Punch/ Counter-Punch: Mayweather vs McGregor

When deciding how to construct a proper point/counterpoint article breaking down the upcoming Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor fight, I contemplated an array of options, but ultimately settled on an approach that I find to be direct, efficient, and downright fun. I scanned MMA message boards, and found the five most common arguments that are being made that support McGregor beating Mayweather.

Each of these points will be diagnosed and countered with the intention of dispelling them as nothing but baseless opinion. Let me preface this by saying that I have an enormous amount of respect for Conor McGregor, and the UFC, as I have been a fan of the sport for a long time, but I also value facts over hype.

So, let’s get started…

ARGUMENT #1 – Mayweather is too old

In almost any other case, I would be the first in line to argue that father time is undefeated in the sport of boxing, and it’s virtually impossible to beat the clock. But with every rule, there is an exception.

Floyd has the same attributes that allowed Bernard Hopkins to successfully box well into his late forties: A) he doesn’t gain significant amounts of weight between fights, and stays in shape year-round, B) he hasn’t been in any wars that required an absorption of large amounts of physical damage, and C) he’s technically sound, and is arguably one of the greatest defensive fighters of all-time, which allows him the luxury of not relying purely on reflexes and athleticism to succeed in the ring (for an example of when a lack of fundamentals are brutally exposed when reflexes and athleticism erode, see Roy Jones Jr.).

The 11-year age advantage may look significant on paper, but it truly won’t make a difference in the ring. Floyd has always been able to make fighters box at his pace, and Conor will be no different.

ARGUMENT #2– Conor hits hard, and will go for the knockout

To this point, I would cordially like to invite Mr. McGregor to join the club; the club of “fighters who hit hard and tried to KO Floyd”. This club includes: Shane Mosley, Zab Judah, Andre Berto, Diego Corrales, Victor Ortiz, Marcos Maidana, and Ricky Hatton (I purposefully chose to not include Pacquaio, because let’s be honest, he wasn’t trying to KO Floyd nor did he come close). It should be noted that I would pick any of those fighters, at any points in their careers, to beat Conor McGregor in a boxing match.

While I can’t in any way deny that Conor clearly has superb punching power in the Octagon, it’s meaningless if it doesn’t land, and land clean. Forty-seven have tried, forty-seven have failed, and a large number of them are going to the Hall of Fame in Canastota. I’ve watched compilation videos on YouTube showing Floyd getting buzzed by Judah, Mosley and DeMarcus Corley. Do you know what those three fighters have in common? They’ve all lost to Mayweather.

Let’s also keep in mind that the window for Conor to land a significant shot is relatively small. It takes more energy to punch, and miss than to land. I expect Conor to set an early pace that he will not be able to maintain. The five minute/five round duration of a UFC title fight starkly contrasts from the three minute/twelve round duration of a championship boxing match. Conor may start the bout at a high level of intensity, but that unsustainable pace will cause him to tire early. Once the fatigue sets in (which I expect to occur around round three), Conor’s
window of opportunity closes.

Side Note: Floyd has a provably solid chin, there is no counter argument. The guy can flat out take a punch. The few times he has been hurt, he recovered immediately.

ARGUMENT #3– Floyd has never seen anything like Conor

This one is my personal favorite. Floyd had ninety-two amateur fights, forty-nine professional fights and countless rounds of sparring. What would possess someone to believe that just because Conor is coming from MMA that he is going to bring something to the table that Floyd is unfamiliar with? Two immediate examples of awkward fighters that Floyd has faced that come to mind are Emanuel Augustus (nicknamed “The Drunken Master” for his highly unorthodox fighting style), and Marcos Maidana (whom Floyd fought twice). Both fighters are known for throwing punches from odd angles, and utilizing attacks that go against the traditional techniques in boxing. These two highly trained professional boxers with unusual and unorthodox styles are 0-3 against Mayweather.

Mayweather can also be credited as having one of highest ring I.Q.’s ever. Once he sees something thrown at him, he immediately makes the adjustment, and it’s highly unlikely that it will work again (i.e. Oscar’s jab and Shane’s right hand). With that in mind, McGregor has the burden of ensuring that the first shot he lands (particularly his left), is enough to knock Mayweather out. Anything short of a knockout with that first big landed punch, and Mayweather now has data on how to avoid it or counter it, significantly reducing the chances of it landing again. In short, he has absolutely seen something like McGregor before.

ARGUMENT #4– Conor is too big, and strong

Conor is definitely bigger, but in this fight size won’t really matter. Aside from the two fights against Nate Diaz (where he was clearly not a legitimate welterweight), McGregor has spent most of his career at Featherweight (145 pounds) and Lightweight (155 pounds). Mayweather has fought the past ten years at Welterweight (147 pounds) and Junior Welterweight (154 pounds). Conor stands 5-foot-9 with a 74-inch reach, Floyd is 5-foot-8 with a 72-inch reach (which is not only a negligible difference, but neutralized by Floyd’s considerable speed advantage).

Canelo Alvarez, Oscar de la Hoya and Diego Corrales enjoyed considerable size advantages against him. Do you know what those three fighters have in common? Losses to Floyd Mayweather (are you seeing a pattern here?).

If Conor is not successfully landing punches, and he obviously can’t grapple or wrestle, his size and strength advantages are nullified. Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see. All the muscles in the world can’t help you if your opponent is boxing circles around you.

ARGUMENT #5– Anything can happen

Except when it can’t. I could also win the lottery tomorrow, but I’m not going to quit law school just yet. At a certain, distinguishable point, the talent discrepancy becomes so wide that blind luck and miracles become so statistically improbable they are no longer worth discussing. Sure, crazy things have happened in boxing in the past. Buster Douglas defied 42-1 odds to knock out Mike Tyson, but we all later learned that Tyson was nowhere near the invincible fighter we once thought he was, and he was also woefully unprepared for the fight. McGregor’s own (former) sparring partner Chris van Heerden said he doesn’t stand a chance. Comparatively, Sachin Tendulkar is considered one of the greatest batsman in the history of cricket. But if I had to bet on how he would fair against Kershaw under MLB rules, my money is confidently on Kershaw.

Listen. McGregor is going to lose. But you should still watch this fight.

It’s a fun event that will be entertaining, however long it lasts. As long as the fight is viewed through the lens of being the spectacle that it is as opposed to being viewed as a legitimate boxing match, then everyone wins. Conor will pay more in taxes from this fight than his entire UFC earnings combined, and I’m never mad at a guy for getting paid. I’m picking Floyd by TKO (referee stoppage) in rounds 5-7.

But hey…what do I know? Everyone gets lucky sometimes.

Follow Ray Vipond on Twitter @akaOliverTwist