It’s still early, but give Round 1 of the trash-talk battle between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to the Irish MMA star.
A mural in McGregor’s gym depicts the UFC showman landing a left flush to Mayweather’s chin. McGregor has used that vision a few times as his way to needle the undefeated boxer since their Aug. 26 match was announced, even quoting “Rocky IV” villain Ivan Drago : “If he dies, he dies.”
Still, both fighters have been relatively quiet since announcing their bout, holding off on interviews and personal insults. Break time is over — there’s certain to be a flurry of smack during a press tour this week in Los Angeles, Toronto, New York and London. It’s the first time that Mayweather and McGregor will share the stage ahead of their fight in Las Vegas.
Both men are trying to drive up huge paydays. Nothing sells tickets like talking smack.
The AP has been keeping track of the barbs between Mayweather and McGregor given the bravado of both fighters and their yapping before the fight was even made. McGregor is a big underdog against Mayweather in the ring, but they’re evenly matched at talking trash.
This verbal joust is three rounds. Round 1: From the day the fight was announced until the start of their press tour. Round 2: The press tour through the start of fight week. Round 3: Fight week.
Scoring is just like boxing and MMA: 10 points to the winner of each round, 9 points to the loser — 8 if something’s worth considering an emotional knockdown.
The current score: 10-9 McGregor.
The punch in the mural is something of a dream shot. Fighters have rarely — if ever — caught Mayweather so squarely in his 49 fights.
McGregor tweeted a photo of himself standing in front of the mural on June 19 with the quote: “I am a filthy Irish animal.”
A week later the mural appeared again , the star saying: “I predict these things.”
He then started using the mural as the lead-in to his training videos with the tagline “I am boxing” — a nod back to his fiery rant at Madison Square Garden in March where he declared that he would stop Mayweather.
Mayweather hasn’t taken any explicit direct shots at McGregor just yet, opting to spend far more time tweeting promos for his new Sin City strip club. But he did give fans an impressive snippet of training on a double-end striking bag, which requires extremely precise timing to hit. The Facebook video came on the same day McGregor also released training footage hitting a heavy bag — much more slowly.
Both fighters dropped hints about themes that are likely to come up during their press tour: Mayweather says he’s unbeatable and McGregor has said boxing is a limited form of fighting.
“You name him, I beat him,” Mayweather said during a June 22 training session . “I can get a black eye, I can get a bloody nose, I can have a bad day in the gym. At the end of the day, I don’t have a bad payday and I don’t have a bad night under the lights.”
McGregor’s words praising two UFC fighters for an exciting bout on Friday night had tinges of his previous arguments about the limits of boxing, threads other members of his camp have been pushing, too.
“That was a good contest,” McGregor said after Justin Gaethje beat Michael Johnson in what could be the UFC’s fight of the year.
“Two fighters, fighting,” he said.