NEW YORK -- I am used to reporting the news, not being part of it. But thanks to my new pal Conor McGregor, that changed Friday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Like many of my combat-sports-writing colleagues, I am in New York to cover Saturday night’s big Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs fight at Madison Square Garden.
But on Friday night, 2016 Irish Olympic star Michael Conlan made his pro debut in the main event of a card Top Rank purposely put on St. Patrick’s Day to help launch the kid’s career, so I also covered that spectacle. How many other boxers could draw a sold-out crowd of 5,102 to see him fight a low-level opponent in a six-rounder?
Conlan, that’s who. As it happens, UFC superstar McGregor, also an Irishman, is a good buddy of Conlan’s and was on hand to walk him to the ring.
When McGregor exited the ring before the bout began, he walked along press row and playfully said hello to some of the writers who also cover his MMA career. When he got to me, it was clear he didn’t recognize me. And why should he? I don’t cover MMA, and we had never met. But he said hello and we fist bumped, and I jokingly said that he didn’t know me because I don’t cover MMA. I told him I was a boxing guy.
So the fight goes on, Conlan knocks out Tim Ibarra in the third round and, as I came to find out a bit later, when McGregor went into the ring to congratulate Conlan he asked Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels, “Who’s the boxing guy?”
Samuels pointed to me at ringside and with that McGregor left the ring and made a beeline directly to my position, where I was seated typing my story and listening to promoter Bob Arum give his take on Conlan.
McGregor got right in my face and started shouting: "You're the boxing guy?!!!”
I calmly responded, "I'm the boxing guy."
And then McGregor went off, though I never felt threatened. My take was that he was doing this with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. But he continued.
"I'm the boxing guy! Watch me take over boxing, trust me on that,” he yelled directly at me, only a few inches from my face. “No one in this boxing game knows what's coming. Trust me on that.”
Then he turned his attention to the much-hyped possible mismatch/boxing match with Floyd Mayweather that both men have been campaigning to make. It became more likely that it will happen in recent days when UFC president Dana White, in an interview on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show said he would not stand in the way of the fight being made.
“I'm going to step in there and shock the whole god damned world. Trust me on that,” McGregor hollered at me. “Look me in the eyes, 28 years of age, confident as a m-----f-----, long, rangy, dangerous with every hand. Trust me, I'm going to stop Floyd, and you're all going to eat your words. The whole world is going to eat their words.”
When somebody asked McGregor when the fight would happen, he didn’t miss a beat. Still looking at me, he yelled out, “It’s getting close. Don’t worry about it. You’ll hear about it. I’m out of here.”
And with that, McGregor stormed away before briefly turning back and shouting, “I am boxing!”
To say I was a bit shocked was an understatement. I had never met McGregor, never even seen him in person before this incident.
While I have never said or written a negative word about his MMA career, mainly because I don’t follow it or care, I have made my opinion known about the prospect of the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match.
I have written and said (like literally every other opinion maker in boxing or MMA that I am aware of) that it’s a gargantuan mismatch, that not only does McGregor have zero chance to win, but that a state athletic commission should not even consider sanctioning the fight because it would be the best boxer of his generation, and one of the best of all time, in the 49-0 Mayweather taking on a boxer making his pro debut. That’s a mismatch by definition, but the almighty dollar is apparently more important.
McGregor is a tremendous MMA fighter and the biggest star in that sport. But that doesn’t mean he can box, and, frankly, from the video footage of his training that I have seen, he can’t box a lick. Apparently, he wanted to try to convince the boxing guy otherwise while continuing to do a masterful job of generating free publicity.
He did just that and ruined my night in the process. While McGregor went off to host his St. Patrick’s Day party after our little get together, I had to skip a relaxing time with the fellas after the fight. Instead, my SportsCenter people wanted me on the air to discuss said incident, first via phone and on camera, which meant a trip uptown to the ABC studios. Then it was back to the hotel room to write this blog that my editor wanted in the wee hours.
Thanks for nothing, Conor.
The Boxing Guy