…including how McGregor can win!
After a build up that made WWE look like Japanese Kabuki theatre, the world is enraptured and Connor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather really could be the biggest fight of all time – commercially at least.
Yet, in the kind of ironic twist only boxing could produce, what will likely be the most watched fight in history is also the least debated fight in history. Anyone thinking with their head believes Mayweather will win. Only those thinking with their hearts feel McGregor will win.
This has not stopped the world talking about the fight though. Even the price of being ringside (which has currently resulted in thousands of tickets still being available at the Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena) and the pay-per-view price ($89.99 in North America) has not dented fans’ enthusiasm for the fight.
Venues showing the fight are selling out across the globe. Las Vegas is full of fans that have travelled thousands of miles to sample the atmosphere as sport’s two most charismatic personalities clash. It is these personalities which have been the talk of the event, along with the record breaking figures it will all create.
Real analysis of the outcome of the fight has become trivial amidst the carnival hype. Any chance McGregor has is being discussed as pure fantasy, whilst the immense likelihood of Mayweather winning has seen his own plans of action glossed over.
Therefore, on the day of the fight, to truly enjoy the occasion, let’s remind ourselves of three possible outcomes.
1) Mayweather to win via knockout
What are the chances? 50%.
Why and how? Floyd Mayweather is simply too precise and too quick, in the mind as well as in the hands. At 49-0 and as a boxer honed in his profession since childhood by a father and two uncles who fought at a high level, Mayweather’s skill-set is simply too advanced for McGregor, someone who has never actually fought in any sanctioned boxing match.
The undefeated American veteran will be setting up shots from the off, switching the jab from head to body to open him up for right-hands. Floyd will be hitting his Irish opponent so clean and so often it will force a referee or Connor’s own corner to stop the fight by the 8th round.
Possible spoiling factors? Mayweather is used to a reach advantage against opponents, something he has had over every opponent in the last 10 years since he faced Oscar De La Hoya. McGregor has a significant 5cm reach advantage, meaning Mayweather will need to close the distance to land first, something that at aged 40 Mayweather may not fancy doing, resulting in the next possible outcome…
2) Mayweather to win on points
What are the chances? 40%.
Why and how? Winning a 12 round decision has become Mayweather’s most comfortable way to win a fight. With so much on the line, it would not be surprising at all to see him revert to his safety-first approach. Any kind of success McGregor has could seriously dent Mayweather’s legacy, meaning just like he usually does, Floyd will not take any risks.
Along with this mindset of Floyd’s, Connor McGregor’s toughness and underestimated stamina may also play a role in him lasting the 12 rounds. As he has stated himself, McGregor will not be facing the more taxing all body workout MMA presents and therefore will find 12 three minute rounds of boxing easier than many expect. At the same time, having been subjected to fighters trying to kick, elbow, knee and strangle him, the waspish attacks of the famously brittle handed Mayweather will not be enough to stop McGregor.
In this instance, Mayweather will simply play the role of matador to McGregor’s bull, cruising his way to a unanimous decision win as he has done nine times out of his last ten fights.
Possible spoiling factors? Mayweather has never been one to fight with emotion or worry about entertaining a crowd. But as the self-proclaimed “best ever”, he will surely be embarrassed to have a fighter with an 0-0 record last 12 rounds with him. There is also the chance that McGregor will leave himself so open in a reckless attempt to catch Mayweather that the stoppage will become inevitable.
3) McGregor to win via knockout
What are the chances? 10%.
Why and how? To some, even giving McGregor a one in 10 chance to win is too much. However, the bookies don’t have it that way (currently 4/1 to win) and at the end of the day, McGregor’s skill-set and abilities have to give him some chance.
McGregor is a man with a left-hand as sharp as most boxers. He is undoubtedly powerful (something even Paulie Malignaggi is willing to say about him) and he has timing and precision. To ask if McGregor can transfer this skill-set from MMA to boxing is to ask if there are different dimensions of the science of boxing that have not fully been explored. We have seen McGregor continually refer to Bruce Lee in the build up to this fight and with the great Kung-Fu master in his thoughts, McGregor is likely to come out to Floyd with his legs wide in a hybrid karate stance, arms wide and hands high, taking to the ring with a style different to any boxer Floyd has ever faced.
Many experts feel McGregor needs to constrain his approach and force it into a pressure-fighting style, forcing Mayweather to move back and brawl. The only thing McGregor would be forcing with this is himself, to conform to a style of boxing that has previously caused Mayweather problems against cruder foes (most recently best seen in his first fight with Marcos Maidana). However, by nature McGregor is actually a counter puncher. The thought he could cause Mayweather trouble through direct pressure is to devalue the skill it takes to be a good pressure fighter. Simply, McGregor needs to fight his own game. This usually sees him stalk opponents from range, prodding them with kicks, jabs and body shots, with the aim of opening them up to his murderous left-hand. The problem for McGregor is that he cannot use those weapons against Mayweather. Kicking is illegal and trying to open up Mayweather with a jab or body shots will see McGregor eat right-hands or end up in a rhythm disrupting clinching match (a tactic Mayweather thrives on).
So what can McGregor do to win? Be patient. In the MMA game, he is a master at staying in range. This shouldn’t be hard to switch to boxing, as long as he knows what danger this leaves him in. If McGregor tries to open up Floyd with a jab, he will be eating counter rights every time. Instead, he has to remain patient and not throw first. Connor needs to attempt to pull the trigger at the same-time as Floyd; punch with him. This will mean eating Mayweather’s jab regularly but by doing this, he can hope to time a power shot at the same time as Floyd deploys his right-hand or body shots, to land a power punch that could hurt Mayweather. McGregor also has a vicious streak that tells us if Mayweather does somehow get hurt, the Irishman will be all over him looking for the finish.
Possible spoiling factors? To ask someone to be more patient than Mayweather is to ask them to best one of his main traits. With the crowd baying and after eating a jab or four, McGregor may just start chasing the fight, which is when he will leave himself open to any of the aforementioned outcomes.
Overall, McGregor comes out of this as big a star as Mayweather, and it is that which is his true victory. Mayweather has set himself up for the biggest and (on paper) easiest pay-day a boxer has ever had, meaning his most treasured mantle as boxing’s best money-maker is also already cemented.
Nevertheless, whilst both remain winners in this sense, somebody has to lose on Saturday night, and seeing either one of these super-egos humbled will be the victory for millions of fans come the end of this unique event.