This is probably the biggest fight event of our generation. However, I’ve never really been convinced Conor McGregor stands anything other than a puncher's chance. I may be biased with my loyalty & love for boxing, admiration for Floyd Mayweather's talent and lack of deep knowledge of MMA, but I honestly believe Floyd Mayweather is arguably the greatest boxer of all time. ‘Hit & don’t get hit’ is the name of game kids and he has truly mastered the art of that better than anyone else.
I've laid out my thoughts and discussed this event in detail on recent podcasts, in the gym and in public with many people over the last few weeks. With this blog, I wanted to focus more on the reality that there is far too big of a gulf in pure boxing skill between these two combat sports giants for it to be truly competitive, and also try to highlight a couple of factors that I haven’t really seen discussed yet.
Boxing Speed v MMA Speed
With the ongoing boxing v MMA debate really heating up, one thing that hasn’t really been discussed is the difference in pace between the two sports. This week I watched Conor McGregor v Nate Diaz 1, and then immediately after, I watched Floyd Mayweather v Juan Manuel Marquez. The first thing that was so apparent was the speed difference between the two fighters, and the pace of the fights. It's amazing how much more explosive the Mayweather performance was, hand speed, footwork, constantly explosive for 12 rounds as always. Bear in mind Floyd has spent his whole life fighting at such a fast, intense pace, his comfort fighting at such a high speed, plus his explosive, athletic ability both offensively and defensively (amazing reflexes both in his head movement & footwork) will be way too much for Conor who as good as he is in the cage, simply hasn’t got the experience, reaction times, reflexes, footwork and speed required to handle Floyd Mayweather.
Floyd is coming into the fight off a 2 year lay off, and many have tried to make the argument that he will have ring rust & his age will show, this is just clutching at straws. When he fought JM Marquez in 2009 he had been out the ring for 2 years, and returned looking better than ever in this fight, making a boxing legend look completely ordinary and coming out of the fight almost untouched. The layoff / his age will not be a factor on August 26th.
I believe MMA fighters are probably among the fittest athletes in the world, their endurance, strength, stamina and explosive power is second to none. However handling the pace of a 12 round fight in a boxing ring at such a ferocious pace is a whole new world for Conor McGregor. The different and new elements of stamina, fitness, explosive boxing specific movements & footwork required simply can't be mastered (to the level needed) in a few months or during a training camp. Combine this with the accuracy of Floyd's punches, his amazing jab to the body, that will constantly drain Conor's energy, ability to control his breathing & move as effectively as he would want to will be far too much over 36 minutes. This is a different avenue of conditioning that he doesn't have the experience at to be able to adapt & adjust to, it’s simply too different from what he’s used to. How many times have we seen Floyd in the ring after a 12 round fight, untouched, low heart rate and still relaxed. His incredible skill, style, fitness & experience doing this for most of his life allows him to box with maximum concentration but almost physical ease for 12 rounds. The boxing ring on fight night is where he excels for 36 minutes.
Preparation, Mindset & Ego
The build up to the fight has been the “battle of the egos” and I've loved watching it, great entertainment, some genuine needle, supreme confidence, pure passion to be considered the best and all round genius promotion from both guys.
I think that Conor's ego will be his downfall here. I'm sure he honestly believes he will win the fight, and he has to believe that of course, but I feel it's an over-confidence to a) promote the event and b) to convince himself he can do it. His ego has already been his downfall with his decision to use Paulie Malignaggi as main sparring partner. A decision based in personal animosity and a desire to hurt the guy, rather than use him as a legitimate source to learn and build a solid game plan with. Why the hell would anyone use an out of shape, over weight retired fighter as main sparring for a fight with one of the greatest, most explosive fighters of all time? …madness, and I haven't really seen it mentioned in the build up what a poor decision this was game plan wise, but on the flipside, the circus created now may lead to a potential Malignaggi fight for Conor, so from a merketing / business perspective it could be a good decision. Re: the sparring, the amount of money at team McGregor’s disposal could have attracted some of the biggest and best names currently operating at world level in boxing, Lamont Peterson, Jarrett Hurd, Adrien Broner, Amir Khan, Andre Berto, Victor Ortiz, and the like. Sparring with any of these styles, speeds, and levels would have been way more ideal and sent a message that he is serious about the preparation for this mega fight. I’m sure Conor has trained his ass off for this, but he needed to be tested hard in the gym and learn quickly in the short space of time he's had. Choosing to spar Paulie Malignaggi for what seems (from the outside) to be more of a personal reason I think will cost him on fight night.
Floyd on the other hand has a realistic confidence, he is more than comfortable is his boxing ability & achievements. I think he probably respects Conor McGregor more as a businessman & entertainer than he does as a fighter. With that said, Mayweather is a true professional, and will not take him likely. I’m sure his preparation has been just like any other of his 49 fights; hard, intense training camps sparring highly skilled explosive fighters for rounds after rounds. Despite what get displayed (via Floyd's own executive production) on Showtime’s All Access, and HBO’s 24/7 in the past, his attitude in preparation for a fight and more importantly during a fight is the reason why he is still undefeated after 49 fights. He never underestimates the hard work required to win fights, clearly! I guarantee he isn’t sparring retired fighters who are not in fight shape / overweight.
There's been discussions about if it's good / bad for boxing and MMA based on whatever the result is, and it's clear all the pressure and expectation is on Mayweather to deliver.
I’m a loyal boxing fan, I love this sport and always have. I think it’s the greatest sport there is, and anything other than a comfortable Floyd Mayweather victory is a huge blow to the credibility of the most skillful, physically demanding and entertaining sport there is, boxing.
I’ve heard and seen boxing fans say they would like to see Floyd finally lose or get KO’d, this is based on their personal judgement of him as a person or lack of enjoyment for his fight style, and the fact he doesn’t deliver sensational one punch knockouts or gets into wars. It’s his skill & talent and ability to defend so well that is entertaining to me. Again remember the name of the game people: Hit & Don’t Get Hit!
I want to see Floyd put on a clinic and deliver a dominant performance that demonstrates his extraordinary talent to what will be his largest audience yet and finally prove that he is the greatest out there, similar to his performances vs JM Marquez or Ricky Hatton or Arturo Gatti. I’m confident this will be the case and he will deliver. Conor McGregor may bring the unknown & an unorthodox style, but that isn't enough, we do know he’s nowhere near the level (in the boxing ring) of those 3 opponents, all legends who were made to look average. As an admirer of his boxing ability and achievements in the sport & as a businessman, I’d like to see Floyd dominate this fight and deliver a statement for the good of boxing. It's about levels.
Floyd wins comfortably, if the stoppage comes I expect that around rounds 10 or 11. I think once Floyd finds his range & rhythm which I expect him to do quickly, then it will be a relatively easy fight that allows him to unload combinations at will in the 2nd half of the fight.
The most likely outcome is a 12 rounds points decision win for Floyd after a comfortable effort, but... Expect the unexpected! We may see points deducted from Conor for his rough tactics in the clinch, his frustration at not being able to get Floyd where he wants may come into play too.