Boxing is a sport with a rich history of noble combat, heroic performances — and hype.
On Aug. 26, Floyd Mayweather Jr., the undefeated legend of the ring, will box Conor McGregor, the brash, brilliant mixed martial artist. Interest is already high. But the hype machine to drive it even further is up and running.
On Tuesday, in front of more than 10,000 people at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the two fighters played their parts in the first of four news conferences scheduled to take place in four cities over four days.
The rivals each got a turn behind the microphone. McGregor went into full-on insult mode, while Mayweather focused more on finances, befitting his nickname, Money.
The quips and jawing followed the grand tradition of boxing promotions. How did Tuesday's event measure up to the all-time best of prefight hype?
Mayweather-McGregor: One of the most memorable lines was McGregor's promise that "I've got my own line of suits coming out." Sure enough, he wore a pinstripe suit, with pinstripes that spelled a vulgar phrase, which he took delight in pointing out to the crowd.
The benchmark, Larry Holmes: The heavyweight champion said before a 1982 fight with Gerry Cooney of his prefight rituals: "I always say a little prayer, which comes from the Bible, but probably comes more from my heart. Want to hear it? Lord, don't let me kill this guy." Zing. Holmes knocked out Cooney in the 13th round, and did not kill him.
Mayweather-McGregor: McGregor took aim at Mayweather's footwear ("He can't even afford a shoe anymore") and his punching power ("He hasn't knocked anyone out in 20 years"). After a few ripostes to Mayweather's speech, McGregor's microphone was cut off. He profanely scolded Showtime for that decision.
The benchmark is so, so high: After beating Lou Savarese in 38 seconds in 2000, Mike Tyson was already hyping a possible fight against Lennox Lewis that would happen two years later. He warmed up with "I'm Alexander," and "I'm Sonny Liston, I'm Jack Dempsey," and "My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable." He then moved on to the immortal gibe: "I want to eat his children." Just to repeat: Tyson vowed to eat Lennox Lewis' children. Lewis knocked out Tyson in the eighth round. No cannibalism occurred.
Mayweather-McGregor: McGregor predicted a quick victory: "I'm going to knock him out inside four rounds, mark my words. He's fought people who have shied away from him." Pointing out that the number of moves allowed in boxing is a fraction of the moves in MMA, McGregor said: "The rules make this half a fight, a quarter of a fight. If this was a true fight, it wouldn't even take one round."
Mayweather scoffed, brandishing what he said was a $100 million check: "He looks good for a seven-figure fighter. He looks good for an eight-figure fighter. I'm a nine-figure fighter."
McGregor responded, "That's for the taxman," alluding to Mayweather's recent tax issues.
Mayweather also said he did not watch McGregor's training videos because he was too busy running his gentleman's club.
The benchmark: At the weigh-in for a 1962 fight, Benny Paret taunted Emile Griffith with a homosexual slur and suggestive gestures. An incensed Griffith delivered a brutal beating at Madison Square Garden that culminated in blows while Paret was pinned in a corner. Paret died 10 days later. Gay-baiting is a disturbing theme in boxing: Hasim Rahman used the word "gay" in front of Lewis in 2001 and the ensuing tussle destroyed a table.
Did you notice something missing from this article? We decided that Muhammad Ali, the master of hype, would not be eligible in any categories. From "float like a butterfly" to his nonpareil interviews with Howard Cosell, no one could sell a fight like Ali. It just wouldn't be fair.