The incredible mismatch that is Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather – ESPN
What happens next seems like it should be clear.
McGregor, the only fighter in UFC history to hold titles simultaneously in two different weight classes, will be competing in his first professional boxing match against arguably the greatest boxer of all time. Oscar de la Hoya, admittedly as a rival promoter, suggested that McGregor shouldn’t even be licensed to box.
If you are interested in the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight, cool. Enjoy. Have a party. Have a blast. But manage your enthusiasm and don’t expect a good bout, writes Dan Rafael.
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Yet, what happened shortly after the fight was announced suggests otherwise. In the days after the fight was confirmed, tons of small bets came in on McGregor, with the public seemingly confident he could give Mayweather more of a go than the oddsmakers initially suggested. While most of the money taken in early on the fight is on Mayweather, the flurry of “square” action suggests there’s at least some segment of the population thinking McGregor has some shot at topping the controversial former five-division world champion.
Anything can happen in a fight, but it’s harder to reconcile the betting action backing McGregor with a feasible path to victory beyond the luckiest of lucky punches. There are huge obstacles facing any UFC fighter crossing over into boxing, as there would be crossing the opposite way. Crucially, Mayweather is just about the worst possible opponent for a fighter like McGregor, both in terms of in-ring temperament and style. The arguments McGregor supporters have thrown out in his defense are flimsy and often incomplete.
The evidence against McGregor being able to compete in the fight is strong:
McGregor’s not a professional boxer (and that matters a lot).
This is a very strong place to start any discussion surrounding this fight. It’s hard to imagine anyone taking the discussion of an all-time great professional versus an amateur seriously in any other sport.
Of course, the idea is that MMA is a reasonable analogue for boxing, and in the UFC, McGregor is a world-class striker. The Irishman has racked up seven of his nine victories in the UFC by knockout or TKO, with the exceptions being a fight at a higher weight class (Nate Diaz) and one during which the future champion tore his ACL (Max Holloway). All of those finishes have been via punches, and McGregor is universally regarded as a creative, technically-compelling striker.
It’s also likely unfair to compare boxing in four-ounce gloves to the 10-ounce gloves McGregor will be fighting in the next time he steps into the ring in Las Vegas. McGregor has the hand speed to get ahead of his opponents in the Octagon, but he’s also fighting in a sport where his opponents have to worry that he’ll throw kicks or (at least theoretically) attempt a takedown.
A boxer who stepped into a cage and adopted a boxing stance would be picked apart by leg kicks, as was the case in the famous mixed match between Muhammad Ali and pro wrestler Antonio Inoki in June 1976. In a boxing ring, with kicks illegal, Mayweather won’t have to worry about checking them or worrying about takedowns, which fundamentally changes his footwork versus that of a typical McGregor opponent. He’ll be defending himself differently with 10-ounce gloves.
McGregor backers have pointed out that he was once an excellent amateur boxer in Ireland. As an amateur, it’s true that McGregor showed promise. He reportedly won a Dublin Novice Championship as part of 40 amateur fights between the ages of 11 and 17. There are no details on his record, but coaches and trainers who witnessed him spar suggest he could have been a successful boxer had he stuck with the craft.
It’s hard to reconcile McGregor’s amateur success with some idea that he’s going to be able to compete at the highest level with a superstar boxer, though. McGregor never even entered the National Junior Championships in Ireland, let alone the Senior Championships. There’s no guarantee he would have won any of those events. He never came close to qualifying for the Olympics as a boxer.
Thousands of boxers who attempt to make it through that crucible fail to win amateur titles, let alone turn professional. Just about everyone whom Mayweather has fought at the peak of his career had a far more storied amateur career. Andre Berto and Miguel Cotto were Olympians. Manny Pacquiao was on the Filipino Amateur National Team. Shane Mosley won medals in the World Junior Championships and Goodwill Games. Mayweather himself won a bronze medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, with a controversial loss to Serafim Todorov in a fight even Todorov himself believes might have been due to suspect judging the last time he’s lost in a boxing ring.
Even if McGregor was the best boxer in the world at age 17 — and there’s no evidence that he was anything close — it would have been close to impossible for him to have kept up at a high level, even while training MMA. Nobody doubts McGregor’s work ethic, but he’s spent untold hours training everything from taekwondo to jiu-jitsu. Every hour he’s spent training those disciplines is an hour Mayweather’s spent on boxing.
To that end, boxer Chris Van Heerden released a video which shows the 25-2-1 boxer landing punches on McGregor whilst sparring in 2016. It’s not entirely fair to use sparring sessions as proof of performance, and Van Heerden was the 11th-ranked welterweight in the world per the WBA rankings as recently as April, but he’s also admittedly not in Mayweather’s league. At the very least, McGregor has a lot of catching up to do.
Mayweather is the worst possible opponent.
Although it remains to be seen how it will translate to boxing, McGregor’s knockout power in four-ounce gloves is unquestioned. Ask Jose Aldo. If McGregor catches anyone flush, he’s going to do serious damage. If McGregor was boxing someone who was inclined to get into exchanges and scrap, he would have a serious chance of causing some trouble.
The exact sort of opponent McGregor wouldn’t want to face is a brilliant defensive boxer who has built his entire career upon keeping himself out of danger against more dangerous opponents.
Guess what Mayweather does best?
McGregor’s biggest strength is pure knockout power, and he’s facing a fighter who hasn’t been knocked down by a punch in his professional career. Mayweather took a knee in a 2001 fight against Carlos Hernandez with a hand injury, but while it was a rough night for Mayweather, he still cruised to a unanimous decision.
Mayweather gets hit and placed into moderate trouble about once per presidential term. Plenty of fighters lose their chins as they get older and suffer from the wear and tear of fighting for decades, but how often is Mayweather really taking shots to the face?