By Michael James
The Tribe Sports
By now, almost everybody has weighed in on the outcome of the so-called “Biggest Fight Of All Time.”
Everyone is in one of two camps: those who think Conor McGregor will be totally outclassed in what is essentially his boxing debut, and those who think McGregor has a puncher’s chance to knock out Floyd Mayweather, the self-proclaimed greatest boxer of all time.
But there is a third camp, one that believes this is neither exclusively Mixed Martial Arts or the Sweet Science of Boxing. This camp is of the mind that anything can happen.
Having watched professional and amateur sports all of my life, and having covered both for a majority of my adult life, I fall in the third camp. This camp has witnessed The Miracle on Ice, The Rumble In The Jungle, Buster Douglas’ shot heard ’round that world that took the iron out of Mike Tyson, teams rally from 3-1 deficits to win hockey, basketball and baseball championships and numerous other predicted sure-thing sporting outcomes that turned out to be anything but.
Now, I would not ask you to bet the rent money on Conor McGregor emerging victorious against definitely one of the best boxers of all time – and certainly the greatest defensive tactician the ring has ever seen – but I find it completely asinine to believe that Conor McGregor has absolutely “no chance” to even touch Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring.
Against lesser athletes, those who have not proven to be students of the pugilistic arts, as is Conor McGregor, I would fully expect Money Mayweather to pick them apart like a lamb being led to slaughter. The problem for Mayweather, I expect, is that for all that he has seen from some of the greatest boxers of his era, this event won’t be as much about boxing as it will be about fighting.
And Conor McGregor is nothing if not a street fighter.
Most defenders and supporters of Mayweather point to his successful exploits against those who played by the same rules as he, using alternate versions of the same techniques that Floyd Mayweather honed and learned to conquer since he began boxing as a child.
The problem I believe Mayweather will have to overcome is the very same one his supporters predict will lead to an easy night: Conor McGregor is not a boxer.
Conor McGregor is a totally different animal than anyone else Floyd Mayweather has ever faced.
This is not to say that Conor McGregor is better than Sugar Shane Moseley, Oscar De La Hoya, a past-his-prime Manny Pacquaio, Jose Luis Castillo, Marcos Maidana, Miguel Cotto, Jesus Chaves, Carlos Hernandez, Zab Judah, DeMarcus Corley or Emanuel Augustus, men who have given Mayweather the ten toughest tests of his 49 career professional fights.
All of the previously mentioned opponents were very tough men, but not one of them brought the unpredictable ferocity that Conor McGregor brings into, not just a ring, but even any room he walks into. You just don’t know what he’s going to do. I get the sense that Floyd doesn’t, either.
Again, I’m not making an argument that Conor McGregor is going to lose his mind and suddenly start throwing kicks and elbows. The argument I’m making is that some of what McGregor does in an Octagon actually does translate to the boxing ring. Let’s list a few examples:
1. The same way the Octagon is a confined area, so is the ring. If McGregor can stalk an opponent and cut off an Octagon, he can certainly do the same thing in a boxing ring.
2. Clinching is allowed in boxing – until the referee breaks it up – and this is something that McGregor excels at. You can rest assured that the clinches Mayweather feels against McGregor will be unlike any he’s ever experienced in a boxing ring. Don’t underestimate the energy that can be sapped from an opponent by squeezing the crap out of him every chance you get. Look for McGregor to do this.
3. Hitting on the break is illegal, but it happens. If you go back and watch Mayweather fights, there are quite a few where he’s gotten enraged by getting hit on the break. Now, he did win all of those fights, but that act of getting hit after the ref instructs the fighters to cleanly break, clearly rankles Mayweather. Expect McGregor to hit on the break as often as he can before a point gets deducted.
In addition to these three similarities between the sports of boxing and MMA, McGregor can also employ the technique of targeting Floyd Mayweather’s Peek-A-Boo shoulder instead of head-hunting. Because Mayweather is renowned for hiding behind his shoulder, that’s exactly what Conor McGregor should blanket with shots – right on the ball of that shoulder. Several rounds in, Floyd will have to move that shoulder, opening up his defenses.
More than anything, the unorthodox qualities of Conor McGregor – a bigger, stronger man with longer reach, a powerful left hand and absolutely zero fear of his opponent – is cause for trepidation to Floyd Mayweather, whose entire legacy is at stake in what is essentially a sideshow, circus-act fight.
I am willing to bet that Floyd Mayweather feels that trepidation as much as he ever has before stepping into a ring.
Again, I wouldn’t bet the rent money on Floyd Mayweather to lose to Conor McGregor, but I definitely believe it can happen and that no matter the outcome, everyone will be talking about the shots that Floyd did take from the insane Irishman. I would also be willing to bet (a small sum) that what happens against McGregor will contribute to Floyd Mayweather making a solemn vow never to return to the boxing ring.
Not all money is good money – sometimes, not even when it’s a hundred million dollars. Floyd Mayweather allowed himself to get talked into a fight that he never should have taken, for the love of money.
Even though the match will take place on Floyd’s home turf, so to speak, it’s against an opponent he has absolutely no business fighting.
It’s against opponent the likes of which he has never seen. An opponent that Floyd Mayweather cannot be sure he has adequately prepared for – because he doesn’t quite know what Conor McGregor will do.
The Biggest Fight of All Time? I don’t know about that. What I am certain of, however, is that it won’t quite be boxing and it definitely won’t be MMA. It will be a fight. And when it’s over, Floyd Mayweather, win or lose, will have felt some pain.
Michael James has spent more than 20 years in sports journalism as a general assignment reporter with the Detroit News, an NBA beat writer for the New York Daily News and as head writer for ESPN’s Quite Frankly With Stephen A. Smith.