Los Angeles will stage the official launch of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor pre-fight tour Tuesday, with the unbeaten boxing champion and record-setting UFC belt-wearer set to face off for the first time on a stage at Staples Center.
The series of four news conferences leading up to the Aug. 26 boxing match at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas has so much buzz that it’s being held in arenas and promoters are limiting tickets to four per person.
McGregor’s verbal skills arguably surpass his striking abilities in the UFC octagon, which are significant as evidenced by his repeated knockdowns of Eddie Alvarez and Nate Diaz in his last two fights, and his record 13-second knockout to stop featherweight champion Jose Aldo’s 10-year-unbeaten run in late 2015.
The 40-year-old Mayweather (49-0) has been on a 10-year roll as a showman, igniting the 2007 bout against Oscar De La Hoya that rocketed his popularity, allowing him to cast all other opponents since as financially unworthy to his “Money Mayweather” character.
Don’t be surprised to hear, as Mayweather moves to surpass former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano’s mythical 49-0 record, that “Forty nine have tried and 49 have failed.”
UFC President Dana White predicted late Saturday night that the Mayweather-McGregor four-city tour, which will follow with stops in Toronto, New York and London, will be a “… show,” as the fighters match wits in both scripted and improvised forms.
Given the curiosity in the first stop, here are 10 things to watch as Mayweather-McGregor officially moves from a topic of public debate, past the contract signing to reality.
One: Who can out-talk the other?
Mayweather told The Times in his first public comments on the fight that “no one’s going to be able to talk more [trash] than me.” But McGregor is a master. He wore down Aldo, Diaz and Alvarez with creative digs that were obviously practiced but delivered in a smooth, electrifying fashion by the verbal assassin from Ireland.
McGregor has to know perhaps his only route to victory in this meeting against boxing’s best technician is to invade Mayweather’s psyche and cause him to do something uncharacteristic in the ring based on anger, not calculation.
Two: Will there be a confrontation?
McGregor certainly hopes so. Last August, he arrived 30 minutes late for his news conference for the Diaz rematch and began launching barbs that quickly irritated, prompting Diaz to rise from his seat and leave, tossing water bottles and other objects toward McGregor, who responded by aiming Monster energy drinks back.
The Nevada commission ultimately fined McGregor $25,000 for the scene, which preceded McGregor’s riveting victory.
Three: What Mayweather subject will McGregor home in on?
Thus far, it’s been age. When the fight was originally announced, McGregor, who’ll turn 29 before the fight, flashed a photo alongside his of Mayweather’s father/trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr.
Mayweather has questions to answer about how he’ll look at age 40, after a nearly two-year layoff following his retirement announcement after beating Andre Berto by unanimous decision in September 2015. But his skills in the ring are still expected to be formidable enough for victory. McGregor is a 7/1 underdog at Nevada sports books.
Four: Can “Money” still bank on the intimidation of his fortune?
Yes, he has a Las Vegas mansion, numerous luxury sports cars, lavish clothing and jewelry, but Mayweather recently had to ask U.S. tax court for a delay in paying his 2015 IRS bill until after the McGregor fight.
“Although [Mayweather] has substantial assets, those assets are restricted and primarily illiquid,” Fortune.com quoted from a petition crafted by the fighter’s attorneys. “The taxpayer has a significant liquidity event scheduled in about 60 days from which he intends to pay the balance of the 2015 tax liability due and outstanding.”
Possible McGregor fodder, for sure.
Five: How late will the Staples Center event begin?
Doors open to the public at 12:30 p.m., with a pre-show (including a planned concert) beginning at 1:30, followed by the live show scheduled for 2:30.
But both fighters operate on their own clock, so understand this going in.
Six: Can they convince us this fight will be entertaining?
Mayweather’s 2015 triumph over Manny Pacquiao generated 4.6 million buys and more than $600 million in revenue, but the fight was so uninspiring that many fans vowed to stop investing in pay-per-views. Only Canelo Alvarez’s May victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has surpassed one million buys since.
Although Mayweather calls McGregor “tough” and has expressed an appreciation for his boxing talent, what can he and McGregor say to bring in buyers for another $89.95 broadcast after so many viewers still feel burned by the headliner?
Seven: Who will out-flash the other?
This is more than a boxing match, it’s a spectacle, and Mayweather has already encouraged McGregor on social media to try to produce proof that the trappings of his lifestyle are anywhere close to Mayweather’s.
Eight: How will UFC President Dana White deal with the role of co-promoter?
The UFC long rejected the idea of co-promotion, turning its back on Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko at the height of his popularity, and failing to turn over production controls to HBO in talks a decade ago.
Now, under new WME/IMG talent agency ownership, the organization has decided to participate in a joint venture with its fighter as the clear “B” side in a Showtime-televised boxing pay-per-view.
White has jabbed that the news tour will be a “boxing” event with “a lot of speeches,” and not a cut-to-the-chase type of session that the UFC typically operates.
“We walk in, and we sit down and, 'What's up? Who has the first question?'” White said. “And we get it rolling. I think there's going to be a lot more [B.S.] in this one."
This is a situation to watch over the course of the tour.
Nine: How strong should the debate be over the legitimacy of Mayweather reaching 50-0?
Is Mayweather going to have to answer for passing Marciano by taking on an 0-0 boxer? Some boxing purists are indignant over this despite McGregor’s stand-up skill in the octagon.
Boxing and MMA striking require different footwork, punching styles and positions. Mayweather understands this and scrutinized it before saying the only fighter he would end his retirement for is McGregor.
Ten: Why hasn’t McGregor sought more astute boxing training?
The Irishman has remained home, working out with countrymen and his MMA coach instead of seeking out gifted Southland boxing trainers Freddie Roach and Abel Sanchez.
To many, this underscores why this event is purely a novelty act replete with entertaining talk, instead of anything near to a legitimate fight.