On Conor McGregor’s 29th birthday, the four-city world tour between him and Floyd Mayweather came to a merciful end. Now it’s just a countdown to potentially broader disappointments, or astonishments, or at very least to some form of history (the debate continues as to which kind). Anything, so long as we don’t have to see either one perform grandiose soliloquies in front of packed houses again. Maybe the tour helped sell the PPV, but that was brutal. If the fight seems bigger in the tour’s aftermath, it’s only in the luxuriance of ego.
At least there are 42 days to scrub off between now and Aug. 26, right?
Perhaps it would be the same if you watched a ribald comedian on four straight stops in four days, but there was nothing refreshing happening beyond Day 2 in Toronto of this traveling pageant. In fact, it was off the rails and into the lagoon. McGregor showed up as his gaudy pimp doppelganger in Brooklyn, and Floyd called him a “faggot” in London. McGregor made black jokes. Mayweather said he was Dana White’s “ho.” There were bags of loot and polar bear furs, yet rarely anything resembling a genuine moment.
These were the little hand cranes that two of the best fighters of the day used in an effort to extract $100 from your pocket. When in doubt, strut excessively and sling slurs. This brand of fight history is made of people who say “bitch” a lot. Even for an expertly un-PC fight world, this one is a little greasy.
What happened? It started out okay in Los Angeles. It reached a nice crescendo in Toronto, when both guys felt as though they had their feet under them. When Mayweather got the Irish flag out there was some hysteria in the air, because there were personal chords being thrummed — it was provocative. McGregor grabbed Mayweather’s backpack and scoffed at the skinny brick of bills he had flaunted earlier. That stop was McGregor’s finest. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was every bit as big as the moment. Mayweather pushed some good buttons, too.
Then, as the thing carried east, it just took on a sickly feeling, the kind of feeling you might get when you intend to eat a piece of candy and end up scarfing down the whole bag. Nobody expected modesty, but it was just too much. McGregor gave himself a black eye with his antics, the first time he’s made himself look silly in his career. And Floyd just wants people to point to the easy money (which really is an invitation for people to point at themselves).
Maybe it was the format that wore thin. Maybe it was that neither fighter had enough material. Maybe it was that they were too prepared, to the point that one of the first casualties was actual animosity. It was a tour that went 6,000 miles in four days, so there was fatigue and pressure. Still, they were using plungers as swords. Mayweather’s shtick of saying he’s richer than McGregor shouldn’t have made anyone more eager to see him punched in the face — not when McGregor shows up as fur coat-sporting drug lord claiming he’s half black from the belly button on down.
Somewhere along the way it stopped being entertaining, and just became the “shit show” Dana White professed it to be. When Dana is the voice of reason in anything, you know we’ve entered some Mad Max territory.
There were so many detours of thought that logic itself got lost. Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza went from one of the proud speakers in Los Angeles to a weasel of the lowest rank by London, all because he might have been complicit in cutting off McGregor’s mic. Dana White angled his mug into every picture, as if it were killing him to play beta for the Showtime producers. By Day 4, Mayweather was no longer the cool impervious-to-trash-talk raker of millions, but more like a busted toy that just keeps repeating itself. “Hard Work!” “Boooo.” “Hard Work!” “Boooo.” “Hard Work!”
It was as if each man made efforts to drop lower than the other. It’s a tough trick for McGregor, beloved still for his mix of audacity, trash talk, and “mysticism,” to lose track of the collective feeling surrounding him. He has always been hyper-aware of the public sentiment. At times on this press tour, he missed his mark severely. Brooklyn was his worst hour. As if recognizing this, he redeemed himself a little bit in London.
The fight will happen Aug. 26. It is a remarkable occurrence. The fact that an MMA star has the charisma, skill and nerve to pull off a fight against one of boxing’s greatest champions is enough to become a cultural happening. If this four-day study told us anything, it’s that a fight of this size can be as ugly as it is historic.