By Keith Idec
Conor McGregor criticized Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Wednesday for what he considers continuous attempts to make their upcoming boxing match a racially divisive event.
McGregor admonished Mayweather during a conference call for trying to turn their 12-round, 154-pound fight August 26 into a “black versus white” situation. Mayweather, who’s black, hasn’t made racist remarks during the over-the-top promotion of their pay-per-view extravaganza, but the boxing legend was heavily criticized for uttering a homophobic slur during the fourth and final stop on their four-city, three-country press tour last month in London.
The UFC superstar referred Wednesday to Mayweather condemning McGregor, who’s white, for asking during a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” interview in Toronto if Rocky III was the movie “with the dancing monkeys in the gym.” Mayweather also criticized McGregor for what he considered disrespectful comments toward black people the following day during their tour stop at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Ireland’s McGregor admitted Wednesday that there are factions of his fan base and Mayweather’s fan base that have made race a central theme, but he denounced that type of behavior. He has called claims that he is a racist “f***ing ridiculous” and again stated Wednesday that he doesn’t consider his fight against Mayweather a contest centered around race.
“For me, this is athlete versus athlete,” McGregor said. “I was upset that Floyd tried to bring this in. I thought that was a weak move on his part, when he knows and his people truly know that it’s not from me. I’m not saying that there’s not people on both sides that have this mindset, where it’s black versus white and this type of thing. But it’s certainly something I do not condone.
“This is athlete versus athlete, two prime physically conditioned athletes about to take part in an amazing event. And that’s it on my end. So I’m disappointed to hear sometimes the way it’s been portrayed. But I suppose it’s just the nature of the game with the way things are going on in the world at the moment. But all I can do is stay focused on my craft and look to go out and put on a great performance for the fans who are supporting this event as a whole.”
Mayweather made his feelings clear about McGregor’s behavior during an interview last week with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
“I just didn’t like when he called us monkeys,” Mayweather said. “I think that was [total] disrespect. … He called us monkeys. I didn’t like it. It didn’t push a button to make me jump out of my character and go crazy, but I didn’t like it.”
The undefeated five-division champion also told Smith, “this is for a cause. This is for the American people. This is for all the blacks around the world.”
Las Vegas’ Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) is 40 years old and hasn’t fought in nearly two years, yet remains roughly a 5-1 favorite over McGregor. The 29-year-old McGregor is a two-division champion in UFC, but the mixed martial artist will participate in his first professional boxing match when he challenges Mayweather a week from Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.