Last night panned out as many people with the slightest knowledge of boxing, and Floyd Mayweather, expected. The Las Vegas based boxer took his time, used his superior skills and ultimately wore down Conor McGregor. McGregor did better than many expected by actually winning a couple of rounds clearly. Now, most boxing fans will point out that this was because Floyd let him but these would mainly be the same fans who believed Floyd would dominate every 3 minute session. And they would probably be right. Mayweather did exactly what he needed to do. That doesn’t change the fact that McGregor outdid many pre-match expectations by actually landing punches and winning rounds.
One thing is clear from examining social media in the immediate aftermath of the event. The divide between MMA fans and boxing fans is as wide as ever. I know that the whole build-up was shaped by McGregor’s claims that he runs boxing and his quote “I am boxing” riled more than a few within the ‘Sweet Science’. And those critics are now gleefully telling all and sundry that he got thoroughly outclassed, which he did.
But what did this actually prove? That boxing is too hard for anyone in MMA to master? No. That boxers are too good for mixed martial artists? No. That they are different sports? Yes, but anyone with a brain already knew that. McGregor doesn’t run the sport because he can beat all comers, he played a major part in what will probably be the highest grossing boxing match of all time. No one else could’ve done that. Mayweather needed what he described as the perfect dance partner to achieve the astronomical figures being mentioned. There are plenty more deserving candidates such as undefeated welterweight champion Errol Spence or 140 lb ruler Terrence Crawford. In fact, anyone who has actually boxed has technically done more to earn the “Money” shot. Yet neither of them would have generated as much interest. Maybe if Mayweather had met Gennady Golovkin there would have been a genuine curiosity as to whether he would eventually lose. Based on his 50th win, and if GGG could feasibly have made 154 lbs, it could’ve been one step too far. MayMac wasn’t about that though. Mayweather has faced a variety of challenges over his career. Canelo (Golovkin’s next opponent) was supposed to be too big and fresh for the veteran. Afterwards he was too naïve and green. Pacquiao was the man Mayweather avoided and was a troublesome southpaw. Again, the aftermath changed people’s tunes and he was injured and past his best. The list goes on. Hatton was aggressive, then in reckless. Mosley was too fast and powerful. Made to look his age. Like him or loathe him, Floyd Mayweather deserves massive credit for what he has built.
And like it or not boxing fans, so does Conor McGregor. This (mis)match-up was founded on personalities and potential earning power rather than a risk to Mayweather. Yet, as gullible as they may be, many were persuaded by the sheer confidence and audacity of McGregor that he could actually pull off the upset and prove people wrong one more time. I feel a bit of a hypocrite here because I vowed to myself that I would never write off the “Notorious” one since I thought Chad Mendes and his wrestling skills would be too much for him. In truth, he did get taken down and pressured like never before but he got up and did the business. The Irishman’s “Mystic Mac” persona has contributed to his rapid rise almost as much as his chain of victories in the UFC (such is the dominance of this organisation within MMA, it is often referred to as the sport itself). With each win and bold KO prediction he was faced with the same doubters. He hasn’t faced anyone of quality. Steps up and smashes the previously unstopped (via strikes) Dustin Poirier in a round. He is being protected, Dana won’t let a wrestler anywhere near him! Knocks out Chad Mendes inside two. Aldo is the greatest featherweight of all time, he’s just too good. 13 seconds later and people started to believe.
The boxing world made a lot of the fight that came next. The unexpected loss to Nate Diaz that threatened to derail the hype. While this came through a submission, there were elements that translated into the boxing ring. After both, McGregor talked about his lack of efficiency leading to fatigue. A subtle indication that lessons haven’t entirely been learned perhaps. Against Diaz and Mayweather he admitted to throwing wasteful shots and burning energy. Once he couldn’t get his man out of there, and shipped sharp shots back, the writing was on the wall.
Between the two losses came Diaz II and UFC 205. In typical, determined and stubborn fashion he got his rematch at 170lbs (25 lbs higher than his previous championship weight) going against the advice of his long-time coach. He secured a narrow victory and put his man down en route, showing solid punching power again but also hinting at his struggle to maintain a consistent pace over the distance. This wouldn’t be a problem against Eddie Alvarez in New York. A third weight class would provide a second UFC world title and help the Crumlin fighter make history as the first (and so far only) simultaneous multi-weight world champion in company history.
The detail on his career is relevant. Not only does it hopefully show I know a bit about both sports, it also shows that Conor McGregor is extremely good at what he does. That is not boxing. I am a fan of both boxing and mixed martial arts. I seem to be in the minority. Despite my viewpoint, I understand why many people only like one of them. They are different. What I don’t understand is the need to belittle the other.
While they are different entities, there are undoubtedly similarities, both involve punching for a start. Competitors in each require amazing fitness levels (although a different type of fitness is needed for each), dedication, discipline, weight cuts, press duties and balls in abundance. Despite sharing these requirements they are not the same thing. Badminton and tennis; rugby and American Football; cricket and baseball. All sports that share some basic principles, but if Roger Federer lost a badminton match would it be considered a loss for tennis? Of course not because he would destroy [insert famous badminton player here] on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
I get the annoyance of McGregor “fanboys” predicting he would actually beat Mayweather. To a certain degree anyway. I can’t say it annoys me when people have a different opinion. If they want to back their man and try to generate arguments or theories to back that up then so be it. Don’t take it as a personal insult. It works both ways though. (Big hypothetical “if” approaching here as it will never happen) IF Mayweather stepped into the Octagon to face McGregor would he win? Not a chance. Would he last a round? I really doubt it. Would there be droves of “Money” supporters making a case that their man could pull off the unthinkable? Of course there would! And there would be equal MMA backers shooting them down.
The only reason ‘boxing’ (or more accurately an individual boxer) won last night is because the non-boxer had the courage to cross codes. There are obviously millions, and millions, of reasons why he felt so brave ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) but he made that bold move regardless and deserves credit for doing so. He stepped out of his comfort zone, has been widely ridiculed for months from all angles. While the boxing community aren’t quite eating their words for the rest of their days, you can be damn sure Conor will be dining out on for a while yet.