An assortment of thoughts on Floyd Mayweather’s win over Conor McGregor, and what it means for both men.
We’ve made it through MayMac Mania, at long last.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. actually boxed Conor McGregor on Saturday night, and for all intents and purposes, it was compelling viewing. Mayweather ended his career with his first stoppage victory since Victor Ortiz in 2011, while McGregor gave a reasonably good account of himself in his professional boxing debut. If you wanted entertainment above everything else, I think this fight delivered and probably exceeded expectations for many (self-included). Those of you who were SO confident that McGregor would knock Mayweather out with that left hand… I hope you didn’t lose too much money or pride. Some of you who were hounding me on Twitter for months don’t get to walk back any of your “McGregor by KO” predictions and other ludicrous statements.
I’m running on very little sleep, trying to think of a proper way to structure my post-fight op-ed. I eventually settled on the boring but very dependable half-dozen thoughts on Mayweather vs. McGregor.
Conor McGregor outperformed realistic expectations, which is a victory in itself
If you firmly believed McGregor was going to knock Mayweather out, you weren’t being realistic in the slightest. Likewise if you thought McGregor wasn’t going to able to land a punch on Mayweather. Any objective analysis of this fight noted that Mayweather had every right to be a heavy favorite, and that McGregor’s best chance at a win was by knockout. The “element of surprise” provided some intrigue, and Conor fared better than expected. At his best, he demonstrated more of a commitment to his jab than we’ve seen in his MMA fights, he caught Floyd with some decent counter punches, dug in some nice body shots, and displayed effective footwork. McGregor did not look like some idiot without a plan, and that’s because his larger-than-life persona aside, he’s a very intelligent fighter.
This was one of the best possible ways for McGregor to lose. A unanimous decision would’ve probably been #1, but if he was going to be finished, he had to perform competently. If he’d been thrashed from the opening bell, that would’ve been disastrous, but that’s not what happened, and the way he conducted himself in the post-fight interview typifies just how well he understands the fight business. This had high potential for schadenfreude to happen, and he mitigated that really damn well, ideally earning respect from detractors in the boxing crowd, and even MMA fans who never wanted to see him in the ring in the first place. The man is a tremendous athlete and has thoroughly mastered the “prize” part of prizefighting so quickly.
Conor McGregor was never close to beating Floyd Mayweather
I must stress that the 89-82 and 89-81 scorecards at ringside were insane. I had it 87-84 (7 rounds to 3) in Floyd’s favor, but some of the scores I’ve seen on Twitter actually had McGregor winning at the time of the stoppage, and I do not see a good argument for it. You cannot judge fights on a curve. Even if scored more accurately, McGregor wasn’t ever that close to victory. Being competitive and being close to a win are not the same thing. Yes, he made the most of Mayweather’s inactivity in the early part of the fight, but the intelligent gameplan he implemented essentially undid his own “puncher’s chance.” That’s not really a bad thing, as a more aggressive, reckless approach would’ve likely seen him stopped sooner and more brutally.
Mayweather also is willing to concede early rounds, something I feel is lost on MMA fans who don’t watch boxing, in part because MMA’s current structure makes it difficult to do what Mayweather and many other boxers do. If you give up round 1 in an MMA championship fight, you only have one more round you can afford to drop before you either have to win out, get a 10-8, or win by stoppage. It’s even worse if it’s a three-rounder, as conceding a round leaves you no choice but to win the other two frames.
McGregor was never going to have the stamina to go the distance, and outside of the opening round counter uppercut and I believe a 9th round body shot (that looked like a low blow), Mayweather never seemed particularly fazed by his punches. Once Mayweather knew what he was getting from Conor after the first few rounds, he was willing to walk forward and land his own shots, and to me that was the obvious sign that McGregor was on borrowed time.
Floyd Mayweather is well past his prime
This is not a knock on McGregor or to downplay his success in the fight, but it’s incredibly obvious that Mayweather’s best days are long gone. There’s no point in saying “Prime Mayweather would’ve really done damage on McGregor” because a prime Floyd was also competing at 130-140 pounds and was winning against top competition when Bill Clinton was President of the United States. Floyd is 40, coming in off a two-year layoff, and as he’s aged, he’s had to adjust his style to take more cautious, conservative approaches to victory. It’s horribly incorrect to suggest that the Floyd of the past several years is how he’s fought for his entire career. I often liken Floyd to Georges St-Pierre, whose “lay-and-pray” reputation is both undeserved and a complete misrepresentation of how he fights.
A past-his-prime Floyd Mayweather is still better than an overwhelming majority of boxers in his preferred weight divisions
I don’t think a single boxing historian would argue he is the greatest boxer of all-time, but there’s no denying that Mayweather is an all-time great and the best of his era. If you looked at the current boxing landscape and scanned the top-10 fighters at welterweight and junior middleweight, it’d be difficult to find any one opponent whom you’d confidently pick to defeat Floyd right now, but you also cannot confidently pick Mayweather to beat all of them. That’s the sign of a truly dominant, once-in-a-generation fighter, and maybe in a bizarre sort of way, his career benefits from ending on a captivating stoppage win against a fellow PPV superstar, rather than the disappointment of the Manny Pacquiao superfight and the subsequent lameness of Andre Berto as his initial farewell opponent.
Conor McGregor performed well enough to justify interest in more boxing fights against notable competition
I doubt the UFC allows McGregor to box again, and if they do, it’ll be against a much easier opponent. Just on the eye test, if McGregor were to ever box again, I have no problem with him taking on fringe contenders, faded veterans, or some middling but familiar competition. A good example would be the aforementioned Victor Ortiz, a former world champion at welterweight who can put on entertaining fights but also has a shaky chin, and has otherwise dropped well out of title contention. Paulie Malignaggi of course is another option to explore given their history, and Malignaggi would get a career payday, even though he’s past his best and lost his last several fights in non-competitive fashion. It’d likely still generate plenty of interest.
Conor McGregor still gets soundly beaten by upper echelon boxers from 147-168 pounds
You’re probably thinking that because McGregor didn’t get blown out by Mayweather that he can take on other elite boxers and possibly get a win or two, but let’s pump the brakes. As well as McGregor performed, he still was pure target practice for Mayweather, who landed 58% of his power punches and barely threw any jabs of consequence. In a styles make fights world, McGregor still is simply not good enough to be considered a viable threat against the real top guys from welterweight to super-middleweight. He would be taken apart by either Canelo Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin, both of whom are worse defensively than Mayweather, but are otherwise incredibly skilled, far more offensively potent, and would severely hurt McGregor. Ditto for Errol Spence Jr, Keith Thurman, Jermall Charlo, Jarrett Hurd, Daniel Jacobs, Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Gilberto Ramirez, Callum Smith, James DeGale, the list goes on and on and on and would also include rising prospects/upcoming title challengers like David Benavidez or Erickson Lubin.
Again, this is not a criticism of McGregor, it is not boxing elitism, it is just reality. Everyone I’ve mentioned has competed extensively in boxing for a long time, many of them as former Olympians and/or amateur stars, and have proven themselves to be top-level boxers. Try as he might, McGregor isn’t in their league. Ditto for Cody Garbrandt against corresponding guys at 130-140 pounds, Jorge Masvidal against super middleweights, Kelvin Gastelum against light heavyweights, so on, and so forth. I don’t care whether you dislike boxing or not, there are too many fundamental differences between pure boxing and boxing in MMA to magically close the gap with several months of training.
MMA will be fine. Boxing will be fine. These sports aren’t going away and in fact can co-exist. We miraculously survived the spectacle and now a sense of normalcy can resume from here on out…
…Until Stipe Miocic fights Anthony Joshua at Wembley Stadium in 2018.