Saturday 18 November 2017

Sticks and stones... and words... hurt

What's worse than being beaten to a pulp? Having your past dug up apparently

Face off: Floyd Mayweather, left, and Conor McGregor exchange harsh words during a promotional stop in Toronto last Wednesday for their upcoming fight in Las Vegas Photo: Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP
Face off: Floyd Mayweather, left, and Conor McGregor exchange harsh words during a promotional stop in Toronto last Wednesday for their upcoming fight in Las Vegas Photo: Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

If the build-up to Conor McGregor's fight against Floyd Mayweather has taught us anything, it's that - even for the world's toughest fighters - words hurt more than fists.

It sounds mawkish, but for anyone who closely followed last week's press conferences, the devil was in the detail.

Dana White Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Dana White Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

From the outset, the focus was on the big statements - the loud, bold and brash.

On the first night, McGregor arrived on the Los Angeles stage to music booming over the speakers and the epithet 'F*ck You' stitched in the pin-stripes of his suit, as he paced back and forth like a caged lion.

He is in incredible shape. As bulletproof as they come. Incorporating everything from martial arts to somatics to shred his body to less than 9pc fat, he has more muscles than a seafood platter.

Mayweather is in equally tremendous condition - his gruelling work-outs reportedly last up to four hours a day. And over the course of three cities - New York and London came next - the men peacocked a 'display' armour of diamonds worth millions of dollars, a polar-bear fur coat and a bunch of heavies, to the backdrop of bright lights and rap music, plus fight promoter Dana White.

We all know how this ends. In a splatter of blood, pummelled flesh and blackened eyes, maybe even broken bones and teeth. And we're all OK with that.

We'll pay 100 quid to watch the two men beat each other to within an inch of their lives. This is not to finger wag - I'll be first with the popcorn for 'Team Conor' - and yet we're horrified over some of the men's fight talk?

The controversy came when Mayweather was showing off his shadow boxing onstage at the Staples Center. Watching on and keen to show the moves didn't concern him, McGregor yelled: "Dance for me, boy!" The following day, people were up in arms.

But was McGregor's taunt genuinely racist? It could be argued by McGregor that he meant nothing harmful - especially given that, immediately sensing the comment might be taken in a different manner, he changed his taunt to "Dance for me, Sir!"

And as for the next accusation: was it really racist to claim that he is "half-black from the belly button down" - alleging that he is as well-hung as a black man (is stereotyped to be)? Whatever your view, it would take a pretty sensitive soul to have his feelings hurt by that.

Perhaps people were more rightly offended about the homophobic slur out of Mayweather's mouth - but the storm over the putdowns was ironic ahead of the most bloodthirsty of sports.

Elsewhere, their face-off threw up an even more striking example that words hurt more than ripped flesh. A marked element of the promotional tour was not found in the circus of the lights, bells and whistles, but what was left unsaid.

For all McGregor's trash talk - the claims that his opponent is nothing but an ageing, bankrupt, illiterate has-been who is way out of his depth - the Dubliner stopped short of calling the American out as a notorious wife beater. Why? Everyone knows Mayweather's record. He has served time for battery and paid thousands in public fines. Over a five-month period in 2001 and 2002, he pleaded guilty to two counts of battery domestic violence.

In 2003, he attacked two women at a Las Vegas nightclub - he was later found guilty of two counts of misdemeanour battery - and in 2010, he attacked the mother of three of his children at her home, punching her in the head. His oldest son had to call the police. Surely, mic in hand, the easiest shot worth firing at Mayweather was about this? The possible list of putdowns were endless. As one fan urged the Dubliner to goad;

Mayweather couldn't beat McGregor unless the Irishman wore a wig and a dress. It prompts the question: was the stipulation written into his contract?

Could it possibly be that Mayweather was brave enough to come out of retirement, take on the challenge and possibly suffer a humiliating beating for a reported $1bn payday - yet mention two little words: 'wife beater' and he was out? Still, it's good to know actions say more than words. Some take issue with the fact that people are paying good money to watch an event with the shamed fighter on the ticket.

Quite frankly, I can think of worse ways to spend €100 than watching someone of McGregor's size land an upper-cut on one of the world's most famous wife-beaters.

It's just a pity the contract also rules out the possibility that the Irishman can kick him in the b*lls for our sheer entertainment as well.

Sunday Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport