DUBLIN — On the way into Dublin on Saturday night, it was obvious that Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor had completely saturated the city’s attention.
“Every person that’s been in this car today has been talking about the fight. I might stop working for an hour so I can watch it,” a taxi man tells me, eyes pinned on the road.
A few minutes later, he underlined that lack of understanding a lot of people seemed to have regarding the fight.
“Everybody keeps saying Mayweather will win, but what will he do if McGregor kicks him? He won’t be used to that!”
In Temple Bar, four hours before the fight gets under way, “F*ck the Mayweathers” had become an aggressive, tongue-in-cheek greeting. Faces were lit up by the glow of phones, with one person per group announcing how far off the main event was.
The homeless shouted pro-McGregor predictions as they shook the change in the bottom of their coffee cups: “McGregor is going to knock him out!”
Outside Sin Nightclub in Temple Bar, one of the few venues that were hosting a viewing party for the bout, at least 100 people were unsuccessfully endeavoring to get onto the premises. Meanwhile, the venue’s staff was trying to get the punters who have not paid to watch the polarizing contest out of the building.
Inside, house music played as the undercard was displayed on one small screen on one of the main dance floors. As the time went by, more and more bodies began to gather around the screen.
At one point, a ‘TMT’ hat landed by my feet. An American 20-something eventually picked it up.
“I’m here with my girl, everybody keeps taking my hat off and throwing it across the room,” he said with a grin, clearly enjoying the back and forth with the McGregor mob.
One man from Manchester revealed that he had got a plane over to Dublin that morning to watch the fight among the Irish. A group of three Californians shouted “Eire” through the darkness of the venue while others held up cards provided by the venue bearing different quotes from “The Notorious”, most memorably: “You’ll do f**kin’ nothing”.
At 2:30 a.m., roughly three hours before the main event got underway, a Garda van pulled up outside Sin. Two Garda came into the club, making sure that alcohol had stopped being served, as per Irish licensing laws.
As the eight officers made their presence known with the back door of the vehicle opened to display their numbers, the punters from inside ventured down several side streets to food takeaways close to the venue, whose merchants were only too happy to part ways with bottles of beer for a heightened price.
Peering down the various cobblestoned laneways, fan guzzled down drink to keep the spirits high as the fight drew closer before rejoining the forced drought at the viewing events.
Back at Sin, four screens now played the fight in one room, while a giant screen played the broadcast on the main dance floor at the back of the venue. Shoulder to shoulder and pressed up against each other, all that could be seen were silhouettes beyond the giant screen and smart phones that would appear with no exact rhythm as people filmed their surroundings.
Imelda’s May passionate rendition of ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ climaxed in an outpouring of national pride. After the mandatory “C’mon Ireland” was shouted before the final bar of the anthem rang out, an ‘Oh, Conor McGregor’ chant started to the melody of the ‘Seven Nation Army’ baseline, drowning out Demi Lovato’s chorus of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.
The gathering was in full voice over the first three rounds.
“They said he couldn’t do it! Look at Floyd, he can’t live with that pace!” a Dublin accent yelled from somewhere around me.
Three rounds later, the same voice lamented the mastery that was on show from the undefeated boxer.
“Look, he’s just hitting him when he wants to now…I told you this would happen.”
They also had some thoughts on Sky Sports commentator, Carl Froch: “F*ck you, Froch” and “Shut the f*ck up, Froch”, were launched in the direction of the broadcast on several occasions, as the Englishman discounted the Irishman’s efforts.
Outside on the streets of Dublin at around 5.30 am, scores of people gathered outside of the venues that were showing the fight in an effort to get a look at the television screens through the windows. While the fight was taking place, the whole city seemed to come to a standstill.
As Mayweather’s skill set unraveled, the chants, whoops and hollers turned to a din of chatter. When referee Robert Byrd stopped the action in the tenth round, the assembly was indifferent, with no added surge or decrescendo to mark the stoppage. It was almost as if it was accepted after the early bravado of McGregor. When the debuting boxer appeared again, applause broke out in respect for his effort in the face of a nearly impossible task.
A river of bodies left the venue before the official decision was read out. Less than a fifth of the room were still on site as Mayweather launched into his post-fight interview. Some booed, some applauded, the majority said nothing as they watched on.
Passing the Garda van on Dame Street that kept an eye on the exit of the nightclub, the Irish were content.
Even though Mayweather likely planned to let McGregor tire himself out in the first three rounds – rounds that the SBG fighter won on the majority of peoples’ scorecards – the presence of a strategy pointed to a sporting contest rather than the circus that many had alluded to.
The following day, social media feeds praised the Dubliner who dared them to dream, and for at least 12 minutes, Ireland felt like it was believing in McGregor as he landed punch after punch despite those who predicted that he wouldn’t lay a glove on the American.
McGregor’s performance resulted in one of the most aggressive showings from Mayweather. ‘Money’ marched him down, unconcerned with his output and highlighted the disparity we all knew existed between the two when it came to boxing.
It felt like a fitting way to round out his career. There was a sense of finality this time, something that Andre Berto and the underwhelming 550,000 people who bought their fight didn’t represent.
Everybody won this time.
McGregor got his payday and proved himself worthy of the contest. MMA was not embarrassed on the night and UFC gets to reclaim their golden goose in a time when they desperately need draws. Boxing left the event with its head held high, and Floyd Mayweather underlined his dominance in the sport, claiming the 50th win to add to his unblemished record. As well as that, the spectators were entertained.
Even in defeat, the Irish stood by their hero.
A group of young men made their way across O’Connell Bridge about an hour after the fight had ended. Another group, walking in the opposite direction, must have noticed their McGregor T-shirts and tricolors.
“McGregor sucks,” they shouted.
“F*ck you, and f*ck the Mayweathers,” the other group roared back defiantly.