Los Angeles was a pitch-perfect launchpad for the Mayweather-McGregor press tour, a campaign built on spectacle and suspension of disbelief
Everything went according to script. Conor McGregor trashed, taunted and belittled Floyd Mayweather and hinted he may use his mixed martial arts skills to knock him out.
Mayweather clapped back while simultaneously inflating the notion their fight would be a real contest with an uncertain outcome.
The audience that filled the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles cheered and howled as if witnessing the opening salvo in a battle for the ages. U-S-A! U-S-A! chanted some. Co-nor! Co-nor! chanted others.
Television crews pointed their cameras and commentators appeared to take it all seriously.
Everyone played their role on Tuesday afternoon as the two fighters met face to face for the first time, at least publicly, and launched an international tour to promote their 12-round super welterweight boxing bout in Las Vegas next month.
This was, after all, La La Land, the ideal launchpad for a campaign built on spectacle and suspension of disbelief.
Theres no other way about it, McGregor, wearing a pinstriped suit, exulted from the stage. His little legs, his little core, his little head. Im going to knock him out inside of four rounds, mark my words.
Mayweather, in a track suit and baseball cap, vowed to put the Irishman on the canvas. You line em up and I knock em down like bowling pins. On August 26th, Im gonna knock this bitch out too.
On Wednesday they hit Toronto, Thursday its New York and Friday its London, where their jaw-jaw, according to UFC president Dana White on Tuesday, sold out Wembley Arena in 10 minutes.
The premise is that McGregor, a UFC champion who has never boxed professionally, stands a chance against Mayweather, a former five-weight world champion who has won all 49 of his previous bouts.
If they persuade enough viewers to stump up the $89.95 for the standard-definition telecast ($99.95 for HD), it will be the most lucrative bout in history, reportedly earning each man sums in the range of $100m.
And maybe an Emmy for the televised theatrics designed to drum up suspense in defiance of analysts who consider the whole thing a dollar-chasing farce.
I dont fear this limited set of fighting, said McGregor, 28, lighting up JumboTrons around the arena. This is a limited set of rules that makes this half a fight, a quarter of a fight … what can I say, Im a young confident happy man that has worked extremely hard for this.
When he mocked Mayweatherstangle with US tax authorities, the 40-year-old shot back: You right, Im the IRS. Im gonna tax your ass.
The ritual face-off with both men narrowing eyes and hurling insults drew raucous rapture from the crowd.
In the press conference afterward, Mayweather, one of the finest boxers of his generation, dutifully talked up the possibility of losing to an opponent who has never boxed professionally.
He does have a chance, the American insisted. Any time two warriors go out there and compete, anything can happen. Hes going to come out and go for the kill. Hes a heavy hitter, so I gotta be cautious. Im older, cant move like I used to move.
White said McGregor would adapt from the octagon to the ring. Dont judge a fight until the fight is over, especially with a guy who hurts like a truck. Plus, he said, the Irishman had one hell of a motormouth. Ive not seen a mental warfare game like this since Ali.
McGregor did his bit for the ratings by suggesting he may resort to mixed martial arts in Las Vegas if Mayweather disrespects him. I may bounce an elbow off an eyebrow.
Floyd Mayweather Sr, hovering among journalists, trolled his sons opponent and challenged him to fight then and there. Im going to beat the dogshit out of you, he growled, jabbing the air.
McGregor said he would render the younger Mayweather unconscious, adding: Your boy is going to sleep. But hell wake up a better man.
The boxers father, a former welterweight contenter in the 1970s and 80s and his sons sometimes-trainer, could not suppress fleeting smiles during the exchange, draining any menace from the pantomime. It felt more Monty Python than Gladiator.
McGregor dropped the pretense. Take that flip-flop out of your mouth. Youre a fan of my shit, Floyd, I can see it in your eyes.
He deflected a journalists question about his lack of boxing experience. How about my big Irish balls? Laughter, and he then riffed about his suit and fashion business ambitions.
Such bravado helped convince some fans that the Las Vegass sparkling new T-Mobile Arena will host a real contest.
I think he can actually take Floyd out three rounds, said Philip Connolly, 32, who sells medical devices. He can back up everything he says he can do. He definitely has a chance.
Jose Garcia, 21, a marketing student, agreed. Conor has a good chance of taking him out in the early rounds. He needs to land just one left hand and its over.
Garcia did not mind that the pre-bout theatrics felt like a circus. Theyre selling a fight. Their job is done before they step into the ring. He planned to fork out the $99 and, he hoped, be part of history. Its going to break the pay-per-view record.
Originally published at: http://www.theguardian.com/us