The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor

In case you’ve been living on Mars (or just without a functioning internet connection) the biggest fight in Pay Per View history is going to take place this Saturday night 26th August. Floyd “Money” Mayweather, whom many consider the greatest boxer of all time, puts his undefeated record on the line against the precociously talented UFC star Conor McGregor. These two men, alongside Ronda Rousey, are the biggest stars in combat sports today.

Floyd Mayweather Junior grew up in Grand Rapids Michigan and was destined to be an amazing talent. His father Floyd Senior fought for a world title and his uncle Roger, who would also train Junior, was a two-time world champion. After losing a controversial decision at the Olympics in 1996 and registering a bronze medal, Mayweather would turn professional, stunning observers with his speed and elusiveness. He would become the consensus’ best defensive boxer ever, and amass titles in multiple weight classes spanning over 30 pounds. He is truly one of the best of all time, and an extremely polarising figure.

Floyd Mayweather Highlights

“The Notorious” Conor McGregor is also a lightning rod for controversy. His brash and at times arrogant air alongside his now famous trash talking have been pivotal to his popularity and quick ascension to become the UFC lightweight champion and the first athlete to hold two belts simultaneously in the organisation. But McGregor is more than just a mouth, having KO victories over future MMA hall of famers Eddie Alvarez and Jose Aldo, he’s created a reputation as a knockout artist par excellence.

Given the popularity of the two men and the pay per view numbers they draw, it now seems obvious that they should fight; there is simply too much money on offer for all parties. But what makes the fight exciting are the many sub plots providing a background for the biggest televised fight sports event in history.

So, how did we get here?

“If it makes money, it makes sense” or so the saying goes. And if there is one thing both Mayweather and McGregor are known for, it’s making money in the fight game. So when the two began exchanging barbs through social media and interviews, it created more than a minor stir in the fight world: it allowed fans to wildly speculate.

It was obvious that the fight was on both men’s minds and McGregor eluded to Mayweather when lamenting the lack of competition in the UFC: “I’m looking around…I might have to jump up and f***ing drag Floyd Mayweather out of bed…” Whilst a seemingly flippant comment, the rumours only intensified after McGregor’s demolition of Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and subsequent extended break from fighting to care for his first child.

On March 10th, 2017, Mayweather confirmed that he most definitely wanted to fight McGregor: “I am coming out of retirement just to fight Conor McGregor.” This sent both the MMA and boxing fandom into overdrive, speculating about everything from the venue and date to glove size and rule set.

UFC president Dana White added fuel to the fire, saying that “there is so much money involved, I don’t see how it doesn’t happen.” This would prove prophetic, and on June 14th, 2017, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor agreed to face each other in the biggest fight in modern boxing history.

The Hurdles

Despite the clear monetary motivations, there were numerous hurdles preventing the fight from going ahead, the chief among them being the financial split between the two fighters. Both believe they are the so-called “A-side” or main draw. Complicating matters was the UFC’s role as McGregor’s contracted promoter. They and their president Dana White would prove to be pivotal in the eventual organisation of the bout agreement, and the fact that they would let their most marketable and successful star fight Mayweather is indicative of the relative financial windfall the UFC stand to make.Other ancillary issues also needed to be discussed and agreed to, including weight, ring size, date, the arena, walkout order and media tour strategy. Perhaps the biggest consternation lies around the gloves to be used for the contest.

Conceptually, McGregor should benefit from smaller gloves and popular opinion had Floyd’s decision to fight at 154 pounds a smart one, given that the pair would use larger 10oz gloves for the bout. Floyd apparently also insisted on stipulations including no horse hair or Mexican made gloves (intimating he wished McGregor not to use Reyes gloves which have a reputation for favouring punchers). Since the original agreement, they have now decided to use 8oz gloves regardless.

Interestingly, there were no objections coming from the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding McGregor’s eligibility to fight Mayweather. Although a fight sports athlete, McGregor has never boxed professionally and steps into what seems to be a lopsided mismatch against arguably the greatest boxer of all time. The power of the people had spoken, however and the commission has allowed the bout to go ahead with their blessings.

The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor

The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor

So, what does this fight mean?

It is very easy to dismiss the Mayweather-McGregor spectacle as a cynical cash grab. In fact, perusal of social media reveals a large amount of scepticism amongst both hardcore and casual fans alike. Without doubt the exorbitant amount of money on offer for each fighter is a big, if not the biggest factor in the creation of the bout. However, there is certainly more on offer than a glorified circus fight.

But then again, who doesn’t like a good circus fight? One of the first such cross-over fights included the legendary Muhammad Ali when he faced Japanese wrestling legend, Antonio Inoki in what was the precursor to modern day MMA. Although the fight was controversial and marred by inaction, it drew an estimated audience of 1.4 billion people. It’s obvious that some part of the human psyche craves the strange and outlandish.

We have seen that the insults exchanged between the two men have bordered on embarrassing, however the press conferences world tour proved to be profoundly interesting and exciting, if at times rather crass. Seeing the two combatants interact for the first time was entertaining and any Conor McGregor media performance always provides some trash talk sound bites worthy of any professional wrestling ring.

Floyd Mayweather Training for McGregor Fight

Perhaps the most intriguing element to the fight is that one of the two men will have to lose. For Floyd, this is an unthinkable result as he seeks to break Rocky Marciano’s famous 49-0 record. Further, the embarrassment of losing to a relative boxing novice would tarnish Mayweather’s legacy forever. For McGregor, the stakes are not as high. However, the inevitable backlash from fans should he be easily outpointed by Mayweather could also serve to hurt his brand and feed the vast anti-McGregor element of the MMA fans.

The Fight

The matchup itself is infinitely interesting stylistically and there are several important issues to address when breaking down a fight of such contrasting skill sets.

The differences are obvious, but how they will affect the actual fight are open to opinion.  Stating the obvious, this is a boxing match, so McGregor’s grappling and kicking skills will be rendered useless. In fact, rumours suggest that McGregor will lose a large amount of his purse should he use an MMA technique. Boxing does have a small amount of clinching, and this may be an area that McGregor may be able to exploit.

As mentioned, the two combatants are using 8oz boxing gloves as distinct from MMA’s 4oz fingerless gloves. Most would suggest that this is a big advantage for Mayweather, as it will theoretically reduce McGregor’s knockout power and help Mayweather’s high defensive guard.

The fight will be 12 x 3-minute rounds, as is customary in championship boxing fights. Mayweather has gone the full 36 minutes 19 times. Although McGregor has only gone the MMA championship distance of 5 x 5-minute rounds once, the output of an MMA fighter should generally be higher due to the grappling and kicking, requiring a higher energy output.  The advantage, again, should go to Mayweather given his extensive experience.

Other differences between MMA and boxing include the arena (cage vs ring), footwear, (boots vs bare feet), apparel (boxing trunks vs tights) and the knockdown rule (knockdowns vs ground finishes). All of these could play a part in the strategies of both fighters and any potential finish.

Although some pundits have claimed the two sports are completely different, this is not entirely true. To be an elite MMA professional requires a range of skills, one of which is proficient boxing. And despite the range of different weapons in MMA, McGregor trades mainly on his stand-up fighting, particularly his hands. All of McGregor’s knockouts have come via punches, so he is no stranger to trading upper-limb blows.

This extends past just throwing punches. Head movement, distance control and parrying punches are also similar concepts that can be taken from MMA to boxing. Of note, McGregor also got his start in MMA by training boxing as a child in Ireland, meaning that he is a pugilist at his core.

What can we expect from the fight?

Expectations of the fight are running high and if the pre-fight talk from both fighters is to be believed, it is unlikely that the bout will go the scheduled 12 rounds.

Both combatants have expressed their desire to finish the fight early. It is difficult to see Mayweather finishing the fight, as his last knockout was a controversial stoppage against Victor Ortiz in 2011. McGregor, on the other hand, has genuine knockout power and has finished 18 of his opponents by knockout.
Both men are also considered counter punchers, so it seems unlikely that the pair are going to force wild exchanges from the opening bell. Historically, Mayweather has taken several rounds to gather information about his opponents before timing quick right-hand counters and taking control of the fight. McGregor also follows a more measured approach, so a feeling-out process might see a cagey first 2-4 rounds.

Conor McGregor training for Floyd Mayweather fight

How could McGregor win?

McGregor is the obvious underdog, as he has agreed to compete in a sport in which he has never competed professionally, against arguably the greatest of all time. As yet, no one has been able to crack the Mayweather code. McGregor can expect sharp head movement, quick parrying and lightning fast counter right hands, so the McGregor team will have worked on numerous strategies to counteract Floyd’s well-worn game plan.

There are a couple of competing strategies that McGregor can employ if he wishes to be successful. Firstly, he can look to another fighter who was successful against Mayweather in Marcos ‘Chino’ Maidana. Maidana opted to heap pressure on Mayweather, pushing a hard pace, clinching and throwing looping punches. Whilst Maidana did not win, he was worrying Mayweather and even wobbled him at one point. McGregor is known for his angles and could certainly look to bully Mayweather in this way whilst utilising his strength, size and grappling advantages.

Alternatively, McGregor can opt to back his distance control, reach and head movement and attempt to counter Mayweather. We know that the man nicknamed “Notorious” has an unshakable self-belief and uncanny knockout power, but it is difficult to see him using this strategy to knock Mayweather out. We can count on one hand the amount of times Mayweather has been rocked by a punch, such is his defensive ability.

Conor McGregor Top 5 Knockouts  

The Verdict

Whilst it is difficult to see Conor McGregor besting Floyd Mayweather in a boxing bout, the Irishman carries a genuine puncher’s chance. And in the match billed as the “Fight of the Century” that may be all the UFC lightweight champion needs. However, Mayweather is undefeated for a reason; he has mastered the game of hit-and-not-get-hit.

So, the fight simply comes down to: can Conor catch Floyd? The bookmakers and pundits say no, but we’ll all find out this Saturday 26th August (technically Sunday approx. 4am for the UK) tune in, enjoy and let us know what you thought of the bout below, or on Facebook or Twitter!

Matt Ho is a physiotherapist and martial arts enthusiast, originally drawing inspirations from Jackie Chan’s "Police Story". Himself Asian he spent time in South-East Asia and possesses a deep appreciation for the culture. He trained in Karate briefly as a child and took up boxing six years ago training for fights in late 2015. He's had one amateur bout and several “smoker’” events. Matt now lives and trains in London, where he has also taken up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a goal of competing in MMA in the future. Matt also has a keen interest in the politics, matchmaking and economics behind professional MMA.

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