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Traveling Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor promotion show opens with fireworks

By Dave Doyle, The Sports Xchange
A four-day, three-country press tour leading up to the fight kicked off Tuesday at Staples Center. All available free tickets for the tour -- which moves on to Toronto on Wednesday, New York on Thursday, and London on Friday -- sold out, and Toronto was shifted to a bigger venue to satisfy demand. Photo courtesy of MMA Today/Twitter
A four-day, three-country press tour leading up to the fight kicked off Tuesday at Staples Center. All available free tickets for the tour -- which moves on to Toronto on Wednesday, New York on Thursday, and London on Friday -- sold out, and Toronto was shifted to a bigger venue to satisfy demand. Photo courtesy of MMA Today/Twitter

LOS ANGELES -- It's the hottest show of the summer: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor.

No, we're not talking about the actual fight between Mayweather, the undefeated boxing superstar, and McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion. The Aug. 26 boxing match at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas between one of the boxing's all-time greats and a fighter who has never competed in the Sweet Science is likely to be proof of P.T. Barnum's saying about a sucker being born every minute.

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Rather, we're talking about the hype leading up to the 154-pound matchup. The two men are the biggest stars in their respective sports as much for their trash-talking abilities as their considerable accomplishments in their respective arenas. And that is making the buildup to the fight a can't-miss spectacle.

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A four-day, three-country press tour kicked off Tuesday at Staples Center. All available free tickets for the tour -- which moves on to Toronto on Wednesday, New York on Thursday, and London on Friday -- sold out, and Toronto was shifted to a bigger venue to satisfy demand.

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On Tuesday, scalpers did brisk business as an estimated crowd of 11,000 showed up, and the fans seemed pleased with the show. The crowd was about a 50/50 split, notably along ethnic lines, with African-American and Latino fans rooting for Mayweather, and Irish fans, many carrying their nation's green, white and orange flag, vocalizing their love for Dublin native McGregor.

Mayweather, as combat sports' top draw, is the A-side of the ticket and gets to call the shots. Mayweather Promotions is the matchmaker of record, and his cable partner, Showtime, will handle the pay-per-view. The UFC is getting an undisclosed cut in exchange for releasing McGregor from the clause in his contract that would normally forbid an outside endeavor.

McGregor, who was on welfare in Ireland less than five years ago, seemed a bit in awe of the grandness of the stage. He was more subdued than usual in his comments.

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Mayweather, who is 49-0 and would break Rocky Marciano's legendary unbeaten record with a victory, took the stage to a vehement split reaction. He began bragging in the style that helped make him the highest-paid athlete in the world for several years, then reached into his backpack and pulled out what he purported to be a $100 million check that he never bothered cashing.

That was a strategic error, as it came just as news was breaking that the IRS has placed a $22 million lien on Mayweather for unpaid 2015 taxes.

McGregor pounced, saying, "That one's for the tax man right there," to the laugher of the crowd, then promptly had his microphone cut off by Showtime.

RELATED Floyd Mayweather: "Money" asks IRS for temporary reprieve

No one could stop reporters from asking Mayweather about it after the fans had filed out, though. The 40-year-old Mayweather, fighting for the first time since announcing his retirement following a September 2015 win over Andre Berto, stands to make $300 million from the fight, but he didn't waver from saying it is not about money.

"This is for the fans," Mayweather said. "This is about the two greatest in each of their sports, the two best of all time, two worlds colliding. This is about giving the fans what they demand."

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McGregor, who is expected to make about $100 million for the fight, wasn't buying it.

"Floyd says it's about the fans, but he's doing this because he's in a dire situation," McGregor said. "I hope he's smart with his money from this."

Mayweather's father, former welterweight standout Floyd Mayweather Sr., had stuck around for McGregor's press conference, and he took umbrage, leading to 10 minutes of back-and-forth banter.

"Who has more money, you or Floyd?" the elder Mayweather finally asked.

"After he pays his tax bill, I will," McGregor responded, putting the cap on an eventful day.

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