Let the hype begin: Mayweather-McGregor going international with carnival media tour

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

Somehow, it seems they got this thing backward.

The most entertaining part of the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor boxing match will occur Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles; Wednesday at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto; Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn; and Friday at the SSE Arena at Wembley in London.

Those are the four stops on the fight’s media tour, and they’re destined to be by far the best part of this adventure. It seems they’d be better off charging for the media conferences and giving the fight away for free, given the great anticipation for the media tour and the low expectations for the fight, set for Aug. 26 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, itself.

Mayweather is among the greatest boxers who ever lived and will be shooting for his 50th win in his 50th bout. If he gets it, he’d slip past the hallowed 49-0 mark put up by the legendary heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, a figure revered as much in boxing as Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs were for so long in baseball.

It will gall plenty of boxing purists that Mayweather could surpass that standard against a mixed martial arts fighter with a 0-0 pro boxing record.

McGregor is the UFC lightweight champion who, from the day he first signed kept dreaming beyond what seemed possible. There were a lot of skeptics in 2013 when the former apprentice plumber who had only recently gotten off government assistance said he planned to become a star in the UFC.

Conor McGregor will fight Floyd Mayweather at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on August 26. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

When he won the featherweight title, knocking cold one of the sport’s greatest fighters in just 13 seconds, he immediately spoke of chasing a belt in the lightweight division. MMA is vastly different in that sense from boxing, and it’s nowhere near as easy to win titles in multiple weight classes in MMA as it is in boxing.

And before McGregor had even won that belt, he began making noise about fighting Mayweather. Most everyone laughed and passed it off as Conor being Conor. But guess what?

Here we are now, six weeks away from a bout that will gross in excess of $500 million and has a chance to set records for largest paid gate in combat sports history, most pay-per-view sales and most pay-per-view revenue; and most overall revenue generated. The social media impressions are going to blow away what the 2015 Mayweather-Pacquiao fight did, and those numbers were multiples ahead of any prior fight, boxing or MMA.

Given McGregor’s lack of boxing experience, most outside of his inner circle believe the fight will be nothing more than a one-sided beatdown in which Mayweather will dominate from start to finish.

Perhaps that’s what will occur. Perhaps McGregor, as he’s done repeatedly in his four-plus years in the UFC, will shock everyone yet again, though I wouldn’t bet the grocery money on it.

But the pre-fight press conferences will be wild. These are the best promoters in combat sports since Muhammad Ali. They’re going to be loud, over-the-top, frequently zany and totally unpredictable.

It will be funny, profane and intense and the crowds will be whipped into a frenzy. It will be a sight to behold in London given the fervor of McGregor’s Irish fans. The press conference in Dublin, Ireland, for the Jose Aldo-McGregor fight is arguably the most memorable in fight sports history, as the crowd was unbelievably intense and McGregor swiped Aldo’s belt from the dais.

That figures to be topped, perhaps multiple times, in the next week.

Mayweather is no slouch in this department, but he’s not the quick wit that McGregor is. Mayweather, though, knows better than anyone how to sell a show, and whether it was getting into fights with his father on a preview show or counting his money and showing off his cars and jewelry on another, he manages to get attention.

Ten years ago, when he was just a great boxer and not the biggest money-maker and top draw in sports, he was preparing to face Oscar De La Hoya. He’d chased De La Hoya for years – in 1997, in just his sixth pro bout, he told me that night in Las Vegas he wanted to fight De La Hoya next – and when he got the bout, he didn’t waste the chance.

At one stop on that press tour, he brought a chicken with a gold medal around its next that he called “Oscar.” He stole De La Hoya’s food and messed with his head at every turn. And it turned out that fight smashed all existing records and cemented Mayweather as boxing’s brightest star.

Tickets for the press tour stops are free and they’ll be in serious demand. I can unequivocally recommend any one of the four stops as being worth your time.

The fight? Well, that’s a different story. Let’s get into that later.