Returning to professional boxing for his 50th contest and boasting an unblemished record, it’s easy to explain why you might favour Floyd Mayweather Jr. against pro debutant Conor McGregor. And that’s quite simply because, well, it’s Floyd’s 50th pro fight… against… a… boxing… debutant….
Even McGregor, who believes with the zealous fervour of a Kamikaze that he’ll hand the American his first professional loss, admitted as much in an excellent sit-down interview with SHOWTIME Sport’s Jim Gray.
“It’s the biggest upset in the universe based on public perception,” McGregor said. “But from me and my team, it’s an easy contest.”
All things considered, it’s an easy pick.
And yet, this week on the Obviously Fight Talk show, we took on the not particularly easy task of analysing how the Irishman might get the job done. But make no mistake: we’re not saying it’s a difficult task because the UFC lightweight champion has zero chance. No – McGregor is a special athlete, but logic dictates that the actual boxer wins.
However, it’s important to avoid treating this contest as a black and white scenario.
This isn’t something that stands up to singular analysis. You likely believe Mayweather wins because he’s one of the best boxers ever – but you’d be doing yourself a disservice to totally ignore the other dog in this race.
It’s a monumental task for McGregor. There’s no doubt about that, but if he’s to cause “the biggest upset in the universe”, this is how we think he does it.
You were expecting this one, right?
That’s because it’s the most obvious key to McGregor’s success and, luckily, the Notorious is as rapid out of the blocks as Usain Bolt. It’s one of his best attributes, and we’ve seen it countless times. In mixed martial arts, his ability to go from 0 to 100 from the beginning is perhaps unmatched.
We saw this best against then-featherweight champion Jose Aldo, against whom McGregor pushed forward immediately.
The opening bell had barely stopped ringing in our ears by the time McGregor landed the left hook that dethroned the Brazilian.
But why is this important against someone like Floyd Mayweather? Because, in the Marquess of Queensberry rules, Mayweather is a master, or perhaps the master, at identifying his opponent’s traits and habits and adapting his approach based on those reads later in the contest.
It’s also important for McGregor to get Mayweather’s respect early.
Be Unorthodox & Unpredictable
Mayweather, historically, doesn’t study his opponent before the fight. While we’re sure his coaches do that in his place, and steer his game-plan accordingly, his apparent lack of due diligence makes his in-fight reads all the more impressive. That’s why McGregor needs to be unorthodox and unpredictable. It’s always been awkwardness that causes Mayweather problems: Marcos Maidana pushed Money all the way by doing exactly that.
Look for McGregor to play with different stances – like a bladed, karate-like, stance. Watch for his range of attack, too.
In mixed martial arts, fighters are accustomed to fighting at ranges you wouldn’t see in boxing. That’s why MMA boxing looks a lot different.
While you only have hands to strike in boxing, which gives you only a limited amount of attacks, you can set things up in interesting and different ways. That will be key for McGregor. Can he use unique set-ups with his strikes, and with enough frequency and variety to ensure Mayweather doesn’t make those reads early?
Time will tell.
Don’t Take Part in a Boxing Match
This probably sounds like a strange point, but hear us out.
If McGregor comes out and tries to outbox Mayweather, that probably won’t work. Even though McGregor boxes well for an MMA fighter, it’s difficult to believe he has reached Mayweather-like levels in that singular art.
Should the unthinkable occur, the fight probably won’t have looked like any boxing bouts you’ve seen before.
And that’s not a bad thing: with the risk of taking flak from boxing purists, look at Roy Jones Jr. Early in Jones’ career he would take criticism for moving in the ‘wrong’ way, or not boxing in the ‘correct’ way. This was only up until it worked.
If McGregor wins, we don’t think it will look exactly how the ‘sweet science’ believes it should look.
The analysis from this article is based on points made by Brendan Dorman, Robert Pallin & Noel O’Keeffe on this week’s episode of Obviously Fight Talk.