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July 19, 2017 / Sports

Fight night: Fighters stare down at Barclays event

Squaring off: Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Conor McGregor exchange words during a news conference for their junior middleweight boxing bout, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on July 13.
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Dollar bills were thrown, Biggie Smalls lyrics quoted and chants of “pay your taxes!” echoed through Barclays Center as the Floyd Mayweather–Conor McGregor pre-fight world tour landed in Brooklyn July 13.

More than 13,000 fans packed the arena to witness the undefeated boxer and the Ultimate Fighting Championship in a stare-down onstage at the third stop of a four-city trek leading up to the main event in Las Vegas on Aug. 26.

“It’s a great experience, but four [cities] is plenty, all over the world,” McGregor said. “We say what we have to say and then it’s fight time.”

Verbal sparks flew at the pugilists’ previous stops in Los Angeles and Toronto, and the scene at Barclays was every bit over-the-top.

McGregor, sporting a white mink coat he bought just a few hours before the event, addressed reports that he made racist comments on the tour — earlier in the week he told Mayweather to “Dance for me, boy” — saying he’s a ”very multi-cultured individual. I don’t have any ill feelings towards anyone.”

But Mayweather wasn’t willing to quite table the discussion, insisting that McGregor’s youth — he turned 29 on July 14 — motivated the slur.

“It’s totally disrespect­ful,” Mayweather said. “I have a diverse team, a diverse staff and when I was young, I may have said some things that I shouldn’t have said. But we live and we learn and you don’t say those things when you get to a certain age. It’s all about growth and maturity.”

The talk on stage, however, mostly centered around the fight and, of course, McGregor’s inexperience in a boxing ring. Mayweather — a 12-time world champion with a 49–0 record — came out of retirement for the fight and sees his matchup against McGregor as a calculated move.

This fight, and the events leading up to it, are as much a business decision as an athletic one for Mayweather, who touted his own brand and, of course, the money it’s made throughout his career.

“This move I made right here, is not on the chess board. It’s controlling the chess board,” said Mayweather, who walked into Barclays draped in the Irish flag. “I can easily fight any fighter. Anybody. And make $35 million. But why do that? My legacy’s already stamped. I don’t need to do that. This move that I made right here, is unbelievable. They’re going to talk about this business move at Harvard.”

The two fighters, who genuinely seem to despise each other at this point, were focused on insults and take-downs, each shot just a bit more profanity-laced than the last.

“These are the two best [trash] talkers in both sports,” Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White said before the event. “That’s what these guys are known for. Obviously they’re both great fighters, but what they’re really well-known for is their level of [trash] talking.”

Eventually, however, the time for talking will be over and both Mayweather and McGregor are more than ready to back up their talk with a few well-placed punches.

“It’s a hell of a lot of fun,” McGregor said. “That man ain’t knocked nobody out. I hope he comes for it, I hope he brings it. Make no mistake, he’s going to be sparked unconscious, that is a fact.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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