Floyd Mayweather, who a few years ago most considered the best fighter in boxing, is fighting the best striker in MMA, Conor McGregor, this weekend under the Marquess of Queenberry rules. Anyone who tells you they can handicap this spectacle, aside from stating the obvious in that if Mayweather isn’t washed up and it’s not a work, McGregor shouldn’t make it too far into the fight, is misleading themselves and you. The best that even the most insightful experts can do is guess.
I happen to think Conor McGregor is a blessed soul. He’s fighting the biggest name in boxing who is the least dangerous opponent he could meet, and for the most money. That’s the ideal scenario. And before getting started, let me be clear, McGregor is a physically bigger man than Mayweather, maybe the only time Floyd may have miscalculated in his career. In the pose-offs this week, Floyd looks like a featherweight next to Conor. Actually, on fight night McGregor will be more close to Gennady Golovkin’s or Canelo Alvarez’s size. If McGregor were facing either one of them wearing 8 oz gloves and everything the same, he would be annihilated.
But its Floyd Mayweather he’s fighting, meaning what’s real and what’s show? Do we ever know with Floyd? I’m amazed how so many boxing writers and fans can’t see how terrible this sets up for boxing and is perfect for MMA bragging rights. MMA fans have been longing to have something to strengthen their case that MMA is the superior sport, and Mayweather just may be the ideal boxer to help them solidify their case as Mayweather, even in his prime, was never one of the all-time greats. Yes, he’s definitely among the top-100 pound-for-pound fighters in boxing history, and if you fight hard, maybe he cracks the top-50, but that’s it.
The Myth of 49-0
It’s a myth that Mayweather is the greatest boxer ever or even the greatest defensive boxer ever. Floyd didn’t get hit much because, unlike many of the greats, he never tried to take the opponents head off their shoulders, thus less chances for him to get nailed because he wasn’t the least bit offensive-minded. MMA fans love to say Mayweather is the GOAT because it strengthens their case if McGregor does well. The sad part is that there are some boxing fans that agree with them regarding Mayweather’s greatness.
If you’re a Mayweather fan this will not sit well with you – and you’ll retort that I know nothing about boxing. To that I say, no problem, my friend, because if you actually believe Floyd is in the conversation among the all-time greats, then my opinion of your boxing acumen isn’t all that high either.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. was terrifically skilled, but he was a better manager and promoter than fighter. His best career win came as a junior lightweight against Diego Corrales. That was the only undefeated fighter he beat that was really good and in his prime (and please don’t give me Ricky Hatton as a testament to his greatness). In the ring he went 1-1 (in my estimation) vs. Jose Luis Castillo at lightweight. At junior welterweight he took apart Arturo Gatti, who entered the fight with six losses. And Floyd didn’t fight the best Gatti as that was after Oscar De La Hoya took Gatti apart and after Gatti’s brutal trilogy with Micky Ward. His next big win was against Zab Judah, who should’ve been credited with a knockdown, but who also lost to Carlos Baldomir in his bout prior to facing Mayweather.
His crossover fight was against a rusty and washed up Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, who lost twice to Shane Mosley more decisively in 2000 and 2003. Then he beat undefeated Ricky Hatton who Manny Pacquiao beat much more convincingly in Ricky’s third fight after the setback to Mayweather. After that, Juan Manuel Marquez. Mayweather came in two pounds overweight and paid a fine, not to mention Marquez lost to Freddie Norword, Pacquiao and Chris John almost a lifetime before he fought Mayweather. Then he beat Shane Mosley who hadn’t fought in a year-and-a-half and was twice defeated more convincingly by both Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright, those defeats coming eight and six years before Mayweather got to him. Then he beat Victor Ortiz by sucker punching him — not that he needed to do that to win, but still, beating Ortiz doesn’t stamp you a great. He followed that up by winning a decision over Miguel Cotto who had been destroyed by Pacquiao three years earlier. So what’s the big deal if Mayweather, after a tough fight, wins by decision?
Then he takes a breather and spars the undersized and past his prime Robert Guerrero for 12 rounds and wins an overwhelming decision. Next was the undefeated Canelo Alvarez, which was smart management on Mayweather’s part….get Canelo before he really gets good. (Canelo is a better fighter today, having improved markedly since they fought.) Then he fights Marcos Maidana twice, winning decisions. Nice wins, but it’s not like he beat Roberto Duran. Amir Kahn beat Maidana four years earlier and Devon Alexander repeated the feat two years before Mayweather did it. Then came Manny Pacquiao, the fight the world waited six years for. Instead of fighting Pacquiao in 2010 when it might have been a competitive fight and Manny hadn’t been put to sleep for over a minute by Marquez, they fought in 2015, Mayweather winning without a close call. He followed that up by out-pointing Andre Berto who was 3-3 in his previous six fights.
The point is that other than Diego Corrales, every big name fighter Mayweather beat was defeated more convincingly by another good fighter and in most cases way before Floyd got to them. If beating Mosley is career altering, nobody said that when Forrest and Wright beat a better version of Shane. And the same applies to Cotto and Pacquiao, both beaten way more one-sidedly by other fighters before Mayweather found it in him to fight them. And the thing that stands out is that from 2008 on, Mayweather was the top draw in boxing. He could have fought any of these fighters at any time, but he waited until they were less of a threat.
Sure, his apologists will call it smart management, but it was more than that – it was brilliant. However, there was a downside to it in that his legacy, even though he’s undefeated, took a hit. Pick a name welterweight, the division Floyd was in the longest, and ask yourself if they wouldn’t have beat every fighter Floyd did circa 2007-2015, the years he carved his legacy. Does anyone believe Mickey Walker, Kid Gavilan, Emile Griffith, Luis Rodriguez, Sugar Ray Leonard or Thomas Hearns would struggle against Floyd’s opposition? And don’t give me their won-loss records; look at who they fought. Let’s see Mayweather’s record if he fought the exact same line up.
Mayweather is perceived to be an all-time great, but insiders over the age of 50, who have a wider framework for comparison, know that, as skilled as he was at his best, he’s truly at the back of the class, swimming in the shallow area of the pool when compared to the authentic all-time greats. His undefeated record says more about his skill as a manager than who he was as a fighter.
The Circus of Mayweather vs. McGregor
This circus with Conor McGregor is Mayweather’s way to break Rocky Marciano’s record without having to face a live boxer. Other than Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr., Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin and maybe even Terence Crawford, boxing fans wouldn’t have been gouged by him fighting anyone else on PPV. But Mayweather wouldn’t mess with the fighters mentioned, so he’s reduced to a gimmick against a 0-0 tough guy.
The supposed smart boxing insiders miss it that Mayweather is the ideal boxer for McGregor to challenge in the ring….he’s old, not particularly strong physically, won’t even try for the stoppage because he probably feels he couldn’t get it – and he can use the “I carried you” BS to justify why it went the distance. Again, if McGregor were fighting Alvarez, Golovkin, or Jermall Charlo, live hungry fighters more his size and age, McGregor would be embarrassed.
The boxer vs. MMA fighter means nothing with one slight addendum. A boxer who is a good puncher has a shot to beat any MMA fighter in the octagon, but not a boxer who can’t hit. Conversely, an elite 28-year-old 160-pound boxer would never lose to an elite 28-year-old MMA fighter.
There’s no pressure on McGregor. The reality is that if he is around for the 2nd round, regardless of the end result, he won. The pressure is on Mayweather. Think about if Floyd tags Conor with something flush and hard, and Conor just laughs. Mayweather will then probably not try to knock him out. And it’s not like Floyd is going to go to McGregor’s body. For starters he never was much of a body puncher, and digging down there would leave him open. And at 40 I don’t think he wants to chance that.
For those looking for insight as to how this thing unfolds, forget it. Neither I nor anyone can handicap a fighter we’ve never seen box. Moreover, we don’t know if it’s real or a work. Actually, the only thing we know for sure is that Mayweather isn’t going to lose purposely for any amount of money. Regardless of what anyone says, Floyd’s perception of being a special fighter would be gone forever if he’s 49-1 with McGregor representing the loss. Even at 40 he can’t lose to a 0-0 guy and see his legacy survive, not to mention boxing would be crushed.
I’ve never thought as much of Mayweather as some others do. I can think of at least 10 other boxers I’d feel more comfortable with in this spot. Floyd is not the guy I’d choose to uphold boxing’s flag in this spot and do it proud. He’s too much for himself and even if he doesn’t look good, so long as he wins, he doesn’t care about the stain he left on the sport that made him almost a billionaire. Having a fighter who never fought in the ring goes rounds, say five or more, would be an embarrassment, but not to the “me” guy. As long as his check clears and boxrec reads 50-0, Mayweather will sleep fine. The problem is the other guy is Caveman tough and wants to really win and call himself the king of combat sports.
No, I can’t pick McGregor to win, but I don’t think he’s going to get as beaten up and embarrassed to the degree many other boxing insiders and fans do. And the reason is that he’s fighting a boxer who can’t punch a lick and never really could and who is 40 years old — the worst type of guy to represent boxing in this spot. Remember, Floyd hasn’t scored a real knockout since May of 1999. My hunch is Mayweather’s so called elite boxing won’t set him apart from a crude guy with strength and, I think, a good chin.
If Mayweather can’t get rid of a guy like McGregor and literally beat the living crap out of him within five rounds, then maybe he’s even less than what I thought he was. This fight probably goes the distance because 1) they have a silent agreement and can both claim victory afterward, or 2) Mayweather just wasn’t strong enough to end it inside the distance.
If I were an MMA fan and watched McGregor go rounds with the supposed best boxer of the era, I’d think less of boxing. The problem with this match up, from a boxing perspective, is that Mayweather was never as great as so many media and fans thought he was. Now he’s 40, hasn’t fought in two years, and never could break an egg. McGregor says he’ll be 175 in the ring, about what Canelo or GGG weigh in the ring when they fight. Let McGregor go rounds with one of them and I’ll cede boxing might have to move over for MMA. But I’m not ceding anything when McGregor, 29, hangs with a smaller old man with cotton in his gloves for a fist.
Look for one of the greatest and most thrilling years in boxing since maybe the 1990’s, to be on the dartboard Sunday August 27th, 2017, courtesy of Floyd Mayweather! I find it more than coincidental that in the two years he was gone, we started seeing the best fight the best.
Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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