there are two sides to the show.
“It’s different, it has a whole different feel, it’s electrifying,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions. “This is the first time that Floyd has had somebody from the outside who can carry a promotion.
“We saw a little bit with Ricky Hatton, he was really witty and funny and a good fighter at that particular time. [McGregor] is a very confident young man, he’s 29 years old … and for the most part he talks that trash and he backs it up.”
And the fans are eating it up.
For the first three nights of the circus-like world tour, the crowds have been heavily on McGregor’s side, raining down boos on Mayweather and bursting into “pay your taxes” chants on several occasions. Once again facing a hostile crowd in Brooklyn, the undefeated boxer was unfazed, showing the poise and polish two decades of experience has given him.
“You cannot defeat me,” Mayweather defiantly stated. “You can call me every name in the book, you can come at me in different ways. [All that matters is] when a guy is across from me all he’s going to say to himself is ‘Damn, I’m fighting Floyd Mayweather.’”
And at this point in a promotional schedule that would make even Vince McMahon drool, it appears as if McGregor has run out of insults.
The Irish star fumbled several times on Thursday night, referencing Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who Mayweather has not been linked to in years, continued to harp on the boxer’s financial woes and made an ill-advised “clarification” about his stance on racism.
While McGregor stumbled, the stoic Mayweather brushed his barbs off and delivered simple, yet effective, counter punches. The soon-to-be 41-year-old boxer simply relied on McGregor’s submission history and even made it rain in the Barclays Center when it was his turn to speak.
“You have two of the best trash talkers in both sports,” UFC president Dana White said. “It’s both of their personalities. If I had two other guys who were promoting this fight, they couldn’t handle it. This is what they’re known for.”
Mayweather’s tact and McGregor’s tendency to snap at pre-fight press conferences has been something that has admittedly been a concern for White, even before things escalated to a near brawl when the boxer’s team formed “Voltron” directly in front of the UFC star and his posse.
“[Conor McGregor] gets a little crazy,” White said. “Floyd’s team, those guys are really mellow. Floyd’s not going to hit him, but a [fight at the press conference] is something I worry about.
“As you go from city to city, these guys start to irritate each other a lot more. Things that are said start to sink in and it gets worse. I don’t think these guys necessarily really hated each other when we started this thing, but by the time we leave London, these guys aren’t going to like each other very much.”
For now, there’s one more press conference and one more chance for Mayweather to set his board before August 26, when he hopes he’ll pick up his 50th win, another historic payday and ride off into the sunset simply saying: Checkmate.
“Today, it was a show,” Mayweather said. “When the bell rings remember, nobody knows that squared circle like me.”