In the end, there simply wasn’t anything left to say. After two years of sniping on social media, a whistle-stop world tour that touched down in three countries in just four days, and Tuesday’s chaotic Las Vegas arrivals ceremony, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor finally ran out of rude things to say to one another.
Not that McGregor didn’t try, bless him. After making Mayweather and The Money Team wait for 45-minutes — “we’re here, the delay is because of McGregor,” muttered Leonard Ellerbe darkly to nobody in particular, while waiting awkwardly on stage — he suddenly appeared from behind a curtain, adjusting his sunglasses and taking the mic after an apologetically brief introduction from Dana White.
“I believe he will last one or two rounds, with 8-ounce gloves I just don’t see him surviving,” McGregor began, calmly repeating what he had breathlessly insisted at a small interview after Tuesday’s hectic Grand Arrivals. “Really, I am starting to think I will toy with him once he goes down.”
But the reaction to his comments was flat. Everybody had heard it all before. So, McGregor changed tact.
“I think he has a big-time gambling problem,” he said. “He always shows his winning bets but never his losers. Maybe that's why he's in the position he is and had to take this fight.”
Again, McGregor’s verbal jabs failed to land, his voice trailing off into the stuffy, subdued silence of the half-empty KÀ Theatre theatre in the bowels of the MGM Grand. He carried on, briefly interrupted by a heckle emanating from Mayweather’s entourage (quickly silenced by the boxer regally raising a finger to his lips) before he wrapped things up quickly and sat down.
Mayweather, sipping contentedly from a coffee cup, had a different approach. Dressed in a loud chequered suit that — upon first glance — looked to be exactly the same as McGregor’s, he replaced his nemesis at the mic and discarded his two-year tactic of hurling insults at the Irishman at every given opportunity, to instead praise the man sat at the opposite end of the table.
“Conor McGregor can still have a hell of a career,” he said, as McGregor’s lip curled a half-inch. “He’s one hell of a fighter, one hell of a fighter, he’s a standup guy, he’s a tough competitor, it’s not going to be an easy fight. It’s going to be blood, sweat, and tears.
“And — the thing is this — when all is said and done, I know one thing that I can do: I can fight. I can give it and I can take it. But for me to be 49-0 it’s obvious I’m not receiving, I’m giving. The two of us can say what we want but that’s the truth of it.”
Even Mayweather’s happy-clapping posse — which included a man so mind-bogglingly massive that he had to stand for the duration of the conference for risk of not fitting into his seat — seemed surprised by their man’s newly adopted sense of perspective. A couple of times Mayweather continued speaking over their nervous smattering of applause, while on one ocassion he paused for emphasis only to hear the echo of his own voice.
The face-off was an unusually restrained affair. McGregor took his sunglasses off. Mayweather left his on. McGregor pulled a Bruce Lee pose. Mayweather stuck with what he knew, and raised his right first towards the sky. And that was that.
Both men were enveloped by their entourages and vanished, without a single punch being thrown. Compared to the Grand Arrivals less than 24-hours before, when the two groups had clashed before McGregor squared up to Paulie Malignaggi and rowed with a random fan, this felt exceptionally restrained. Perhaps ever respectable.
Afterwards, the assortment of ex-boxers being interviewed for American cable television were quick to chalk the final press conference up as some sort of moral victory for Mayweather, praising his mature approach to proceedings and conveniently ignoring how he has happily traded increasingly profane insults with McGregor for the past 24 months.
But it was former UFC star Chael Sonnen who hit the nail on the head, while perched on a chair in the middle of the MGM Grand for ESPN SportsCenter. “Man,” he said, with a roll of the eyes. “That was boring.”
He had a point. And considering that absolutely no expert from the worlds of either boxing or mixed martial arts is ready to confidently predict that this will in anyway be an exciting fight, that’s a problem. People aren’t paying $99.95, or €24.95, or £19.99 to watch a refined technical contest, they’re tuning in for the showmanship and the drama. The preening and the pantomime.
Perhaps Friday night’s weigh-in, when the two men will be expected only to snarl at one another rather than conversing, will deliver on that front. But this press conference, which millions of fans tuned into on lifestreams around the world, felt tired. There is nothing left to say: after months and months of build-up, the time has come for both men to stand opposite one another in a ring and fight for real.
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