Post-Fight Thoughts: Floyd Mayweather -vs- Conor McGregor
A fight that many thought would never happen is finally behind us, the aftermath a mixture of both surprise and confirmation of the conventional wisdom — that a rookie was never going to upset one of boxing's most proficient competitors. Conor McGregor managed to come away from this fight looking about as good as could be expected; the Irishman overperformed but still came up short in his cross-sport endeavour. The fight was entertaining, had moments of tension, and provided genuine entertainment — I would say that made it a success beyond the simple reality of the massive payouts for both men.
Leading up to the bout, I had very little in the way of expectations. I truly felt like this was a blatant cash grab, and that the boxing match was going to be a lopsided affair. McGregor was able to win the first 3 rounds, though it was very clear that Mayweather conceded them, as he had almost no offence, and used them to study McGregor. By the fourth round, Mayweather seemed to have everything figured out and he began to counter McGregor and work him over with body shots. This gameplan was exactly what I expected from Mayweather, but I will confess that I was quite shocked as the first two frames unfolded — I did not expect McGregor to look good whatsoever.
To his credit, Conor remained composed, though he did throw quite a few illegal strikes (rabbit punches and hammer fists), which referee Robert Byrd was extremely generous in not deducting points for. Mayweather absorbed a few good shots from Conor, but for the most part Conor's high volume of punches either missed or landed on his arms. Predictably, Conor began to tire; Mayweather allowed McGregor to set a pace he couldn't possibly maintain for the whole 12 rounds. Conor began to visibly fade by the midway point of the fight, and it only got worse as the bout wore on. As expected, the deficiencies of McGregor's style, namely the energy required to execute it, surfaced and his stamina faded right on cue. Conor is a finisher almost by necessity, which made his stylistic adjustments in the second Nate Diaz fight all the more commendable.
By the ninth and tenth round, Floyd was walking down a visibly exhausted McGregor, landing to the head and body almost at will. To his credit, McGregor was able to absorb a lot of punishment and last much longer than I expected — and was never taken off his feet. In spite of all the pre-fight bluster about unorthodox techniques, Conor implemented rather straight-forward boxing attacks — the egregious number of foul shots notwithstanding. Floyd eventually earned a TKO with a barrage of punches that wobbled the Irishman several times and prompted the referee to intervene. I was happy with the stoppage, as it was completely unneccessary to have Conor get knocked unconscious; the fight was clearly over, Conor was spent and Floyd could have kept lighting him up for as long as he had to.
The aftermath of the fight will be felt for quite some time. Conor will be pushing his own version of the narrative, accepting defeat and spinning the specific causes to his own ends. It is important to note that while, yes, McGregor did have some success, he never put Mayweather in any danger. There was no time during the fight that Mayweather was close to being finished or even hurt, and he left the ring without a mark on him. Conor exceeded all expectations, despite losing decisively. That he did this against a technical master like Floyd Mayweather, with only about 8 weeks worth of notice, makes the whole thing a moral victory for McGregor anyway. Mayweather finished a guy he was supposed to, McGregor lasted almost 30 minutes and added tension and surprise to the bout, and both men walk away with absurd amounts of cold hard cash. No one really lost tonight — well, except bettors holding McGregor tickets.
It is important to note, however, all due praise aside, that this fight clearly demonstrated that McGregor is not a boxer. Conor McGregor is certainly a talented fighter, who did very well to adapt to a new sport's limitations in a very short time period. But make no mistake, any competent boxer with a more aggressive style — and more power — would beat the breaks off of Conor. Whether Conor boxes again remains to be seen, but given the very public feud with Paulie Malignaggi there is a chance we see one more forray into the sweet science. It is also possible that potential bout is simply used as leverage by McGregor during negotiations with the UFC. If one assumes defeat was the inevitable conclusion, then Conor really did achieve the ideal outcome, and the UFC's biggest star remains largely unblemished after taking a huge risk outside of MMA.
What the future holds is anyone's guess. I would expect Conor to take some time off and evaluate his options (and count his money); the UFC is hurting for stars, with Jon Jones once again dealing with a failed drug test administered by USADA, so I expect they will want him back sooner rather than later. It is difficult to say if Conor fights again in 2017, or even what sport he would be competing in — his personal brand really didn't suffer any damage. I would expect Mayweather will probably stay retired, having notched his 50th professional win and banked enough money to keep him out of trouble with the IRS — at least for a little while.
It's not often you witness a perfectly executed hustle, but I think that's what just happened.
Published: August 27th, 2017.