Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor gave fans an unexpectedly fun night Saturday on Showtime Pay-Per-View, as an aging Mayweather struggled at times against a funky McGregor before wearing him down and forcing the referee to stop it in the 10th.
Mayweather, the best boxer of his generation, insisted afterward that however bad he looked against a mixed marital artist making his pro boxing debut, it was by design. And credit to his corner; Mayweather’s dad said right after the 1st round that his son would have him ready by the 4th. The plan was to wear him down beyond the 25 minutes that is the longest time a UFC bout lasts.
And sure enough, for three rounds, McGregor was in control. But it didn’t look all like that part was by design. Mayweather took counter shots he usually wouldn’t take. He couldn’t find the range or get off against his taller opponent, who was using the Wladimir Klitschko style fake-jab where his hand is extended to allow him to swat away shots. Mayweather couldn’t seem to create openings all night that he often would have just a couple years ago, and his balance wasn’t as good as it once was. McGregor mauled and threw illegal hammer punches, at times exploiting Mayweather’s bewildering tendency to turn around completely. And McGregor was throwing punches from unconventional angles that Mayweather wasn’t accustomed to.
But Mayweather turned stalker in the 4th, and it worked. Mayweather had promised he would do this, remorseful that fans didn’t enjoy his showdown against Manny Pacquiao. But it also was the right move against this particular opponent. McGregor didn’t seem to know how to box on the inside. And by the middle rounds his punches were losing steam. Meanwhile, Mayweather was hitting him with punches better than any he would’ve encountered in the octagon.
It was pretty much all Mayweather from there, although McGregor rallied impressively in the 8th. The 9th took a turn. Mayweather blasted him so convincingly this writer scored it a 10-8 round. Between the 9th and 10th, McGregor’s corner asked him to hold. The 10th came and he couldn’t. Suddenly Mayweather couldn’t miss McGregor with his trademark right, and after a series of them left McGregor wobbling for a good minute or so, referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight, appropriately.
The pundits (uh, like, this guy) were wrong that this would be a one-sided farce. They were right (this guy gets redeemed!) that McGregor wouldn’t win. A friend offered this quote beforehand, attributed to Mark Twain like pretty much every quote ever, as the reason McGregor might pull it off:
“The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.“
That dynamic came into play, but in the end the best swordsman — or, at least, the best swordsman of his time — won. The 50-0 feat, where Mayweather will end his career, is less cheapened as a result. And we’re all better for it that the ignorant antagonist did a shocking amount of catching the expert out.
(LAS VEGAS — Referee Robert Byrd raises the hand of Floyd Mayweather Jr. after his TKO of Conor McGregor in their junior middleweight boxing match T-Mobile Arena; Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)