There are plenty of reasons to write about the Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor bout, but the main reason is that I’m annoyed at how binary the fight predictions have turned out to be. Mainstream sports media outlets seem to be riding the McGregor train, with their vague hot takes focusing on how he’s in his prime and will inevitably win by knockout. More technical pundits point out that Mayweather is undefeated and the greatest defensive boxer of our generation, confused as to why we’re even having this conversation. There seems to be no middle ground.
While Floyd is the favorite, Conor shouldn’t be counted out and that’s coming from someone who hates him.
An unexplainable talent
All fans recognize Floyd’s greatness, but few seem to be able to explain it. The undefeated record, as well as the men on it, is impressive, but the mechanics of Mayweather as a boxer seem to be a mystery. I won’t go into the finer details here for two reasons:
- It would take several pages
- Floyd is such a well-studied fighter that I’d end up embarrassing myself. Just look it up, there’s some great analysis out there.
But the short version is this: Floyd has immaculate spacing, reflexes and clinch work.
He’s a master at feeling out his opponent’s punches and understanding exactly how far they can reach, subsequently abusing that distance throughout the fight. From there his reflexes let him lean away from or block a punch, at which point he can counter. Floyd is also one of those rare boxers who can fight in the clinch without being a true infighter; he can sneak small punches through his opponent’s guard when they’re least expecting it from a near upright position. He also understands how to properly tie up his opponent in a defensive clinch, a highly underrated skill. Sometimes he’ll only threaten a clinch and use the opponent’s hesitation to get out of the corner.
Denying the clinch
The removal of Kenny Bayless as the referee was a clear message from the McGregor camp: we want as little clinching as possible.
Conor is no clinch fighter, and it is the most physically taxing aspect of striking. Conor’s Sunday Punch is his left cross but only if he has the space to throw it. And if he does manage to land it, he needs room to follow up if he has any hope of winning. Limiting the duration and number of clinches will keep Floyd from tying up on one of Conor’s few clean connections. The McGregor camp is clearly hoping to avoid what happened in Floyd’s fight with Manny Pacquiao.
It’s not outlandish to believe Conor can land one good fight changing punch. He’s a southpaw facing an orthodox who specializes in counter right hands with a left cross and a reach advantage. Plus, Conor doesn’t really jab, meaning he can use his right hand to jam Floyd’s jab. Shane Mosley rocked Floyd with a couple of simple set-ups in an otherwise one sided fight. He first landed quick, light punches to Floyd’s body until the latter couldn’t reflexively react to a ramrod right cross. Then he threw a looping right over Floyd’s left hook that rattled the latter man hard enough that he needed to clinch to clear his head. Is either of those counters out of the realm of possibility for a fighter as talented as Conor?
If Conor can catch Floyd even once, the odds slide uncomfortably close.
Clinching will be closely monitored and shoulder rolling as an orthodox fighter against a southpaw is harder. Floyd can still block the punches, but a hard hitter like Conor can do damage through the guard with 8 oz. gloves. He can still slip the punches, but head movement is way harder when you’re woozy. He can still run, but it’s easier to be cut off in a boxing ring than an octagon.
Mayweather is still the favorite. The fact is that this guy has made some of the greatest fighters in recent history look like amateurs with few exceptions, and that was well into the later stages of his career. It’s quite possible he’ll win every round of the fight and make Conor look foolish. Or maybe, just maybe, Conor will land a couple of good punches and Floyd will be left in a hole without enough tools to dig himself out.
Does it really seem so absurd anymore?
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