- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2017

A technical snafu slowed the start of Wednesday’s conference call with Conor McGregor. He yawned while the operator scrambled to make the system work for questioners on the line.

“No questions?” McGregor said. “Thank you all, I’ll be on my way.”

Then, he laughed before taking 20 minutes worth of queries, avoiding his typical fire-breathing rhetoric for the most part.

A day later, a subdued Floyd Mayweather Jr. took questions on his conference call. Mayweather talked only in steady tones during the call. There was no mic to shout into, no McGregor frothing in a seat behind him, no crowd.

After two months of big-top appearances, both individually and together, McGregor, the UFC star, and Mayweather, the undefeated boxing champion, sounded more like two wary men who know they are close to being contained in a space against each other. The racial overtones, perpetual name-calling and all-out squirrelly bonanza of their four-city press tour was not present on the phone. A little more than a week before their Aug. 26 fight in Las Vegas, both had a more let’s-get-to-it vibe.

Two things were agreed on by both sides during the calls: This fight is on a path to being a pay-per-view extravaganza and that the referee, Hall of Famer Robert Byrd, was a fair and worthy choice.

Both UFC President Dana White and CEO of Mayweather Promotions Leonard Ellerbe touted the pending numbers. The claim from them is that the fight is on its way to breaking all pay-per-view records. Its mass availability will help that occur. The crossover of the participants will be a benefit, too. This is why they were doing it in the first place.

Byrd was selected by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Three judges were also named: Burt Clements, Dave Moretti, and Guido Cavalleri. All three are veteran judges. All received verbal pats on the back from the promoters and fighters.

A change in glove size is a recent twist. The gloves were changed from 10 ounces to eight ounces, much to the pleasure of McGregor. He fights with four-ounce, fingerless gloves in UFC, landing punches with hands that perform a sliver ahead of unpadded fists. Mayweather has often fought with eight-ounce gloves. At times, he has used 10-ounce gloves. The question is who will be favored by the change in this fight.

McGregor likes the alteration because it brings the weight closer to what he is accustomed to. The change is also believed to benefit the harder puncher — should he land — which is McGregor in this case.

“I don’t believe he makes it out of the second round,” McGregor said.

White also suggested it reduces the defensive wall Mayweather can present. Considering Mayweather has rarely been squared up on his way to a 49-0 record during a 21-year career, the change in gloves should have little influence there.

McGregor said his training camp has been focused on nutrition and shifting his cardiovascular training. Noting that there is no grappling on the ground, or even risk of going there, he said endurance for an UFC fight is different for that of boxing.

“I’ve done multiple 12-round fights in the buildup for this,” McGregor said.

The one thing that did stir McGregor was a question about how he has been viewed by the boxing community. His training videos have been mocked. He was never given a shot to begin with, and in the weeks since the fight was announced, that stance has been repeated by current and former boxers, plus each pundit asked to comment. It bothers him.

“It’s certainly motivating, (hearing) the disrespect and disregard for my skill set,” McGregor said. “I look at people and their mind is closed. They’ve got a closed mind to how things can be done. It’s a set way and there’s no other way. If that was the case we never would have reached across the waters in search of other land. We never would have went into space. You’ve got to have an open mind and you’ve got to realize that there are other ways. You’ve got to have respect for other disciplines and other styles.

“For instance, fighting is a complex game. There is a time and a place for every single attack and every single move. It’s about finding the correct timing for it. .. At the same time, I get it.”

Mayweather understands that same criticism of his opponent puts pressure on him. He is 49-0, a heavy favorite and adamant this is the end.

“I actually believe I am taking the bigger risk,” Mayweather said. “There’s a big reward for both. I have the 49-0 record. … Everything is on the line. My legacy and my boxing record. Everything is on the line.”

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