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Conor McGregor’s first words at his post-fight news conference announced he was at the lectern with his own branded whiskey.
It was another sell at the end of arguably the greatest sell in boxing history.
Former five-weight world champion Floyd Mayweather stopped the Irish UFC fighter, who was making his boxing debut, in the 10th round after one of the most hyped fights of all time.
Beforehand, the media pored over every word – racist, homophobic or otherwise. Boxing purists despaired, while the MMA community dreamed their relatively young sport would topple the more established form of combat.
Journalists literally pushed and shoved one another for position at media events. Photographers charged towards the fighters as if they were the Beatles reunited.
It was comical, exciting and at times sickeningly transparent in its core purpose – to make as much money as possible.
Frightening money, hollow finish
The figures will be staggering. An hour after picking apart a tiring McGregor, Mayweather said the bout had surpassed the $72.2m (£59.9m) earned at the gate when he overcame Manny Pacquiao in 2015.
Pay-per-view figures will be firmed up next week but bank on the total exceeding $620m (£480m), roughly what Mayweather-Pacquiao delivered.
Probably the richest bout in history then. Mayweather hopes to pick up $300m (£232m) – he was making almost $10m (£7.7m) a minute.
Did he earn it? Yes, the 40-year-old grafted in promoting the fight but when laid bare, the contest was always his.
“Floyd didn’t look concerned one bit,” said Britain’s former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. “He was smiling, very comfortable, composed. I didn’t see the point of the whole thing. I didn’t think [McGregor] did well at all.”
Punch stats – though at times debatable – show McGregor landed nine more than the victor for six rounds. The next four rounds saw Mayweather throw 70 more than his rival. That is some acceleration in pace, arguably all too easy.
Respected boxing writer Tris Dixon commented: “McGregor won what Mayweather let him win.”
It sounds brutally harsh. No-one can deny McGregor’s guts or his will to break new ground. He is a credit to UFC but about 5,000 spare seats at the T-Mobile Arena indicates some saw him as part of an overhyped, expensive and flawed product.
Former super-middleweight champion Carl Froch said if McGregor were an established boxer, the term “outclassed” would be used.
“What was it people bought into?” said boxing promoter Frank Warren.
Personality and intrigue undoubtedly. McGregor is not an established boxer and his efforts in the ring were honest.
But when the dust settles, the intricacies of the fight are analysed and the behaviour of all involved in the build-up is dissected, the legacy may be a rather hollow feeling.
‘The Notorious goes stratospheric’
McGregor will make do with around $100m (£77.5m) – roughly $3m (£2.3m) a minute. In the ring, he paid for not having Mayweather’s 21 years of pure-boxing conditioning.
“Questions or shall I prattle on?” he said on hitting the stage afterwards. The world outside of UFC has learned he needs no invitation.
But from now on, he will have invitations aplenty.
Mayweather might have out-earned him but ‘The Notorious’ brand has gone stratospheric in recent weeks.
And hence this boxing gamble will pay dividends. New brands will want a slice of him; those who already own a slice will look to protect it.
Asked about McGregor boxing again, UFC president Dana White answered emphatically: “I would rather he did not. I don’t think there is anything left to prove.”
McGregor – sporting sunglasses and a colourful suit – ruled nothing out, including a trilogy fight in the UFC with Nate Diaz, or more boxing.
“Conor McGregor is now a huge attraction in boxing,” said BBC Radio 5 live commentator Mike Costello.
“You’ve seen the sparring videos and their fall-out, so now Conor McGregor v Paulie Malignaggi on St Patrick’s Day next March is a legitimate fight. The build-up for that starts now.”
If he doesn’t fancy more boxing, McGregor has the microphone skills for WWE – as well as an energy and swagger which some say points to Hollywood.
Refreshingly, he was reflective afterwards. Just as he was after his biggest UFC defeat to date against Diaz last year.
True champions quickly find solutions and he promised to address a lull in energy he believes he feels midway through his MMA fight and says affected him here. Hearing him speak about his craft in this mood is intoxicating. He does not pay lip service; rather, every word he utters has clearly come from deep thought.
This studious nature combined with gripping personality mean that with Mayweather retired, he is the biggest name in combat sports.
“I have many options in MMA and I’m sure there will be options that present themselves in the boxing ring,” said the 29-year-old.
“I am open. I love competing. Tonight was a damn good fight. I enjoyed myself and I can’t tell you exactly what is next.”
Who knows? But it will be big. McGregor did his share to hype this bout in pursuit of more money than he will ever need. Just don’t bank on him quietly disappearing with his earnings.
A blueprint for brilliance and opportunism
To watch Mayweather is to see a man practically box on autopilot. Those decades spent honing his craft meant even at 40, the American – who had been retired for almost two years – was a force.
Afterwards, he made no attempt to hide his motivation.
“I have retired before but I’m not a damn fool,” he said. “If I see an opportunity to make $300m in 36 minutes I will. But this is my last one.”
Who wouldn’t do the same? And in his defence, amid the hype of recent weeks he was the quieter man. Often his barbs felt forced, delivered because he could not be seen to say nothing as McGregor’s antics reached new heights.
But he pushed for this fight, floating it to UFC bosses by his own admission. This win showed his quality to a new audience – those sucked in by the anarchy. Perhaps that is a positive – more people have seen his genius.
And 1950s world heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano’s perfect 49-fight record has been surpassed. Hence as it ends – again – Mayweather’s career should be lauded.
Making it to the top was not easy. He spoke of his first $100,000 cheque – received at the age of 19 “I came from poverty,” he pointed out. “I wasn’t listening at that meeting, I just wanted that cheque.”
To reach a point where he has now taken part in the two richest fights in history and banked hundreds of millions of dollars shows genius from a business perspective too.
“I look forward to becoming a boxing trainer, helping fighters,” he said. “I want to teach fighters about becoming a superstar not just in the ring but outside. It takes a lot of work on the outside to become a megastar.”
He is a megastar and boxing has lost its marquee name again.
Perhaps this fight illustrates just how hard it will be to find a replacement. If candidates were plentiful, it would never have happened in the first place.
Boxing purists have their fancied names but the casual fan wants something simple, something they don’t have to work to understand amidst the myriad of belts and weight classes.
This bout gave them that and the opportunist in Mayweather pounced.
Inside and outside the ring, that opportunistic nature was key for possibly the greatest the game has seen.
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