The only way Conor McGregor stands a chance to defeat Floyd Mayweather on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is if Money May suddenly looks very, very old. Though unlikely, it’s at the very least possible. Being 40 years old is very old in boxing, and there is no doubt Mayweather’s body has been exposed to a tremendous amount of wear and tear over 20 years and 49 professional fights.
Still, Mayweather’s composite skill set and mental makeup seem to indicate a high probability of success no matter how many fights he plans to take on after facing McGregor this weekend. While he’s gone on record as saying that McGregor will be his final fight ever, he’s said similar things numerous times before previous outings only to be called back to the ring for another big money fight. Besides, his reported tax issues with the IRS still loom and Mayweather seems the type who will want to make money in the sport as long as humanly possible.
For that to happen, Mayweather should consider what some other 40-something superstar fighters of modern history were able to accomplish as well as how they did it.
Moore was either born in 1913 or 1916 depending on the source. For the purposes of this writing, let’s say the latter. “The Old Mongoose” fermented in the most brutal of sports just like a fine wine. After being knocked out by Floyd Patterson for the vacant heavyweight championship, Moore went on an impressive 20-fight undefeated streak during his forties. He defeated a myriad of stalwart light heavyweight and heavyweight contenders, winning the world light heavyweight championship twice. His only two losses during that timeframe were against heavyweights Giulio Rinaldi (which he avenged a year later) and Muhammad Ali.
Like Mayweather, Moore was consistent in the ring with precise movements and overall craftiness. If Mayweather hopes to emulate Moore, he will continue to do all the little things he’s done so well over the course of his career, especially pertaining to footwork and ring generalship. Both Mayweather and Moore are hallmark examples of precise skill.
Hopkins turned 40 years old still holding the world middleweight championship as well as a No. 1 pound-for-pound ranking according to Ring Magazine. He went on to set the record for middleweight defenses at 20 against Howard Eastman, and after two razor-thin decisions versus Jermain Taylor, elevated himself to a top light heavyweight over the latter years of his career. Hopkins went on to set and reset the record for oldest boxing world champion, defeated a who’s who of future Hall of Fame talent and solidified his spot among the sport’s very elite of all-time.
Like Mayweather, Hopkins always stayed in pristine physical condition. Mayweather is boisterous about his party lifestyle, but he seems to pull it off without the food or alcohol obsessions that have ruined other fighters. If Mayweather hopes to stay on top for years to come, he’ll need to continue the out-of-training discipline for which both he and Hopkins have become known.
Before Hopkins, it was George Foreman who held the record for becoming the oldest boxing world champion, a record he still holds among heavyweights. Foreman was one of the scariest heavyweights of all-time in the 1970s, perhaps the greatest heavyweight era ever, and came back to be a force in probably the second greatest heavyweight era, the 1990s. The aged Foreman relied less on brute force and more on accuracy and ring generalship. His otherworldly power allowed him to win fights by virtue of knockout that he would otherwise have lost, and his newfound friendly demeanor and contagious smile helped him stay relevant in mainstream sports culture for years after.
Mayweather doesn’t possess the same kind of power Foreman did, but he hits hard enough to keep his opponents honest. Since power is the last thing to go on a professional fighter, he will likely have a similar kind of punching power throughout his forties. Perhaps more importantly to Floyd, as well as paramount to him staying the top star in the sport, Mayweather will need to continue the polarizing antics he’s put on display since defeating Oscar De La Hoya—his Money Mayweather persona. While some might disagree, it’s Mayweather’s personality that has made him a beacon of popular culture.
The dominant heavyweight force of his era, Holmes, too, came back to face stalwart 1990s competition and fared really well. His overall record was 21-3, including giving all-time great heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield all he could handle in a decision loss. Holmes defeated Ray Mercer, one of the best heavyweight contenders of the era, and also challenged Oliver McCall, losing a controversial decision. Holmes is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweights ever, and his late showing against topnotch competition has bolstered that claim.
Holmes’ greatest ring attribute was his exceptional jab. One of the best weapons of any fighter in any era ever, Holmes brought his jab out of retirement with him in the 1990s and wreaked havoc on excellent competition. Like Holmes, Mayweather will need to keep the tools that got him to the top of the sport sharp and ready. Mayweather’s best punches, his jab to the body and straight right hand, are very important aspects of his 40-something fighting career. Once those punches stop being effective, so will Mayweather.
There is no fighter on his list with as few 40-something wins as Klitschko. However, the important distinction is there is also no fighter on this list who dominated his competition post-40 years old as well as Klitschko while also holding onto a world championship. Klitschko looked awkward as a fighter to some, but his style was brutally effective. He had thudding power in both hands, a tremendous chin and a penchant for utterly dominating his opponents from start to finish.
Mayweather has been dominant over the course of his career, too. His peers have seldom pushed him to the limit, and McGregor should pose no legitimate challenge to him on Saturday night. Like Klitschko, Mayweather has a chance to fight on past 40 while appearing as dominant as ever. And like Klitschko, Mayweather could conceivably walk away from the sport on top.
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