After months of preening, trash talking, and chest thumping, Mayweather vs. McGregor, the biggest sports freak show in decades, is finally upon us. You may hate yourself for it, but you know you’re dying to watch.
Mayweather is maybe the greatest fighter of his generation, considered by some to be the greatest defensive tactician the sweet science has ever seen, and at 49-0-0 is tied with Rocky Marciano for the most wins of any boxer with a perfect record. However, the one aspect of the fight game of which he is the undisputed champ: getting paid. Long after boxing’s popularity began to wane, and in a sometimes overlooked weight class, Mayweather has managed to earn hundreds of millions of dollars in the last few years of his career, despite not having knocked out an opponent since 2011. Even after winning his lackluster bout with Manny Pacquiao in 2015, Mayweather has whipped boxing fans into a frenzy with his showdown against McGregor.
If these two were stepping into the octagon, Mayweather would have zero chance of winning: McGregor would sweep the leg so fast that Mayweather’s head would spin all the way around before he realized his leg was broken. “It would be 100 million-to-one that Conor McGregor would [expletive] him up,” MMA commentator Joe Rogan declared in a March podcast.
The reality is they’re stepping into the square circle, where McGregor is out of his depth, something even Rogan admits. Max Kellerman of ESPN has gone as far as to say that McGregor “will not land a single punch,” a prediction shocking in its surety, given that McGregor is an inch taller, has a two-inch reach advantage, is a southpaw, and at the age of 29 is Mayweather’s junior by more than a decade.
The conventional wisdom says that Mayweather is not only a better boxer than McGregor is an MMA fighter, but he represents a particularly bad matchup for McGregor, because while the latter is a brawler of the first order, the former is a master defensive tactician who has been bobbing and weaving his way to safety for 20 years, having never so much as taken a knee in his pro career. This matchup turns the old military adage “the best defense is a great offense” on its head, as Mayweather’s defense is expected to be all the offense he needs.
McGregor’s camp leaked a video a few weeks back showing him knocking down Paulie Malignaggi during a sparring session, an embarrassment that caused the two-time world champ to leave McGregor’s camp. On the flip side, former welterweight champion Chris van Heerden, leaked a video of his own from before this fight was announced, in which he sparred with McGregor.
People telling me Mayweather will have his hands full trying to land on McGregor -STOP IT! I respect McGregor BUT i ain't Floyd and i landed pic.twitter.com/gd4dFi3XUU
— Chris van Heerden (@TheHeat001) June 14, 2017
And there was a plot twist last week, as it was announced that the Nevada Athletic Commission had signed off on a switch from 10-ounce to 8-ounce gloves for the fight, a change that McGregor insists is to his advantage.
“I don’t believe with the new gloves he makes it out of the second round,” said McGregor, according to the BBC. “Part of me kind of wants to show some skill and dismantle him but I do not see him absorbing the blows.”
McGregor had been boasting that he’d finish Mayweather in just four rounds, so this new wrinkle clearly has him feeling even bolder than usual. And there’s one undefeated heavyweight that thinks McGregor is being too modest.
“I think McGregor will do him inside one round,” Tyson Fury told iFL TV. “I think Conor McGregor will knock him out in the first 35 seconds, much like he did to Jose Aldo, to be honest.”
Regardless of whose camp you’re in, it’s inevitable that one of three things will transpire: 1) the greatest upset in boxing – maybe sports – history, 2) the coronation of boxing’s first 50-0-0 fighter, or 3) a draw, that would no doubt spark riots and an investigation. No matter how you slice it, history is going to be made.