- Luke Keeler has challenged the UFC fighter Conor McGregor to "stay sober."
- McGregor issued a grovelling apology on ESPN recently after footage emerged showing him punch an older man at a Dublin pub.
- The incident made Keeler think back to a time he says McGregor bullied a friend of his. Business Insider was told McGregor punched Keeler's friend.
- Keeler tweeted about the incident, prompting a phone call from McGregor who was "ranting and raving."
- A fight was discussed, but Keeler has other plans.
- Keeler told us he has been in talks to fight the WBO middleweight boxing champion Demetrius Andrade.
- Keeler wants to beat Andrade, win the belt, and use that as leverage to entice McGregor into the ring to fight him for the world title.
- It would likely generate a lot of money.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
DUBLIN — The Irish boxer Luke Keeler is challenging Conor McGregor to "stay sober" so they can end their war of words and fight for a world title in Dublin next summer.
Keeler is a middleweight with a professional boxing record of 17 wins (five by knockout) against two losses and one draw. He scored the best win of his career two months ago, a 10-round decision win over the Cuban boxer Luis Arias, and is back in action against a yet to be determined opponent on November 16 in Glasgow.
He became linked to McGregor shortly after footage emerged in August of the UFC fighter throwing a punch at an older man in the Marble Arch pub in Dublin. The man reportedly refused a shot of McGregor's Proper No. Twelve whiskey.
"[He] did the same to a friend of mine a couple of years ago, and he's still walking around acting the gangster," Keeler tweeted. "I'd be happy to put him in his place if he had the balls to step in a ring again."
Details about the bullying are sparse, but speaking to Business Insider over coffee at the Colosseum Gym in Dublin, Keeler said it all began three to four years ago.
Keeler's gymmate Davey Oliver Joyce, a featherweight who fights Leigh Wood in MTK Global's Golden Contract tournament at York Hall on Friday, told us "he punched one of his mates," adding that: "Luke is my mate. He called McGregor out and stood up to him … it was the right thing to do."
His friend and McGregor shook hands after, but Keeler said that the incident was one of a few around Dublin. "I don't think he's in the right frame of mind," Keeler told us.
It was not long before McGregor called Keeler, getting his phone number from one of his Straight Blast Gym teammates who had sparred athletes at the Colosseum Gym.
"I put that tweet out calling him a bully, and he made a phone call to me, there was a bit of ranting and raving. I don't think he was in his right mind," Keeler said. "I just says, 'We could have a fight, do you know what I mean?' It's obviously a payday."
Talks took place, Keeler said. "My management spoke with [his team] about making a fight happen."
Keeler thinks he can lure McGregor into a fight next year
McGregor is one of several opportunities for Keeler. The 32-year-old is currently ranked as the world's no.3 middleweight with the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and says he has been in discussions with the slick, American southpaw Demetrius Andrade, the current WBO champion.
For Keeler, a title fight against Andrade could be used as leverage to entice McGregor into an all-Irish boxing world title fight in Dublin, next summer.
"There's talks," Keeler said. "I think he's [Andrade] struggling for opponents."
Andrade is an athlete the champion's promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing wants to keep active. A fight against Keeler, around St. Patrick's Day in Boston, New York, or Philadelphia, is what has been talked about, according to Keeler.
The Irishman's fight in November is, what he calls, a busy, no-risk fight so he can stay sharp while his team attempts to negotiate a world title fight shortly after.
"He's spoken about as this avoided guy … a twice world champion who is undefeated, but I see weaknesses and mistakes. He's not unbeatable," Keeler said of Andrade.
Keeler would not be fazed by his southpaw stance or his slick skills, as he says he learned a lot sparring a similar fighter — the British super middleweight Billy Joe Saunders.
"I'd be going in as a huge underdog, but I'd be going in to take that belt," he said.
Keeler says that if he upset the odds and beat Andrade as the underdog, he could push for middleweight world title unification fights against the division's other champions like Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
It could also lead to McGregor.
"It will probably be announced before Christmas, [and if I beat Andrade] it opens the door to huge fights like Canelo. McGregor might get his head together, and that's a dream payday in Dublin. It sets up a huge 2020," he said.
Keeler's coach Peter Taylor, the famous father of the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor, would welcome the fight against McGregor if it can be made.
A McGregor bout could make Keeler more financially secure than a world title
"My job as a boxing coach is to make sure he gets out of this financially secure," Taylor told Business Insider.
"If Conor McGregor comes up with X-amount of money and the fight with Andrade comes up with half that, you're going to go where the money is. You can win all the belts in the world, but you can't support your family with belts, you support your family with money.
"I'm more pleased when my lads come out of this financially secure and uninjured. If he fights Conor McGregor, he'll come out that match uninjured that's for sure, because he beats him easy and he'll be financially secure."
Size matters. I'd have no worries about that fight [with McGregor] at all.
Taylor said he's not even studied McGregor's style in his only boxing bout to date, his 10th round stoppage loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2017.
This is because he does not see it as an even contest.
"Luke's profession is boxing," Taylor said. "Conor McGregor is not a professional boxer; he's an MMA fighter. If it was an MMA fight we'd be looking at it completely different. But it's in Luke's area, and he's comfortable.
"Conor wasn't comfortable with Floyd Mayweather, who was lighter than McGregor and a 40-year-old man. Luke is in his prime, and he's a lot bigger. Size matters. I'd have no worries about that fight at all."
On the Andrade challenge, Taylor said: "Everyone has weaknesses. Andrade falls in with his shots. If we take the fight I'd be confident we can win it. He's technically very good, a southpaw. He'd overlook Luke and think it's an easy fight.
"Luke's improved, and there's more improvement to come. He's always training, trying to get better. He's intelligent. When he fights Andrade, everyone will get a shock. We're looking forward to the fight."
It is clear Keeler thinks Andrade could lead to McGregor — and he'd even meet the UFC fighter halfway, in a cage, with boxing rules.
"Yeah, of course, stand-up — if he wanted to do that as an event," Keeler said. "But I think he needs to get himself fresh, fit; he's just a circus at the moment. It would be nice if he got a win in the UFC and if I win the world title, then it's attractive … put it in the cage, six-ounce gloves.
"In 2020, Canelo, McGregor … people might think it's far-fetched, but you have to think and speak these things. It was more far-fetched him speaking about Mayweather than it is me speaking about him. You never know."
Beating Andrade and winning the world middleweight belt would raise Keeler's name in boxing, and though he'd use that as a platform to further pursue McGregor, he has challenged his rival to do a few things to ensure the bout happens.
"Hopefully he comes back, stays fresh, and stays sober," he said.