“In the end,” tweeted the Times’s sports Twitter account, in the aftermath of Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s 10th-round TKO of UFC star Conor McGregor,“McGregor didn’t have enough stamina to beat the world’s best boxer.”
This is true and fair analysis, as far as it goes. McGregor did not have the stamina to beat the world’s best boxer. More pertinently, he also did not have the stamina to beat the exchange-averse, semi-retired 40-year-old mummy who was his actual opponent last night. He also did not have the punching power, punching accuracy, hand-speed, or boxing skill. Just about the only thing he did have was the intent, and that never was going to be enough. He got his ass kicked. It was not ever close.
A frustration unique to Floyd Mayweather is this: For all practical purposes, a flawlessly executed Mayweather fight strategy will be indistinguishable from a shameless work engineered to produce the potential for a rematch; I’m genuinely not sure there’s any real difference between those two things, or even that they are two things and not one thing. Anyway, even if there is a difference, I’m sure Floyd himself could not tell you what it is. Match him against one of those wavy inflatable tube men they set up on the curb outside car dealerships and he will give the inflatable tube man two or three early rounds, wait out the last drops of the wavy inflatable tube man’s stamina and every last wisp of risk, and then land enough straight right hands to claim the fight at some point after the ninth round and probably after the final bell. “The wavy inflatable tube man, he’s a true champion,” Floyd will say. “He showed heart.” The wavy inflatable tube man’s fans will clamor for a rematch. The last 14 years of Floyd’s career have been a work.
Mostly, I think that’s fine. Mayweather is a vile human being, but as a boxer and even more so as a fight promoter, he’s just savvy. The sport is a rotten and irreparably corrupt shit-show; the only bonus you get for Juan Manuel Márquez-ian in-ring machismo and valiance is Parkinson’s disease. Floyd’s not the first boxer to treat his actual fights as procedural formalities useful mostly for how their outcomes further what’s essentially a sales career, but he will retire the richest, many times over. Fine. That’s fine. Couldn’t happen to a worse guy.
But if you’re the sort of person who wanted to call Mayweather a coward after he (avoided the fight for the better part of a decade, and then) bloodlessly outpointed Manny Pacquiao’s husk a little over two years ago, what must you think of him now? Holy moly, Conor McGregor is a fucking stiff. An amateur fighter with the very least willingness to take some actual chances could have knocked him over with a sneeze by the third round. Off the top of my head, he is the single most incompetent puncher I’ve ever seen in a PPV boxing promotion in my whole life, and his punching wasn’t even the worst of it.
His head was cracking me up. An actual boxer, a boxer with the bare minimum of boxing skill—or, hell, even a guy with enough experience in street fights to know what’s at stake in one—starts out the fight with lots of head movement. Side-to-side, in and out, whether coming forward or standing his ground or retreating, his head is moving. So that, you know, his opponent will not so easily be able to find it with punches. You can tell when an actual boxer begins to tire, because one of the first things that happens is that his head stops moving around quite so much. At that point his opponent’s job gets a lot easier; he might still have to figure out timing, but he knows where the target will be. It’s that big ol’ moon sitting right up there, waiting to get punched, and it is not going anywhere.
Conor McGregor skipped to that part at the opening bell. His head never moved. It was uncanny and hilarious, as jarringly out of place in a main-event boxing match as high-heel shoes would be in an NBA game. For 10 rounds he kept coming forward pretty much exactly like this:
In combination with Floyd’s never-more-maniacal risk aversion, he kept his hands busy enough to prevent his big stationary moon head from getting him killed for a few rounds. But by the fourth round, Mayweather had figured out the other thing, which is that in eight-ounce gloves, as opposed to the teeny little six-ounce jobs they wear in MMA, Conor McGregor hits about half as hard as The Definitive Christopher Cross, and that was that. He spent the next few rounds just walking straight through Conor’s feathery fists, selectively firing a punch into that big stationary moon head, until McGregor got too tired even to keep his hands at shoulder level, and then he finished him.
I suppose in the abstract the fact that the fight lasted more than nine rounds can work as the basis for pretending it contained any actual drama: MMA chuds on Twitter, for example, have it that McGregor at the very least won an impressive moral victory by lasting longer than some predicted he would (where they have not gone full tinfoil and alleged a crooked ref stole an outright win from him). They’re helped in this effort by a Showtime production that stripped its gears on McGregor’s behalf, with Mauro Ranallo going full Jim Ross every time McGregor managed to fling out a jab, as though in merely remembering which of the two fighters to punch he’d revealed himself as the risen Jack Dempsey. In the ninth round, with McGregor dead on his feet and Mayweather drawing a pointillist landscape across his face three punches at a time, Ranallo said Conor was “beginning to tire.” It was not his subtlest work.
The problem is, the McGregor hung in there! take gives far too much credit to both fighters. No, McGregor did not impress. The fighter who made it closer than some believed it would be was Mayweather, and that’s only because the some who believed it would not be closer than that were playing themselves. The story of Floyd Mayweather’s career is a list of fights he could have ended earlier than he did. Floyd Mayweather would go nine rounds against a shower curtain. He gave McGregor eight more rounds than he deserved; whatever that measures, it isn’t the Irishman’s pluck.
I’ll buy the rematch. It was a good show.