Thursday 22 February 2018

Mayweather steals Irish flag - but McGregor steals the show: Five talking points from Toronto showdown

Conor McGregor, right, throws an Irish flag at Floyd Mayweather
Conor McGregor, right, throws an Irish flag at Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor went face to face for the second time in as many days on Wednesday evening, as their Las Vegas super-fight inches ever closer.

After a dramatic press conference in Los Angeles, the travelling circus rolled into Toronto, for an event even more bombastic and controversial than before.

If McGregor struggled on Tuesday night, he triumphed in Canada. He mocked both Mayweather and Showtime, and successfully instructed the partisan crowd to hurl insults in the direction of Mayweather’s Money Team.

The American attempted to fight back late into the press conference and even attempted to build bridges with Dana White and the UFC, but there was no doubting the night belonged to McGregor.

After two press conferences, the score very much stands at 1-1.

The tour next rolls into New York City, before a final stop in London.

Here are the five main talking points from another surreal evening’s entertainment.

Audacious bet shows both men are confident

Possibly the highlight of this second press conference was Mayweather daring McGregor to bet his entire fight cheque ahead of August 26. McGregor laughed heartily at the suggestion, before rapidly agreeing to the bet.

“Just draw me up a new contract,” he said, to cheers form the raucous crowd.

Will it happen? Almost certainly not. But the exchange demonstrates perfectly the confidence of both men. Mayweather may well be the overwhelming favourite to win at the T-Mobile Arena, but McGregor completely believes he can become the first man in history to stop the American.

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Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor

McGregor turns his fire on Showtime

In Toronto, McGregor confirmed what many fans had suspected after his appearance at the Los Angeles press conference: he hadn’t been properly briefed ahead of the presser and didn't know that he was meant to be giving a speech, or what the schedule for the night was.

That changed in Toronto. McGregor appeared utterly at ease, and wasted no time in turning his fire on Showtime.

“This time they’ve given me a mic that works!” he said to huge cheers upon taking the stage, before hurling another microphone into the wings.

He then stalked up to the Showtime Chief Exec, Stephen Espinoza, and accused him of being both a “b***” and a “weasel”. Subtle it ain't, but McGregor may have just clawed back some power from Showtime ahead of August 26.

Mayweather turns on the charm offensive

After a solid five minutes of trash-talking, it was a little bit surprising to hear Mayweather turning on the charm.

The American strolled past McGregor and directly approached Dana White, and began telling the UFC president how much he admires both him and his organisation. He also asked White to forgive any previous derogatory comments he had made.

“We make the real money,” he told White. Was Mayweather simply being polite, or was there an ulterior business motive to his good grace?

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Floyd Mayweather, left, and Conor McGregor exchange harsh words during a promotional stop in Toronto on Wednesday, July 12, 2017, for their upcoming boxing match in Las Vegas. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP)

McGregor stokes controversy…

McGregor caused the first controversy of this press tour by instructing Mayweather to “dance for me, boy!” during the LA news conference on Tuesday night. Mayweather Snr was quick to dismiss any suggestion the jibe was racially motivated — but a lot of people weren’t happy with the comment. Would McGregor apologise in Toronto?

No chance. And in true McGregor fashion, he went on to repeat his comment, much to the delight of the crowd.

Mayweather appeared to take the comment in good faith, and didn’t flag it in first interview after getting off the stage, even claiming that he enjoys the trash talk and “likes” the Irishman.

But McGregor would do well to refrain from making the comment again in the future. Unlike in Ireland or the UK, the jibe has a long and unpleasant history in the United States, and he risks embroiling himself in a row that he could have easily avoided.

… but remains the people’s champion

Regardless of the unease caused by McGregor’s jibe during the LA press conference, the Irishman remains the overwhelming fan favourite ahead of the fight.

Every McGregor comment was greeted with deafening cheers. Every Mayweather comment was greeted with deafening boos. Mayweather even seems to enjoy playing the heel, and deliberately attempted to bait the crowd by wrapping himself in an Irish flag.

But a number of his chants and his jokes fell flat and — unlike the LA press conference — this meeting in Toronto will have left Mayweather under absolutely no allusions that he’s playing the villain heading into this fight.

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