Irish media hailed Dublin’s Conor McGregor for a gritty display on Sunday following his 10th-round loss to Floyd Mayweather in their Las Vegas super-fight.
The pundits focused on the mixed martial arts star’s endurance and bravery in managing to stay upright for 10 rounds with an opponent of Mayweather’s calibre, particularly as it was his first bout in a boxing ring.
“This was, after all the hype and trash talk, a man entering a new sport and taking on the best and while it was a comfortable win for Mayweather, McGregor has been lauded for the effort he put in,” wrote The Irish Independent.
Online sports website Joe also talked up McGregor’s ability to hang in, having been clearly outclassed after the first three rounds.
“There was to be no almighty shock, but McGregor earned plenty of respect (as well as a helluva lot of money) and can walk away from the encounter with his head held high,” it said.
Other crumbs of comfort were to be found in tabloid newspapers, who knew their readership would be firmly backing the former plumber from the wrong side of the tracks who has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom.
“Conor McGregor landed more punches on Floyd Mayweather than Manny Pacquiao — in two fewer rounds,” noted the Irish Sunday Mirror.
But McGregor also polarises Irish public opinion like no other athlete.
While many people are enthralled by his working-class hero credentials, some regard him as a loud-mouthed thug from an obscure sport parading crass views and garish bling.
McGregor wears his Irish identity with pride and trooped into the ring draped in the national flag of green, white and orange in front of thousands of his supporters, who had spent vast sums of money to fly to Las Vegas.
Ahead of the fight, The Irish Times broadsheet attempted to explain McGregor’s popularity.
“The poster child of an on-demand generation weaned on Sky Sports, raised to believe marketing hype about instant classics, Super Sundays and routine title defences that are fights for the ages,” wrote veteran journalist Dave Hannigan.
“Through no fault of their own, their first language is hyperbole, their default setting exaggeration.”
RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, gave a nuanced account of the event.
It hinted that a $100 million payday would more than likely soften the blow for McGregor, who had been forced to rely on state welfare benefits before becoming a superstar in the mixed martial arts world.
“The biggest fight in combat sports history was no disappointment, but it didn’t provide fireworks worthy of all the build-up, anticipation and of course all that money.”
Conor McGregor was “brought to school” by Floyd Mayweather and needs to “stay in his lane”, according to former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
UFC star McGregor lasted 10 rounds with Mayweather in his maiden professional boxing match in Las Vegas, as his opponent stopped him to retire with a perfect 50-0 record.
Many had predicted McGregor would barely last a round with one of the greatest fighters of all-time, so he has earned some credit to have stayed the course for as long as he did.
However, the statistics and scorecards back up what was consistently predicted – that he would not have the durability to go toe-to-toe with a master of his craft for 12 rounds.
And, despite his immediate online reaction being to say “I like him even more now”, Lewis told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek that McGregor should know his place.
“In the beginning, I didn’t look at Conor McGregor as a boxer, this guy has never been 12 rounds and he’s in there with a professor of boxing,” the Briton said.
“Floyd took him to school, he made him punch himself out and when he was tired he took him out. It’s textbook boxing.
“It shows that boxing is a superior sport. In the ring, you can’t beat a boxer, it’s not as easy as everybody thought it would be, just because McGregor is a fighter. This is fighting where you can only use your hands.”
Despite Lewis’ criticisms, the money the fight attracted means another boxing outing for McGregor seems inevitable, possibly against Paulie Malignaggi who has denied claims he was put down by the Irishman in sparring.
Lewis, though, hopes McGregor’s ring appearance will never be repeated.
“I didn’t see the point of the whole thing,” he added.
“A lot of people found it exciting, could Conor McGregor beat Floyd? It wasn’t the case. It was a case of a textbook style brought to school, Conor McGregor got brought to school. He got schooled.”
Asked if he had a message for McGregor, Lewis said: “Stay in your lane. Boxing is superior.”
Carl Froch admitted he was on the edge of his seat but also believes Mayweather “outclassed” McGregor.
Four-time world super-middleweight champion Froch praised the UFC star’s resilience but the 40-year-old was not surprised by the result.
Conor McGregor stepped into a boxing ring for the first time as a professional fighter against Floyd Mayweather, but it may not be the last.
The Irishman said that “anyone who wants a knock, give me a shout” in the wake of his 10th-round loss.
He may chose to return to UFC but, should he stay in the ring rather than go back to the octagon, who could he take on?
Here, we look at five possible opponents:
The retired American sparred with McGregor but things quickly turned sour as he left the camp amid denied claims he had been knocked down. Malignaggi retired this year after time caught up with him, but could he face McGregor on St Patrick’s Day in New York, as has been mooted?
Conor McGregor and Paulie Malignaggi just had a confrontation in person pic.twitter.com/rdFWBA8D9U
— UFC Insiders (@UFCInsiders) August 22, 2017
Surely not? Mayweather said he was retired “for sure” after beating McGregor but, Mayweather also loves money. This fight has reportedly earned him $100million – would he be able to resist 200 million? His perfect 50-0 record should keep him out of the gym.
Ahead of the fight, Khan said “boxing will be over” if McGregor won. He also said, in the event of a McGregor victory, “I’d even go to Ireland and fight him there”. McGregor lost, but will Khan still fancy it?
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) August 25, 2017
Brook, like Khan, has wanted the biggest names in the welterweight division. Like Khan, he never faced Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao. He stepped up to face Gennady Golovkin at middleweight and lost, bravely, before doing so to Errol Spence back at welter. He is at a career crossroads, but would he fancy McGregor?
One of the four Smith brothers, all professionals, Liam Smith was the WBO light-middleweight champion in 2015 and 2016. He will have a rematch with fellow Brit Liam Williams in Newcastle in October, having beaten him earlier in the year when Williams – ahead of the cards – suffered an eye injury. If he loses the rematch, could he look at Conor?
Provided by Press Association Sport