“He’s better than I thought” Those were words spoken by Floyd Mayweather after his mega fight with Conor McGregor, but it might as well have been spoken by anyone that watched it. While highly anticipated, no one really knew what to expect and most assumed that this was done as just another money grab by Mayweather and his team. After all, McGregor had fought as many boxing matches as me heading into this fight. Moreover, this fight felt hastily put together, set to occur only a couple of months after its surprise and stunning announcement in late June. Despite all of this, Mayweather-McGregor gave us all the highlights and excitement that Mayweather-Pacquiao failed to do.
It was only a little over 2 years ago that Pacquiao fought Mayweather in what was then billed as the “Fight of the Century” Boy, was that a spectacular over-statement! After generating Pay-Per-View and ticket sales records, the only thing that the fight delivered was an endless stream of memes following the fight. It was became known as a disgraceful fight, one that many spoke about as the beginning of the end of boxing. Mayweather prevailed in a unanimous decision, but it felt like we all lost after that fight. When Pacquiao revealed after the fight that he’d injured his shoulder in training, boxing fans and commentators were furious given the profit that the fight generated for the superstar boxers and their promotion teams. Mayweather would go on to fight Andre Berto in September of 2015 and after easily handling Berto in another boring fight, Mayweather then called it a career with a 49-0 boxing record, matching Rocky Marciano’s record at the time of his retirement.
Even with all those facts, the atmosphere at the start of this fight was electric and the anticipation could be felt throughout the arena. Not even the PPV issues that delayed the start of the fight could bring down the hype as the boxers made their way to the ring. A decidedly pro-McGregor crowd brought an even greater level of energy and made you believe that Conor really had a shot, despite all that was said leading up to the fight. Conor seemed to feed off that energy in the first couple of rounds, generating palpable buzz about the prospects of him actually being able to pull this thing off. Conor looked loose, he looked locked in, and even displayed some of the cockiness that has made him of the biggest personalities in UFC. He taunted Mayweather at the start, putting his hands behind his back daring Floyd to attack. Throughout the first couple of rounds, Floyd displayed his typical defensive style, just trying to survive the onslaught at the start. McGregor looked strong, like he belonged, and that Mayweather was in for a tougher fight than expected.
The McGregor onslaught continued into the start of round 3 as he continued to mix in jabs and uppercuts that connected unlike anything that we’d seen on Mayweather in his last few bouts. After sitting back in typical Floyd fashion in the first couple of rounds, Mayweather changed his approach. Known as the greatest defensive boxer of all time, Floyd unexpectedly went on the offensive against McGregor. As if he remembered that Conor had never boxed before in his life, Mayweather began to deliver shot after shot to a stunted McGregor. Even more unlikely, Mayweather began to come forward, taking the fight to McGregor, more so than he had done in recent years. After being out-punched in the first few rounds, Mayweather became the aggressor and started landing more and more blows. The middle rounds of the fight brought even more Mayweather aggression as he continued to land blow after blow to the body and head of McGregor. After an early flurry, McGregor looked gas and was quickly fading.
An underrated storyline of this fight was the fact that McGregor had never before been involved in a fight longer than 25 minutes. Many of Conor’s fights ended within the first couple of rounds, one of them just 14 seconds into a fight. Even those that gave McGregor a chance because of his background in MMA were worried about his endurance should the fight go more than just a few rounds. The fatigue and exhaustion manifested itself as the fight got deeper and deeper; that’s when Mayweather began to assert his dominance. Starting in the 6th round, Floyd moved forward on Conor and began to methodically take him apart. It looked like it was only a matter of time before Mayweather finished him off. Staggered in the 9th round by Mayweather’s continuous assault, Conor was a sitting duck at the start of the 10th. Though he came out punching at the start of the 10th, McGregor finally wore down and Mayweather put together a combination that completely threw Conor off-balance and forced the referee to stop the fight. Mayweather had his victory, his place in history, and some redemption from his last couple of underwhelming fights.
While it would be too premature to say that boxing is back, this fight went along way to reconciling some of the bad feelings that boxing fans had developed towards the sport in recent years. The excitement this fight delivered will go a long way towards revitalizing the sport. With another highly anticipated bout between Canelo Alvarez and GGG in only a couple of weeks, the sport will once again be thrust to the forefront of the sports world. For McGregor, this was a display of his resolve and his determination and put him in a huge spotlight with those not familiar with his work in the UFC. Despite the loss, this was a huge win for both McGregor and the UFC.
In spite of all the odds, the biggest winner was Mayweather. The fight that McGregor brought to the boxing ring quieted the talk about this fight being merely a money grab. With a win in a thrilling and intense 10 rounds, Mayweather showed his adaptability and malleability as a boxer even this late in his career. He won not by being defensive but by being on the attack, a nice change of pace from previous fights. While you won’t convince boxing purists that Mayweather’s record-breaking win should count towards his boxing record, the way McGregor battled made this feel more like a boxing match and less like a joke in their minds. Backed by this record-breaking win, Mayweather (as he announced in post-fight interviews) can finally retire as the greatest winner in boxing history.