By Charles Jay
This reporter had to take a look around his Facebook news feed today (Sunday) before writing this piece. I don’t know what yours says, but here it’s telling me that, for the most part, those people who felt the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight was a complete and total joke are continuing along that theme, as if the MMA guy just came in and fell down. Most of us saw something a little different.
I would readily admit that this fight did not go the way I expected it to. And I give McGregor a lot of credit for putting forth a good, honest effort. In the “Final Analysis” that was published here on Sunday morning, I did not count on McGregor’s jab being any factor in the fight, and expected Mayweather to move – principally to his left – the the extent that he would make McGregor swing and miss constantly.
Well, I was wrong. The jab WAS something that he used, at the very least in the way of keeping distance, and Floyd hardly moved AT ALL. That last part is critical to remember, because that is what at once made this look like a piece of drama and was also the major contributor to Floyd’s victory.
Because while the fight may not have gone the way it was foreseen by ME, it was the fight that was foreseen by Mayweather. And obviously that is what counted. At the post-fight press conference, he explained that he was willing to stand there and let Conor unload for a few rounds, waiting for him to slow down considerably, and then walk his man down while landing clean shots. McGregor said something that was rather informative, which is that while he got himself, in his own mind, prepared for Mayweather in many forms, he was not ready for the version of Floyd that was going to simply keep coming forward. And it definitely threw him off.
But it was the right strategy, when you looked at these two as they appeared together in the ring. McGregor was much bigger, quite possibly in the neighborhood of 170 pounds, and he had an unusual reach. And the last thing Mayweather wanted to do was be on the end of a left hand. So he came forward and closed the distance, dealing with the angles he was getting from McGregor, and reducing the room Conor had with which to punch. And at some point he came to the conclusion that McGregor wasn’t really going to hurt him with anything, which was also correct, because most of the punches that were coming lost steam around the fourth or fifth round.
And even though Mayweather was, to some, curiously inactive in the first two or three rounds, you could tell by what his father was saying to him – as early as the corner break before Round 2, that the plan was to feel the opponent out and start taking control around the fourth round, which he did.
Mayweather has always been known as someone with patience (“composure” was a word McGregor used time and again after the fight), with the ability to come on strong while his opponent might be fading. And that played almost perfectly here. The counter-punches worked, and as one of the announcers (I think it was Al Bernstein) was saying, McGregor was running out of answers. He was game, but as Mayweather planned it, he had thrown himself out, to the point where he was playing “pitty-pat” a great deal of the time. He only rarely unloaded with punches that had any kind of authority after the third round, although to his credit, he was able to improvise for a few more rounds and land scoring blows, even if they weren’t deterring Floyd.
It is believable that McGregor was done in partially by fatigue, but of course stamina (are “cardio,” as it were) is a big factor in being able to endure what goes on in a professional boxing ring. And Mayweather has been landing cleaner and cleaner punches, which leaves me wondering how anybody could have complained about the fight being stopped too early. That thing was OVER, and there were only going to be more wide-open shots for this noted precision puncher to land.
There was no doubt in my mind that Mayweather had a sufficient amount of respect for this opponent coming in. He may have taken a different tactical approach than usual, but in the macroscopic sense, he laid out a fight plan and showed the discipline to stick to it and gradually dissect the opponent, no different than he has done many times before. Sure, McGregor unofficially landed 111 “power” shots, and while that is credible, it was, let’s face it, also a by-product of the plan Mayweather used.
Sure, Mayweather took McGregor to school, but I have a feeling McGregor was absorbing some of those lessons pretty well as he went along. He’ll be a better MMA fighter because of it, and he earned respect from THIS corner.
Does McGregor have a future in boxing? This was asked of him, as well as Dana White. There are a lot of things said at press conferences, particularly right after an event is over, and many of them should be taken with a grain of salt. In other words, all plans are “soft.” That counts for Mayweather’s latest “retirement” declaration as well. Everyone is retired – until their next fight, right? You never know.
McGregor says he would be open to any and all opportunities, although his intention is to go back and concentrate on his UFC career. He’s worth a lot more now over there than he was before. Dana said that he would rather McGregor didn’t box any more. The feeling here is that he would like to see how much this event could spike his UFC pay-per-view sales, and then kind of play it by ear. But there is no doubt that the UFC folks aren’t in a bad position to put their feet forward in boxing a little more – they have the PPV infrastructure, the contacts around the globe (through the IMG connection), a lot of social media strength and a demographic boxing has had difficulty penetrating. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see McGregor back in a boxing ring, although I doubt he’d have the patience to go through the process the right way. Again, you never know.
Although I suppose the live attendance at the T-Mobile Arena (the figure of 14,623 was thrown about) was somewhat disappointing, bringing questions about overpricing of tickets that Leonard Ellerbee (Mayweather Promotions CEO) kind of ducked, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if this fight shattered the pay-per-view records set by Mayweather-Pacquiao, or came close to it.
And to me, that’s a real statement about how far the UFC has come in about the last fifteen years, which might be the untold story here. For a while, even after they were taken over by the Fertittas and White, they were struggling for acceptance from the individual state commissions, scorned by much of the mainstream media and misunderstood by the political culture. I can recall having long conversations with Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana back then, and they were hoping and praying that some of the writers connected with boxing would at least give them some attention.
They have everyone’s attention now. Their guy did more than carry his share of the load in this promotion, and in many ways propelled it. Hell, he created the whole thing in the first place. And he didn’t do anything to embarrass himself either.
Just think about it for a minute – at the time Floyd Mayweather had made five defenses of his first world title, the UFC was practically in outlaw territory, on the verge of extinction. And on Saturday night one of their own was sharing center stage with him in an event that, whether you agree with its validiity or not, brought in more PPV revenue than anything before it, and captivated a large portion of the general public. Even my aunts and uncles, who had never watched a fight before in their lives, were asking me what I thought about it.
That’s when you KNOW something has gone beyond just penetrating the mainstream.
Oh yes, these guys have undoubtedly arrived.