Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather: A Technical Breakdown
First, an admission -- I don't like this fight. More than that, I think it's pointless and silly.
My criticisms of the contest, it's sanctioning, and the business practices that led to it will be saved for other columns, however. For now, we deal with reality and what is coming.
Conor McGregor, a two-division MMA champion but true boxing novice will box Floyd Mayweather Jr., an undefeated pugilist, and one of the most skilled, proven and prolific boxers of our generation. If you want a quick prediction from this writer, it is this -- Mayweather Jr. will win, and win easily.
Perhaps not as easily as McGregor would win if they fought in MMA or a real fight, but still, the boxer should be the easy favorite to win this boxing match.
Still, they have to fight the fight, as my dad has often said. Technically, anything is possible in any type of fight.
I'll stick with my prediction, but if I unpack this match up from the sham of its spectacle, and just look at the two great athletes, here's what I see:
Both men have fast hands and will certainly believe that they will hold the advantage in this area. They have similar wingspans and McGregor has slightly longer reach, to go with his youth advantage. We'll go more into the age factor in just a bit because it certainly could impact speed and quickness, but for now, we'll stay with pure speed with both men at their best.
As fast as McGregor is, Mayweather Jr. at his best has faster hands. McGregor's quick hands are proven when he can also threaten with kicks and level changes, but we won't have those available to him in his first professional boxing fight. McGregor also won't be able to slip in his slimly-gloved hands through wider open guards of another MMA-gloved fighter. Mayweather will have 20 ounces of padding to help him cover up and McGregor will have to shove one large, 10-ounce glove in at a time into spots instead of the usual 4 ounce variety he's used to.
Here's where Mayweather Jr. can really make himself seem more speedy…or not. McGregor has better timing with his punches, to go along with a superb sense of distance and management of it, than anyone he's faced in MMA except for Nate Diaz, but doing it in boxing will be a separate matter. In addition to being able to cover up expertly and not be exposed to McGregor's usual variety of attacks that he has available in MMA, Mayweather Jr. will find angles and spaces inside the roped ring that McGregor isn't as accustomed to dealing with.
Mayweather can cover, roll and single-shot counter with the best of them in boxing, and McGregor's stance and countering style exposes his chin a bit too much. Like speed, however, McGregor's once shot at besting Mayweather Jr. will come from…
McGregor is about a decade younger than Mayweather Jr. and he's also fought more recently and consistently in recent years than has the boxer. That sharpness to go along with what we have to assume is less ticks on the old noggin' give way to the only conceivable way McGregor could beat Mayweather Jr. in boxing. Here's what I mean -- if Mayweather Jr. is suddenly old, if his reflexes have finally slowed enough with age, then and only then will McGregor have a chance at slipping in a big shot to the chin that Mayweather Jr. can't block or see coming. With McGregor's single-shot punching power, he can hurt anyone if he catches them blind.
Mayweather Jr. has not ever been made to pay, yet, in such a way, even against faster Southpaws than McGregor, like Manny Pacquiao. Still, Mayweather Jr. is older now, than he has ever before been. His technical boxing prowess and experience should be enough to have him out-class McGregor, but his age -- and a possible decline in speed, timing and durability - gives the MMA star the only possible opening.
McGregor hits harder than Mayweather Jr. but whether or not he'll ever have a chance to connect, flush, depends a lot on the above category. Mayweather Jr. doesn't brawl and he doesn't often one-shot KO people…unless he outclasses them with timing and savvy, like when he did just that to a cheating, conniving Victor Ortiz or a slower Ricky Hatton, with a check-hook. So, McGregor hits harder, but I still think Mayweather Jr. has the better chance of scoring a KO in this fight -- because he has a better chance of catching McGregor blind, with superior boxing skill, timing, and awareness.
With the same caveat of, "this only works if Mayweather Jr. hasn't suddenly gotten old," this category also falls into the boxer's column. McGregor is relatively new to MMA, to say nothing of how he is a straight baby in boxing. Mayweather Jr. fought hundreds of times as an amateur, going back to near infancy. As a professional, he's fought 49 times, and usually gone the distance. If his extensive experience hasn't led to brain damage that means he can take less shots in this next fight than he ever before has been able to recover from, Mayweather's combat experience superiority should benefit him completely.
He's used to going into deeper water, more often, and winning, than McGregor is. Mayweather is used to coming out round after round, and adapting strategies between and within them. He'll be more at home and confident in the ring once the microphones are gone and press conferences are over. There's no hiding from the truth in combat, and as courageous and confident as McGregor is, he'll know he's in trouble once he can't connect, clean, on Mayweather Jr. or starts getting hit with shots he didn't see coming.
Part of this is connected with experience, of course. Mayweather Jr. knows how to pace himself well, be economical with his legs and his punches, to ensure that he can go as hard in the 12th as he did in the first. McGregor is a well-conditioned athlete, but we have no reason to believe that he's ready for a 12-round boxing fight. The total minutes spent in the ring over the course of such a fight is much longer, overall, than McGregor has ever had to spend in competition in one night, but more importantly -- it's just spaced out and structured differently, in a way he's not used to.
McGregor has good attributes for boxing -- heavy hands, good senses of distance and timing, long arms, heart. If he would have gone into boxing as a kid and stayed with it, I have no doubt he could be a solid pro, maybe even a champ. Heck, maybe he could've been better than Mayweather Jr. Who knows?
The point is, he hasn't. McGregor dedicated himself to be ready for the more realistic combat of MMA, and that's why he's a better all-around fighter than Mayweather Jr. or any fighter. Still, that well-roundedness won't help him in the limited boxing setting that he's spent none of his career dedicated to. Sure, McGregor does boxing-only sparring and probably always has. He's even done so against good pros.
But footage that has been made public from some of those sessions against boxers not anywhere near as good as Mayweather Jr. likely give us a glimpse of what we'll see on August 26th -- A game McGregor who will have chances to score with one or two big shots, but who will expose himself to far many more shots in the process, and who just doesn't likely have the boxing arsenal, timing, defense, or experience to win against an all-time great over a 12-round fight.