Let's start by proclaiming the miracle: Today's Floyd Maweather/Conor McGregor press conference actually started on time. If you'd polled 100 pundits beforehand I'd be willing to bet 100 of them would have told you that such a thing was an impossibility. But precisely at 5:30pm East Standard Time there he was, Conor McGregor, strolling onstage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, to be followed just minutes later by Mayweather, accompanied by a small army of hangers-on, including women and kids. And then there they were together, the impossible pair, squaring off, McGregor predictably in a suit, Mayweather just as predictably in Money Team gear, McGregor jawing and taunting, Mayweather quite silent.
Which means the Mayweather/McGregor circus is officially off and running. The afternoon's press conference was the first of four international events scheduled over the next four days to promote their Aug. 26th super-duper fight, and things went pretty much as expected. Before an enormous crowd (and following a pre-press conference roundtable shouting match between legendary combat sports commentator Mauro Rannallo, former boxer Paulie Malignaggi, and former UFC heavyweight-turned-comedian Brendan Schaub, a brief performance from rapper Aloe Blacc, and numerous thrill-numbing, momentum-dashing speeches from television executives, resort administrators, and promoters) the two fighters laid into each other from behind a podium.
McGregor was in his element, beaming like a kid on Christmas morning and delighting in this unprecedented moment. Like a comedian at a Friar's Club roast he laid into Mayweather with one-liners. He mocked the boxer for his track suit, criticized his size, guaranteed a knockout, bragged about his youth and confidence and work ethic, promoted a new line of McGregor suits, mocked the demands Mayweather has made about the rules, gave a shout-out to his new-born son, even gave an impromptu lecture on the history of MMA-boxing matches. And of course McGregor mocked Mayweather for his tax woes—news broke earlier in the day that the boxer, who made more than $250 million fighting Manny Pacquiao in 2015, is looking at a $22 million tax lien from the IRS. After all, finding and exploiting weaknesses is what the Irishman does best.
When his turn came, Mayweather seemed more putout than delighted, but he managed to work himself into the right mood by engaging in call-and-response chants with his entourage and supporters in the arena. "All work is …?" he shouted, and they shouted back, "Easy Work!" "Point me to the easy work then," Mayweather instructed, and they all pointed at McGregor. McGregor may have had most of the crowd on his side, but Mayweather partisans came prepared. Then the boxer aimed at the spot where his greatest sense of self-importance lies and where McGregor's biggest vulnerability is: the Irishman's (comparatively) small bank account. Mayweather dismissed McGregor for only being an "eight-figure fighter," for only clearing $3 million for his last fight (a glaringly dubious claim), and for having the soul of a quitter. "Mr. Tapout," he called him, using McGregor's one UFC loss to emphasize Mayweather's own blemish-free record, the one thing, he said, that "God made perfect."
Feeling his oats by that point, Mayweather all but commanded McGregor to meet him in the center of the stage for the traditional fighter's staredown, like a man long used to telling other men what to do and getting what he wants. McGregor agreed and for the next several minutes the two men jawed at each other with clear animosity. Where were the mics then, when we really needed them?
Tomorrow the whole circus pulls up stakes and moves to Toronto.