The thought that Floyd Mayweather carried Conor McGregor last Saturday night is something I’m not on board with. I’d like to believe it was true, but I’ve watched too much boxing and am confident of what I saw. No, I never felt while watching the fight that Mayweather was in jeopardy of losing, but there are many reasons why the fight lasted until one-minute into the 10th round. No one will ever know for sure if Mayweather helped extend the fight, but I don’t think so. He was methodical like he’s always been and had to address and adjust to a few things that he was never confronted with before.
When Mayweather-McGregor was announced I referred to it as the “Sting” and it was – in that many were led to believe that McGregor had a chance to win and because of that people would buy it in record numbers. I was also leery of a deal between Floyd and Conor because they were perfect for what the other needed. Mayweather knew he no longer had it as an elite fighter physically but wanted to get that 50th win. McGregor, although the biggest star in MMA history, had never grossed more than five million dollars fighting in the octagon (he is rumored to gross 100 million from the Mayweather bout). So McGregor fighting the best known boxer in the world who was 40 years old and smaller than him was the perfect gimmick. As I said before the fight, Mayweather, who seldom miscalculates, misjudged how much bigger McGregor was than him (Conor weighed between 170-175 on the night of the fight)….but knew it wouldn’t have any bearing on the result.
Awkwardness with the Bonus of Physicality and Size
Nothing throws off a fighter more than an unconventional opponent, even one who is a novice. And that’s two-fold if you’re a fighter like Mayweather who is fundamentally sound with excellent boxing structure and technique. McGregor’s reach was significantly longer than Mayweather’s; add to that he was not only a southpaw, but an erratic herky-jerky one. Mayweather had never been confronted by a fighter as big and unorthodox as McGregor.
If you don’t think McGregor’s almost comical movement didn’t mess with Floyd and had him thinking – “what the hell is this crap he’s doing” – then you haven’t been in that predicament before. Boxing a bigger and longer opponent, who hit him with a big uppercut in the first round that stood him straight up, a punch that he didn’t see, definitely caused Floyd to take a step back. If you noticed, especially early, Mayweather attempted to set McGregor up with his jab and right hand and didn’t look to hook or set him up with his uppercut, because he wanted to keep the most distance between he and Conor until he had a better read on him.
Once Mayweather had McGregor a little wound down, understanding the biggest threat from him was his unorthodox style, he began to pick it up. And even then he missed a ton of punches. Floyd, after feeling McGregor wasn’t close to being a big puncher and couldn’t hurt him – processed that he’d open McGregor up more with pressure, forcing him to punch instead of trying to counter shots he never had a good read on where they were coming from. And the bonus was that along with getting cleaner shots against a more open opponent, he’d wear him down at the same time.
Mayweather missed so many punches because his reflexes are shot and not because McGregor evaded them, and he wasn’t missing on purpose. Floyd aged in dog years between fighting Manny Pacquiao in May of 2015 and McGregor in August of 2017. While McGregor was fresh and full of adrenaline, his unorthodox slaps and quick flurries troubled Floyd to the point that he wasn’t immediately going to try to impose himself physically and, as usual, he didn’t.
McGregor Wasn’t a Guy off the Street
The first combat sport McGregor ever engaged in was boxing so he’d been in a boxing ring before. If you’ve watched much MMA lately, most of the fights have ended by knockout and not submission. UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley said after the Mayweather-McGregor fight that most of his training involves boxing. And if you’ve seen Woodley fight, he’s one of the better punchers in MMA. McGregor is the best boxer/striker in MMA and isn’t known for submissions. He dropped Nate Diaz during their rematch with a single left cross and the commentators suggested he had bricks for fists. While he was down, Diaz motioned for McGregor to go to the ground and get him, but Conor ignored him and walked away, forcing Diaz to get up and trade with him. Diaz, who has done some sparring with light heavyweight champ Andre Ward, isn’t completely foreign to boxing, but he didn’t really want to touch hands with McGregor despite being the bigger man.
In the octagon Conor McGregor has scored some of the fastest and most explosive knockouts in the sport, using his fists. So to think McGregor was a novice before fighting Mayweather is wrong. As we saw, his boxing compared to a real boxer is pretty weak, but it’s not like he had just began punching and getting hit two months before he fought Mayweather. Obviously, McGregor has no future as a boxer. If he were forced to fight one of the elite middleweights in boxing – men his own size — he would be knocked out or TKO’d quickly. But he wasn’t a complete beginner at boxing and he was training for one specific opponent, an opponent with 49 fights of data on him. McGregor’s striking experience was just enough for Mayweather not to totally disrespect him, and he smartly gave Conor the benefit of the doubt until he was sure there was nothing there.
Have you ever watched Mayweather fight?
Since winning a world title, Mayweather has only had two fights that ended before the sixth round, Angel Manfredy (TKO-2) and Victor Ortiz (KO-4). And it really should be only one because Floyd nailed Ortiz who was looking to touch gloves as the referee was separating them after Victor had fouled him. Had that not occurred, there was no indication the fight would end inside the distance. Also, Mayweather doesn’t start fast. He looks to gather data in the early rounds and doesn’t seek the KO, unless it presents itself during an exchange. Everyone reading this knows that if Mayweather were fighting Granny Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies, he’d start slow and she’d probably be around for the third round, because that’s how Floyd goes about it regardless of the opponent. Add to that he was fighting an opponent who was bigger than any fighter he had faced before, and knew nothing about him or his style – what are the odds he is going to go after him right out of the gate? Mayweather stated after the bout that he wanted to see what McGregor had and how he wanted to feel his power before he picked it up. To think Floyd was going to start the fight like Thomas Hearns because McGregor wasn’t a professional boxer was never a possibility.
Mayweather Had the Look of a Frustrated Fighter During the Early Rounds
Mayweather was more cautious than he needed to be, but that’s who he has always been. The way he was getting touched and how he reacted had the exact look of a fighter who is flustered and saying to himself, “how am I getting caught with that junk?” And it’s not a look you can fake. When you’re a fighter who relies on your reflexes a lot, being 40 and having not fought in a couple of years is going to tell. Floyd was never more rusty. His timing was off, his sense of distance wasn’t near what it used to be, and he couldn’t put combinations together.
I’m the biggest boxing guy alive and would love to elevate the perception of the sport by trying to convince others that Mayweather carried McGregor to put on a show for the fans, but that’s not what I observed. Perhaps Mayweather could’ve stepped on the gas a little earlier, but that’s not Mayweather, and certainly not against an opponent he knows nothing about, an opponent who happens to be bigger and stronger. Adding to his degree of difficulty, he isn’t close to being a big puncher. His knockouts have been attributed to his accuracy and hitting his opponents with shots they never saw or anticipated. It’s not like he could’ve gambled and turned it on like a switch and put McGregor away. Compounding his problem was that despite landing a high percentage of his punches, he missed a ton.
Had it been prime Floyd fighting McGregor I have no doubt the fight would’ve been shorter. But three things enabled McGregor to make it into the 10th round. Foremost, Mayweather is shot and nowhere close physically to the fighter he once was. Had Errol Spence or Terence Crawford been in front of him last Saturday night, Floyd would’ve left the ring 49-1. After that, it was McGregor’s awkwardness that caused Floyd to step back and fight a little more judiciously. He probably figured going into the fight that McGregor was going to be a heavy bag with eyes and that he wouldn’t miss with a single punch. Had McGregor done what everybody thought he was going to do, going after Mayweather like Marcos Maidana did, he wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long because Conor doesn’t take a great punch and Floyd would have nailed him clean as he was moving in.
Moreover, McGregor flipped the script and smartly forced Mayweather to push the fight. When was the last time Floyd had to do that? How about very seldom since he’s been an elite fighter….and that’s because most believed the way to beat Mayweather was with pressure, but someone convinced McGregor that he might get better shots on Floyd if he was coming after him, and he did, but he couldn’t hurt Mayweather. Lastly Floyd was bothered by McGregor’s size and physicality. Conor was just too big for Mayweather to pot-shot and take liberties with until he had slowed down and was a little winded. During the ninth round when McGregor was dead tired, Floyd was looking to end the fight but was missing a ton of punches. And the ones that did get through knocked Conor back but didn’t come close to finishing him. The reality is that Mayweather needed to get McGregor tired before he could work him over, and that took rounds to accomplish.
Had the referee allowed the fight to continue, Mayweather would’ve really devastated McGregor. With McGregor on the canvas literally beaten to a pulp and struggling to move, boxing fans would be more satisfied with the result. As it is, Mayweather at 40 years old and having not fought in two years, knocked out McGregor who is in his physical prime at 29. But he didn’t carry him.
Mayweather’s recent quote to ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna says it all:
“Because you must realize, that I’m 40 years old and I’ve been off almost 800 days….he’s active, he’s training, he’s competing. These other fighters, these young lions, they’re throwing a lot more combinations than I’m throwing. I was just in the pocket, shooting one shot here and there, and breaking him down slowly. Whereas you got these young active guys who are throwing a lot of combinations and would get him out of there a lot earlier!”
Photo credit: Idris Erba / Mayweather Promotions
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com.
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