It wasn’t a charade, nor was it exactly a good fight although it had drama. Boxing didn’t absorb a hit and it wasn’t a work! In what was no doubt his last fight, Floyd Mayweather 50-0 (27) stopped UFC champ Conor McGregor 0-1 in the 10th round of an entertaining bout. After nine completed rounds I had it 5-4 in rounds and 86-85 on points in favor of Mayweather.
McGregor, who was physically much bigger, was aided by his size advantage. And though Conor talks a great fight and his image is that of being a tough guy, he is also smart. Instead of going after Mayweather and trying to knock him out in four rounds as he predicted, he slap boxed and occasionally threw a meaningful punch that caught Mayweather clean. And that totally befuddled Mayweather due to him having faced mostly opponents carrying the fight to him, trying to take his head off.
I doubt McGregor will ever get all due credit for how smart it was not going after Mayweather like a bull in a china shop. McGregor’s quick raindrops flustered Floyd in the early going because an awkward novice like Conor can bother a guy like Mayweather who is so technically sound. McGregor’s slaps and cuffs annoyed and somewhat blunted Mayweather more than anything else, but mostly they neutralized his ability to counter punch and catch McGregor on the way in, as much as he tried to bait him into doing so.
McGregor’s gangling body type and size provided a slight mountain Mayweather had to navigate in order to get through to land his punches. McGregor’s lack of aggression forced Floyd to fight as the attacker and Mayweather, who is 40 and hadn’t fought in two years, was finally on the wrong side of the hill — yes, his reflexes are shot. Conor was open and out of position countless times but Mayweather’s dulled instincts prevented him from taking advantage of it.
Because Floyd pushed the fight he got hit more than we’re used to seeing. Not being a big puncher, Floyd allowed Conor to hang around longer than he should have. But more than that, when he was left with no choice but to go after McGregor, he was out of his element and it was obvious. When a boxer who isn’t a natural attacker and lacks big power is forced to fight in that role, it often isn’t pretty and it wasn’t during many exchanges by both fighters. Add to that Mayweather’s accuracy and timing were off by a lot…some of it due to McGregor’s unconventional structure, but a lot more because Mayweather just flat-out missed with his combinations.
Mayweather didn’t look great but his experience, guile and stamina were a bridge too far for the best stand-up striker in MMA, a man in his physical prime at age 29. McGregor’s awkwardness against a rusty and eroded Mayweather is what enabled him to not embarrass himself. Floyd didn’t carry McGregor in the early rounds and the thought of it is a joke. He was legitimately searching for an answer and was just having a hard time figuring out a fighter who fights as a southpaw and does everything herky-jerky in ways he had never seen before.
It was said in this space before the bout that McGregor was lucky to be fighting Mayweather because of his physical advantage and because Floyd isn’t a big puncher….and that was the case although in the end Mayweather separated himself and finished McGregor conclusively. I thought the stoppage was about three seconds too soon but it didn’t alter the outcome. Actually, Conor was lucky again because he was not only saved from further punishment, but now he can complain that he wasn’t badly hurt and the fight was stopped too soon….although in the moment he didn’t protest one iota.
Conor McGregor enhanced his brand with his showing because he’s tough, smart and was in with the ideal guy from the standpoint of extending the bout. Mayweather wasn’t going to go after McGregor because that’s not who he is, no matter if he is facing a beginner or an all-time great. He was going to take three or four rounds to survey what was going on in front of him and that’s exactly what he did. It took Mayweather longer than it should have to get McGregor out of there because — let’s be honest — McGregor was in with the name Floyd Mayweather only. Floyd never missed so many punches and at the same time was a second late reacting to what was coming back at him. And that’s because Mayweather is done as an elite fighter and he knows it. That is the reason Mayweather opted for a gimmick fight instead of fighting a young title holder like Keith Thurman or Errol Spence Jr. It’s safe to say that unless he fights McGregor again, he has been in the ring for the final time.
Prior to the bout I adamantly said that if McGregor were facing an elite boxer his equal in size and age, he would be taken apart. Now having seen McGregor as a boxer, I feel stronger about that. He may be an elite striker in MMA, but he isn’t anything close to a puncher in boxing. Mayweather as an old man morphed into Joe Frazier and had no trepidation as the smaller man walking into the line of fire, willing to eat a few shots from McGregor to land a few clean right hands. Offensively, Mayweather’s right hand was his only offensive weapon. His jab was a non-factor, off repeatedly, and he had no success landing his uppercuts and hooks. This leads me to another observation. I wasn’t impressed with McGregor’s chin as a boxer. When you think about the last two rounds, Mayweather didn’t need to land that many big shots to get McGregor in trouble. Sure, Conor was tired, but it still only took Mayweather a few clean right hands to push McGregor to the point of no return.
I’m sorry, other than knocking out Victor Ortiz in 2011 with a somewhat legal sucker shot when Ortiz didn’t protect himself when broken apart by the referee, Mayweather hadn’t stopped an opponent since Ricky Hatton in 2007, a full 10 years. Had McGregor been in there this past weekend with Jermell Charlo or Canelo Alvarez, boxers closer to his age and size, they would have walked through his best and beat him down. And just as it is the case with Mayweather, we’ll never see McGregor fight as a boxer again unless the opponent is Floyd because he knows that what stymied Floyd for a few rounds would blow up against an elite boxer in his prime.
My intuition before the bout suggested Mayweather was the perfect boxer for McGregor to go rounds with and not get humiliated by. And McGregor was the perfect opponent for Mayweather to make a record purse without the risk of fighting a live boxer who holds a world title. And both came out miles ahead of everyone. In many ways the fight was a “Sting” and nothing more. Mayweather vs. McGregor wasn’t a disaster and neither boxing nor MMA came out looking bad………well almost.
Once again the boxing judges marred a pretty good night with their scores of 89-82, 87-83 and 89-81 favoring Mayweather, which was an outrage! Luckily Mayweather ended the fight emphatically and the scoring never mattered.
Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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