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Floyd Mayweather sparring partners discuss Conor McGregor’s treatment of Paulie Malignaggi

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Floyd Mayweather’s sparring partners didn’t like how Conor McGregor treated Paulie Malignaggi.
Esther Lin, Showtime

LAS VEGAS — Maurice Lee helped Floyd Mayweather prepare for Manny Pacquiao in 2015 and he’s back in Mayweather’s camp as a sparring partner for the Conor McGregor fight this summer.

So you could say Lee has a good handle on what the expectations are for sparring partner treatment, considering after Aug. 26 he’ll have been part of the two biggest training camps in the history of boxing in terms of pay-per-view sales.

Lee said Thursday at Mayweather’s media workout at Mayweather Boxing Club that he didn’t pay much attention to what happened last week between McGregor, McGregor’s team and Paulie Malignaggi. After reading up on it, though, Lee said the whole situation — Malignaggi leaving the camp unhappy about sparring photo leaks — was revealing.

“It shows a lot,” Lee told MMA Fighting. “It shows [McGregor is] more focused on the show than the actual skill. He should be focused on the boxing, not trying to post stuff like that this close to the fight. He should be more focused, I feel. Because Floyd is very focused.”

Malignaggi railed against McGregor and his camp Monday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. He called McGregor “one of the biggest dirtbags I’ve ever met” after his experience of two sparring sessions with the UFC lightweight champion. Malignaggi was unhappy about McGregor and his team posting photos on social media of their sparring sessions to make him look bad, among other things.

Another issue Malignaggi brought up was the accommodations for his trips to Las Vegas. Malignaggi described the apartment McGregor’s team put him up in as something resembling a “crack house.”

Lee, a 7-1 boxer out of Los Angeles, said a Mayweather training camp is far different. He said Mayweather’s team has him staying in a “nice townhouse” with two floors, just for him. Daquan Mays, another Mayweather sparring partner, said Mayweather doesn’t usually elevate himself at the expense of training partners.

“Floyd is real respectful, man,” Mays told MMA Fighting. “Treats you good, pays good. End of the day, gives you good recognition. He’s not the kind of guy that punches on you and tells everybody else to talk about you and brags about it. You don’t win fights in the gym. You do — but fights aren’t held in the gym. So there’s no point to brag about what you did in the gym. ‘I got a knockout in the gym, I got a stoppage in the gym.’ That’s gym work. It’s not about what goes on in the camp, it’s about what goes on when the lights shine on you.”

The situation with McGregor and Malignaggi is a complex one. Malignaggi talked trash about McGregor last December when discussions started percolating about a potential Mayweather vs. McGregor boxing match. McGregor implied on the MayMac World Tour last month that he wanted to bring in Malignaggi just as much because of the comments as someone to help him get ready to fight.

McGregor and his team have not spoken much about the situation since Malignaggi left his camp last week, but they also have not seemed happy that Malignaggi did a bunch of media interviews after their first sparring session two weeks ago. Malignaggi has said he only started talking to the press because McGregor and his team were posting photos.

Lee, 25, said he feels like McGregor made a tactical mistake in essentially chasing Malignaggi away, because his presence could have helped him considering this is McGregor’s first pro boxing match.

“That whole situation, that wasn’t right,” Lee said. “He should have been grateful that Paulie wanted to help him gain some experience. Because Paulie ain’t no Floyd. He should have been happy he got to see a strong, veteran boxer to help him prepare the best he could, because he’s gonna need it.

“He should have took advantage of that. Paulie is a technically sound boxer. His IQ of boxing is very high. He has no power and he was world champion twice. That shows a lot. I heard Paulie was getting the best of him. And Paulie Malignaggi is not Floyd.”

Mays, an amateur competitor, co-signs that sentiment. And more than anything, he just doesn’t appreciate how McGregor’s team treated Malignaggi, who is a former two-time champion and well-respected person in the sport.

“It’s disrespectful at the end of the day,” Mays said. “You’ve gotta respect that kind of guy. To call Paulie, a world champion, to call guy like that to come to your camp, for him to join your camp, that’s big. For you to disrespect him in camp and post these photos as if you’re beating him, a guy who’s been doing the sport his whole life, it’s disrespectful.”

Malignaggi said McGregor’s team had him spar McGregor 12 rounds just 24 hours after he got off the plane in Las Vegas from New York. It’s atypical for boxing sparring partners to go the distance like that, he said. Usually fighters will rotate fresh opponents in after a few rounds.

Mays and Lee both said that they’ve gone 10 or even 12 rounds in sparring before with different fighters. It’s a case-by-case basis.

“It really depends on your sparring partner and it depends on your work ethic,” Mays said. “If you really try to put yourself to that extra limit, you’ll put another guy in there. You get a fresh guy after six rounds or something like that.”

Added Lee: “Typically in my sparring, when I’m preparing for a fight, I do both. Sometimes I spar straight with a guy and sometimes I have different guys on different levels for different looks. You want to get the different styles, as many as you can.”

Lee said even though the McGregor-Malignaggi situation made a ton of headlines last week, it didn’t really hit Team Mayweather’s radar all that much.

“Even when all of that was going on over there, this camp wasn’t even talking about it,” Lee said. “Not even. … Floyd, none of us even give it attention. We’re more focused on if you gotta spar Floyd Mayweather tonight. You’re more nervous about, ‘Damn, am I gonna spar Floyd today? Is it my day?’”

McGregor will work out and speak to the media Friday. It’ll be his first time discussing the Malignaggi mess publicly since it happened. Mays can’t imagine what could be said that would fully explain why someone like Malignaggi was dissed like that.

“For Paulie to help McGregor out, that’s out of his heart to help the guy out,” he said. “And then for his guys to speak bad about Paulie, that’s disrespectful. That’s the first thing I thought, I said, ‘Paulie, man? Why would you do that to Paulie? Paulie is a good guy in this sport.’”