McGregor wins war of words in first Mayweather press conference

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Conor McGregor pause for photos during a news conference at Staples Center on Tuesday, July 11, 2017, in Los Angeles. The two will fight in a boxing match in Las Vegas on Aug. 26. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

After one long year of rumors, and a handful of extensive weeks of official hype, Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather finally stood face to face for all the world to see Tuesday afternoon. Hosting the first of four press conferences spanning three countries across the globe, Mayweather and McGregor took center stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, giving fight fans the sort of fireworks they’d been craving from the moment the whispers first surfaced in 2016.

Tuesday’s media conference, centered around the cheers of more than 20,000 people crammed inside the Los Angeles arena, featured a little bit of everything. There was the calm, sophisticated nature of Jimmy Lennon Jr., the intensity of UFC president Dana White, the composure of Mayweather, and the confidence of McGregor.

Much of what was spoken by all those involved, as expected, resided in the realm of hyperbole. Plenty of words were uttered, though none stood out more than a series of massive exaggerations made on behalf of — and by — Mayweather.

We’ll start with the one that echoed across the Staples Center first: Mayweather has never turned down a challenge.

While possibly true, any avid boxing fan would likely agree that Mayweather — easily one of the greatest pugilists in the history of the sport, and arguably the best of his generation — lined his pockets by making calculated business decisions, most notably his decision to delay marquee matchups against quality opponents in Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley, among others. He eventually fought those men, sure, but not before they had long since deteriorated in skill. Arguably the greatest businessman to ever step inside the squared circle, Mayweather knew this.

That wasn’t the most offensive statement made Tuesday afternoon.

No, that one came once Mayweather finally took to the podium to play his role in marketing this blockbuster affair. He, for obvious reasons, ran with the prior statement Lennon made, furthering the narrative that he has never turned down a fight.

“I don’t give a f**k if it’s a ring, I don’t give a f**k if it’s an Octagon,” Mayweather said. “Put me in there and I’m gonna kick ass.”

There it was. The biggest lie of the day.

McGregor couldn’t bite his tongue longer than a second before calling Mayweather’s claim into question, essentially joining the viewing audience in a synchronized roll of the eyes. Barring a stronger approach from the Internal Revenue Service, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will never, ever step foot inside the Octagon under the unified set of rules for mixed martial arts.

There’s only one fighter taking a massive risk on Aug. 26, and that man is not part of The Money Team. As much as the world understands that McGregor has virtually no shot at handing Mayweather his first professional loss inside a boxing ring, there’s even less reason to believe Mayweather would come remotely close to seeing his hand raised inside of a cage with eight walls against the Irishman.

“He’s not experienced this. He’s fought people who have shied away from him. I don’t fear him. I don’t fear this limited set of fighting. This is a limited set of rules that makes this half a fight; a quarter of a fight. This isn’t a true fight. If it was a true fight, it wouldn’t even take one round,” McGregor said.

Mayweather may very well be the best boxer of his time, but he’s nowhere near the best fighter. Add the potential for kicks, knees, elbows, takedowns and submissions, and we all know what would happen.

There may not be a dollar amount Mayweather could make to risk his aura inside the cage. This fight, if nothing else, is proof of that. For as much money as a boxing match between these two is expected to make, a fight under the UFC banner would make an even bigger impression. The combat sports world has been starved of signs of Mayweather’s mortality, with plenty of fans around the globe regularly tuning into his fights to bear witness to the impossible. Every great fighter in the history of our time has created a divide between those who want to see continued success, and those dying to see the first tumble. Mayweather would be spoon-feeding the world with the most anticipated iteration of the latter if he ever chose to strap on a pair of four-ounce gloves.

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