Tom Sorensen

Conor McGregor has the crowd, but Floyd Mayweather, at 40, has everything else

Conor McGregor, right, won the press conferences for his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., but will he win anything else?
Conor McGregor, right, won the press conferences for his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., but will he win anything else? AP

Floyd Mayweather, the undefeated boxer, wins news conferences. He’s brash, he’s confident and he doesn’t let opponents get to him. He gets to them.

Conor McGregor got to him. And later, Mayweather got to McGregor. To promote their Aug. 26 fight, they put on news conferences in Los Angeles, Toronto, Brooklyn and London. Mayweather snatched a water bottle from which McGregor was drinking and threw it. McGregor twice bumped Mayweather with his shoulder. Mayweather asked for stripper music and threw money in the air above McGregor.

Classy, the news conferences were not. The language was predictable, the insults ancient and ugly.

But there’s this: Although the histrionics will sell tickets, nobody was acting. The contempt is real. McGregor, the Irishman, wears the suit, does the strut, engages the audience and occasionally talks over Mayweather even when it’s Mayweather’s turn to speak. He’s the verbal aggressor, Mayweather the verbal counterpuncher.

More than a sporting event, Mayweather-McGregor is a spectacle. The boxers should have come to the news conferences in a chariot. McGladiator.

You imagine what would happen if these guys raced cars or played golf? Anger among purists would rise. TV ratings also would.

Mayweather opened the right as a huge favorite, but the odds are dropping. I won’t write them here because they’re liquid, the numbers, and could drop again by the time you see this.

Mayweather is 49-0 and, I believe, the best defensive fighter in boxing history. He’s also 40.

McGregor is 21-3 in mixed martial arts and a former Irish amateur boxing champion. He is good, very good, with his hands. He turned 29 Sunday.

McGregor has one chance. The retirement is Mayweather’s second. He lost nothing the first time he came back. But this time he’s been away almost two years. Will his sublime instincts have faded?

McGregor is the bigger puncher and the bigger man. Yet it’s tough to see the Irishman winning. McGregor is great at mixed martial arts. In the Las Vegas ring on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas there will be no mixed martial arts.

It’s like a lawyer who is successful in his field walking into the ER to see if he can succeed in another. Can’t kick, can’t choke out, can’t wrestle and, hey, what’s a defibrillator? Boxing and mixed martial arts are that different.

McGregor probably will have the crowd. But unless Mayweather is used up, that will be all McGregor has.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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