There was a hands-off policy but Conor McGregor puts his hand on Floyd Mayweather’s head during their London news conference
Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor’s whistle-stop tour of Los Angeles, Toronto, New York and London to promote their fight is over.
American former five-weight boxing world champion Mayweather, 40, will face Irish UFC lightweight title-holder McGregor, 29, in 12 rounds under boxing rules in Las Vegas on 26 August.
The tour has provided some captivating theatre and plenty of trash talking, but what have we learned?
BBC Sport asked 5 live boxing pundit Steve Bunce and MMA writer Simon Head to give their verdicts.
Q. Insults have been traded on the tour. How do they compare to McGregor’s previous news conferences?
SH: These events are all about one thing – generating more pay-per-view sales, and in that regard I think you can call it a success. But the overriding thought after this tour is they had one event too many. The Brooklyn leg was an abomination that did more harm than good.
Despite hurling expletives in each other’s faces – sometimes from just inches away – the pair never looked close to fighting on stage. They both know there’s too much at risk, and they also both know that every verbal jab landed goes a little further to increasing their take-home pay.
It’s salesmanship at its loudest and brashest, but it’s a proven formula for success, both in MMA and boxing. But there were moments when the invective between the two crossed the line.
Sadly as tempers flared between the pair we heard misogynistic, racial and homophobic insults used. That’s the sort of promotion both sports could do well without.
Q. Boxing is no stranger to pre-fight tirades. Where did these rank on that scale?
SB: These were the most skilfully orchestrated and choreographed of rants and raves. It was like watching a stage play. They perfected their act brilliantly so one guy finished talking, another guy started talking. One guy finished ranting and romping over the ring and the other guy then started.
Think about it – when was the last time there was a so-called angry and foul-mouthed news conference where the two boxers didn’t talk over each other?
What we saw in London, Toronto, Los Angeles and New York was brilliant, crazy pantomime. Sure, they dislike each other, but they know what sells is the act.
Who won the verbal sparring and will it carry any weight into the fight?
SH: Conor, no question. In terms of material, ability to think on their feet and pump up the event, it was a landslide win for the Dubliner.
Conor’s in a different league when it comes to the verbal jousting of a press conference/on-stage situation. With his natural wit and ability to think on his feet he’s always one step ahead of his opponents in these situations.
By comparison Floyd didn’t bring anything new to the table after that first event in LA and was reduced to call-and-response chants and repetitive talk about his money. It seemed he just didn’t have the mental wherewithal to joust with the Dubliner in the trash-talking stakes.
Previously Conor’s verbal onslaught on a press tour proved too much for UFC legend Jose Aldo and clearly played a part in the Brazilian’s downfall.
But Floyd’s been around the block too many times for Conor’s chat to affect him in any way at all on fight night. It’ll be an altogether different match-up once they step through the ropes on 26 August.
McGregor appears to have won the verbal battle from the four press conferences
SB: This will carry no weight going into the fight because the whole thing was choreographed so one would have a good night, one would have a decent night, one would do this and one would do that.
It’s odd but they really seemed to enjoy it. It’s a bizarre thing to say because of some of the things that they have said have caused a great degree of concern – rightly so for certain things.
Nothing can be taken from what they did. Floyd, once again, was shocked that one of the greatest fighters of the modern era has found himself the booed man, the hated man, the bad guy and the one who barely gets any cheers. McGregor has just milked the love from the fans. That cannot be overlooked.
That is going to have no impact on fight night – there could be 22,000 people from Dublin but it will make no difference – just make it very lively.
McGregor is a funny guy. Mayweather is not a funny guy – he is a serious guy and a brilliant boxer. You can’t be everything in life an you?
Q. To what extent do you think the animosity is real or staged?
Mayweather is unbeaten from 49 fights in his professional boxing career
SH: I think there’s a competitive rivalry, but despite the insults hurled between the two I don’t think there’s any genuine animosity from McGregor towards Mayweather at all. Floyd just happens to be his opponent.
For McGregor, this is about challenging himself, proving a point, doing what people say can’t be done and earning an astronomical amount of money in the process.
For Floyd, it’s just another day in the office. The difference this time is he had someone standing across from him who’ll generate even more hype and interest than just about any opponent he’s ever faced, and that all bodes well for his bank balance.
SB: The dislike is genuine but they know that if they pushed and shoved in Los Angeles then the other three news conferences would be cancelled. They needed to sell and push the fight. The fact that they have to co-exist for an hour in front of 12,500 people live on TV and then do two to three hours of media work makes them dislike each other even more.
There was one very telling moment in London. They’ve had a hands-off policy. Last night, McGregor, during his opening rant and rave, which was comedy gold to be honest, touched Floyd Mayweather on the head.
Not once or twice, but the third time he touched him he really moved Floyd’s head. I was six to eight feet away, I could smell McGregor’s cologne, and I could see that Mayweather was really holding his neck tight so his head did not appear to be flopping around.
All the way through the news conference, he made out like he wasn’t bothered – the only time McGregor got his attention and made him react was when he touched his head. Mayweather smiled and laughed and that told me, boy oh boy, he was angry.
Q. This fight is viewed in some quarters as a circus. Have these news conferences solidified or challenged that view?
SH: It’s part-sporting event, part-spectacle. The news conferences [which weren’t really news conferences at all] were 100% spectacle. It’s all about selling the sizzle, but the steak comes on fight night.
Once they step through the ropes and the referee says “fight”, it’ll turn into a legitimate sporting event, one on one, hand to hand with only one winner at the end.
SB: It’s a crazy fight, it’s a mad fight, it’s a lunatic fight and the four news conferences, which have cost millions to set up, have solidified that. They have reinforced the lunacy – and that’s what this fight is.
Anybody who gets upset, any boxing purist who gets upset, is just not reading it and understanding what is going on here. This is an event. It is going to generate close to a billion dollars – close your eyes and say that – it is quite incredible. All it has done is stir up even more interest.
Part of the reason for being in London and not Dublin is that there is no broadcaster yet for the UK, which is a very lucrative market. Last night was a sales conference and it was the most entertaining sales conference I could imagine.
Q. Let’s have your latest prediction for the fight…
SH: I don’t subscribe to the view that Conor has no chance whatsoever of winning. He’s an elite-level combat sports athlete with a size, reach, age and power advantage over his opponent.
He’ll also present a style unlike anything Floyd’s faced before. If Conor lands early and lands clean he could shock the world but, let’s be honest, his chances are slim.
He should be a much wider underdog than the odds are reflecting at the moment, but he nonetheless does have a chance and that chance should be respected.
But there’s no escaping the fact that Mayweather has everything in his favour in this contest. It’s his specialist discipline, his terms and his home town. He’s 49-0 for a reason.
In the octagon McGregor obliterates Mayweather in short order, no question. But this is a boxing match and, when it comes to life in the squared circle, Floyd holds all the aces.
SB: It’s the same prediction I had from the very start. Mayweather does whatever he wants. McGregor won’t quit, we know that, but if he is cut and bruised and is not landing a punch for six, seven or eight rounds, he can get broken and the corner could pull him out or the referee could save it on a mercy stoppage.
Or, the most likely scenario is that Mayweather just does what he likes, barely gets hit and just coasts the 12 rounds.
Mayweather does love 12 rounds, just look at his record.