Boxing impresario Floyd Mayweather Jr. remains undefeated after beating mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor. Mayweather won by technical knockout after a visibly fatigued McGregor found himself up against the ropes and unable to defend himself against a barrage of straight rights and left hooks. I’ve been a Mayweather fan since he was Pretty Boy Floyd fighting out of Detroit, and while he’s always been the dopest pugilist, Floyd has rarely been a popular darling. Which brings me to something I noticed during the preflight interviews.

Floyd, a media savvy pro, was magnanimous in victory. He complimented McGregor, the country of Ireland and all her people, and he offered up his performance as an apology for his fight against Manny Pacquiao which many considered a boring disappointment. Then, it was Conor’s term…

“I turned him into a Mexican!” Conor proclaimed. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s 90% of the quote. There was an audible gasp in the room I was in. I could feel people around me recoil. This caused me to wonder, could this fight against this opponent redeem Mayweather’s shaky reputation even a little bit?

This was the first time Mayweather fought a guy who was more of a villain than him. During the preflight press tour, both men played the heel. Both men tossed racial and homophobic insults. McGregor seemed to revel in the sludge. By the time they reached the last stop on the tour it was the accepted opinion of those following the happenings that McGregor had won the war of words by being more profane. Mayweather seemed weary of the back and forth, and even at the pre fight weigh in was far more subdued than the boisterous Irishman.

Mayweather had never been in that position before. Previous to this fight, it had been his job to bring the muck and sling it. Combat sports sell better when there is a hero and a villain. A white hat and a black hat. At the beginning of this whole thing both men wore black hats. Then Floyd spent ten rounds walking the loud mouth down. The first four of those ten rounds were pretty evenly contested. Mayweather looked different. He was coming forward. He was looking for a lane to get inside of McGregor. He took punches. He was more than game. He looked vulnerable.

Then, like every good hero’s tale, he found his rhythm. He used Ali’s rope-a-dope and let McGregor punch himself out. He became a pressure fighter. That’s what McGregor was referencing with his coarse comment about turning Floyd into a Mexican. Just about all of Mexico’s great fighters were pressure fighters. Guys that just walk you down, taking punches, and coming forward. It wears on the opponent like chronic back pain. Not so coincidentally, Floyd and his family have been known to call themselves Mexican killers because they’ve beaten so many strong pressure fighting fighters from south of the border.

McGregor has been the louder of the two in the post fight media blitz. The roles continue to be reversed. Mayweather had a chance to brag and be boastful about 50-0, but he demurred. There’s a slight controversy about whether or not this victory should place him above boxing legend Rocky Marciano who rests prominently at 49-0.

So, when juxtaposed with a character just as dislikable his own, did Mayweather manage to improve his image? I’m not so sure. He’s got domestic violence and misogyny on the books, but we’ve seen people with worse histories turn it around. Join the conversation. Tell us what you think in the comments.

Did Mayweather’s image improve after beating McGregor?

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