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Mayweather-McGregor changes the way fights promoted

By Jeff Aranow: The 4-city tour by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor may have changed the way future boxing matches are promoted. Instead of the normal dry pattern of dull memorized speeches by fighters, their promoters and trainers, we could be seeing more trash talking professional wrestling type of press conferences.

We’re talking press conferences that are filled with expletives with fighters well dressed in crazy outfits, marching around the stage, slinging insults that come from their top of their heads. The fighters would be just rolling with whatever comes to mind. That style seemed to work extremely well with Mayweather and McGregor in the two of them selling out their 4-city press tour to sell their August 26 fight on Showtime PPV from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. If the attendance for the 4 press conferences is any indication, the Mayweather-McGregor fight will be a huge on PPV.

Mayweather and McGregor made it a point to use profanity-laced comments throughout their 4 press conferences. They were obviously not something that you would want your family to watch, but the stuff seemed to connect with the average boxing and MMA fan, who seemed to enjoy the press conferences. The problem is that most fighters aren’t nearly as charismatic as Mayweather and McGregor.

It takes a certain amount of theatrics and public speaking skill for a fighter to say the things that Mayweather and McGregor were saying and not come off like they are trying too hard. If you look at the professional wrestlers from the WWE, the best ones seem to be more actors than athletes. They have acting skills that allow them to pull off the promoting of their fights. I don’t know that too many boxers will be able to do what Mayweather and McGregor were doing during their 4-city press tour without acting classes.

It’s not news that trash talking works in selling fights. It’s always worked. The problem is that so few fighters can do it in a way that makes it interesting for the average boxing fans. You must realize that most fighters are guys that have spent much of their time in the gym during their lives. They haven’t developed the theatrics that would allow them to do what Mayweather and McGregor did.

Mayweather is a natural at this, but he’s also had many years of practice. McGregor is considered one of the best at selling fights in the UFC due to his ability to get up in front of people and take over press conferences. McGregor’s ability to speak is arguably more important than his ability to fight.

“Times have changed,” said Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe via “You’ve gotta get away from the way things were done before, the traditional this and that. Nobody wants to see that [expletive]. Ain’t nobody want to see that. People like to see people talking trash. You call it whatever you want to — that’s what people want to see.”

It’s too bad that Mayweather is at the end of his career right when times have changed with the way fights are promoted. Mayweather could take advantage of his trash talking ability if he were to continue his career. However, if Mayweather and McGregor fight each other in a rematch in the octagon in the UFC, then he can sell one more fight and trash talk nonstop in the promotion of the bout.
The proof whether the trash talking by Mayweather and McGregor is truly effective will be determined by the PPV numbers for their August 26 fight.

If the boxing and MMA public scoop up the fight in high record-breaking numbers of over 4.6 million buys, then it could be that the two fighters will have changed the way fights are promoted. But if the fight merely brings in 1 million buys or less, then you can argue that it doesn’t how much trash talking a fighter does. If their fight isn’t worthy of the attention from the boxing public, then they might as well play it the way they’ve always done by memorizing speeches and saying mostly pleasant things about their opponents during the press conferences.

Above all, the boxing fans have got to be supplied with fights that are worthy of watching and getting excited by the hype. Mayweather can talk as much trash as he wants, but if he’s fighting guys like Andre Berto, Robert Guerrero and Marcos Maidana, then those fights aren’t going to sell. That goes for any fighter. Saul Canelo Alvarez, who can’t or won’t speak English, can trash talk all he wants, but if all he’s doing is fighting over-matched guys like Liam Smith and Amir Khan, then the boxing fans aren’t going to want to see those mismatches. Trash talking to sell fights works best when it’s viewed as a competitive fight that the boxing fans want to see. The fans are quickly going to catch on and grow bored of the trash talking format if their fed a bunch of horrible fights that aren’t worthy of their attention and their money. You can’t shine up a mismatch by having the two-fighter’s trash talk.

At the end of the day, it’s the fights that count, not the trash talking. Mayweather-McGregor likely would have sold out their press conferences whether the two fighters trash talked or not, because it’s a fight that the MMA fans want to see. I can’t say for sure that the casual and hardcore boxing fans want to see Mayweather fight McGregor. In listening to the cheering from the fans, they seem to be more on the side of McGregor rather than Mayweather. That suggests that the interest in fight is mainly from the UFC fans of McGregor rather than boxing fans, who likely know better and see this as a mismatch in favor of Mayweather.

Things would be so easy if the promoters always made fights that the boxing public wanted to see. Unfortunately, that’s not what they do. Promoters tend to look out for their fighters by putting them in sure thing fights. Trash talking between a guy that the fans know is going to win and some over-matched opponent dragged into the ring just to make the fighter look better than he is, it’s not going to work. Trash talking only works if the fights are competitive and not mismatches.

Mayweather-McGregor is a mismatch, but the casual MMA fans don’t know that. That’s why the fight will sell to the MMA fans, because they believe McGregor has a chance. If the promotion depended solely on boxing fans to purchase the fight on PPV, I think it would do terrible numbers regardless of how much trash talking the two guys did to try and sell the fight. The boxing fans know better. It comes down to the fight must be viewed as a competitive one, and one that the fight fans want to see.

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