There were only 20 seconds of sparring footage released from Conor McGregor’s 12 round session with former champion Paulie Malignaggi, but his opponent on Aug. 26 was definitely watching.
On Thursday, Floyd Mayweather commented on the footage that showed McGregor popping Malignaggi with some hard punches including one short right hand that appeared to knock the retired boxer to the mat.
Malignaggi has contended that it was actually a shove from McGregor on the back of his neck that pushed him to the ground, which was one of several fouls he claimed the UFC lightweight champion committed during their sparring session.
In fact, McGregor was deducted two points by referee Joe Cortez during the 12-round session for moves committed outside of the rules.
“My thoughts is I think it was real interesting but a lot of illegal rabbit punching behind the head, a lot of stuff that was illegal. A lot of grappling, a lot of wrestling, a lot of illegal shots. That’s just my opinion,” Mayweather told MMAWeekly.com on Thursday during a media conference call.
“I’m pretty sure the referee’s going to be fair on both sides. I want the referee to be fair and treat both competitors, myself and Conor McGregor, treat us both, be even and treat us fair. I just want to have a good solid fight.”
Earlier this week, the Nevada State Athletic Commission assigned referee Robert Byrd as the third man in the ring to call the action between Mayweather and McGregor when they meet on Aug. 26.
Byrd has a reputation for being hands off in most of his fights while typically voicing his objections to the fighters rather than getting physically involved in breaking apart the clinch during exchanges.
That might seem to favor McGregor, who is stepping into his first professional boxing match, but Mayweather is confident that the referee will do his job for the safety of the fighters.
Still, Mayweather can’t help but take a jab at what he believes were several illegal moves committed by McGregor in the sparring match with Malignaggi.
“I truly believe the ref’s going to do his job. The referee’s job is to make sure he’s keeping the bout clean,” Mayweather said. “I want to have a good fight. Like I said on numerous occasions building up to this fight, I’m coming straight ahead so he don’t have nothing to worry about. I look forward to following the Queensberry rules of boxing and I’m pretty sure he looks forward to following the Queensberry rules of boxing.
“He had [referee] Joe Cortez in his training, which is a great thing. Even though he had Joe Cortez in his training camp, I still seen him being extremely dirty. My job is not to worry about the referee. My job is to go out there and fight and let the referee do his job.”
Despite those alleged fouls, Mayweather also managed to take a shot at McGregor for touting his success against Malignaggi, who is retired and suffered a knockout loss in his last fight in March.
“I mean last time I checked, some may call it a knockdown, some may not call it a knockdown. At the end of the day, it only counts once you get under the lights,” Mayweather said about the sparring session. “That’s just the gym.
“We are sitting down here judging Paulie [Malignaggi], a guy that’s been retired and been commentating and traveling the world and not going to the gym at all going in there with a guy that’s just working up. An athlete period that’s just working up, everyday, everyday and obviously it shouldn’t even have went 12 rounds with a young guy that’s an athlete.”