Money Talks: Mayweather vs McGregor preview

Graham Houston
25/08/2017 1:05pm

On paper it’s a mismatch, but Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor is set to be a financial blockbuster and punters are backing the MMA star to spring an upset. Graham Houston looks at an odd pairing that’s caught the public’s imagination...

Call it a cash grab, a circus or a curiosity or what you will, but there is no doubt that Floyd Mayweather’s bout with MMA star Conor McGregor has got people talking. Mayweather is 40 and will have been out of the ring for 23 months by the time he ducks between the ropes at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on 26 August. Inevitably, people will be wondering if McGregor — big, strong and tough although a novice in boxing terms — might have the tenacity and physicality to spring a surprise against the ageing master boxer.

Many in the boxing fraternity have criticised the event as likely to be uncompetitive but it’s sure to be great theatre. The term freak show has been bandied about but this is a boxing match, set for 12 rounds at 154 pounds, with 8-ounce gloves.

In terms of betting odds, there have been many championship fights with higher-priced favourites than Mayweather. People in the MMA community have been putting their money on McGregor, knocking down the price on Mayweather from an 11-1 on opener to 6-1 on in some spots.

While I don’t follow MMA, it’s a given that we have to respect McGregor’s ability inside the cage. McGregor has shown himself to be a heavy hitter in MMA matches. This is boxing, though.

It is very difficult for an inexperienced boxer to land a solid shot against a world-class fighter. So, tell me, how is McGregor, in his pro boxing debut, going to hit Mayweather — a defensive genius — with a KO blow?

McGregor fights in the southpaw stance but this is unlikely to be a problem for Mayweather, who holds wins over left-handers Sharmba Mitchell, Zab Judah, Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero and, of course, Manny Pacquiao. The only one of these lefties who gave Mayweather any sort of a fight was Judah, and then only for the first four rounds.

Mayweather has handled naturally bigger opponents such as Oscar De La Hoya and Canelo Alvarez — although he insisted on a catchweight for the Canelo bout. He’s faced heavy hitters and pressure fighters. Quite simply, McGregor brings nothing to the table that Mayweather hasn’t seen before.

I checked out video of McGregor sparring with South African welterweight Chris Van Heerden. OK, sparring is sparring and not a real fight, but Van Heerden seemed to be controlling things quite comfortably.

True, Mayweather is 40 and has been inactive, but he always keeps in tiptop physical trim. Even when no bout was scheduled, Mayweather never seemed to get very much above his in-ring weight. You can be sure that Mayweather has known for months that the McGregor event would be happening and that he has been in training for 26 August.

I’m convinced that Mayweather is taking this bout seriously. Having won 49 bouts in a row, he has his eyes on the “magic” 50-0 number. I don’t think for one moment that he is overlooking McGregor.

There is Mayweather’s pride to bear in mind. It would be a crushing blow to his monumental ego if McGregor beat him. Can you imagine Mayweather out and about with his hangers-on in Las Vegas and hearing shouts from the gawkers and the envious: “Hey Floyd — Conor sure kicked your ass!” It would be a bitter pill to swallow.

I believe legacy is important to Mayweather. He calls himself The Best Ever, for goodness’ sake. A loss to McGregor and that legacy would be in tatters.

Mayweather is well aware that a lot of people are hoping to see him humbled — and if there’s one thing “Money” Mayweather loves more than, well, money, it’s sticking it to the haters.

In short, I don’t believe Mayweather can allow himself to lose and I would be flat-out astonished if McGregor pulled off an upset. Mayweather can’t let it happen. He just can’t.

How does McGregor win? Land a haymaker? Unlikely in the extreme. Swarm all over Mayweather? Rough him up? That’s been tried by world-class boxers (Marcos Maidana, Ricky Hatton) and it hasn’t worked.

The only question, to me, is not if Mayweather wins, but how he wins.

Mayweather hasn’t stopped an opponent — or come anywhere near to doing so — since hitting Victor Ortiz with a cheap shot back in 2011. However, he has been meeting world-class boxers, which McGregor isn’t.

If McGregor tries to rush Mayweather, which in reality is his only chance, he’s going to be eating sharp shots. McGregor’s a tough guy, sure, but after a while those accurate, single jolts are likely to take a toll.

There’s a chance that Mayweather might simply be content to make McGregor miss, pot-shot him and carry him. But 12 rounds is a long time for a boxer to take it easy on an outclassed opponent. If this gets to be like an exhibition match, and the crowd starts booing and jeering, the referee might simply decide: “OK, this has gone on long enough.”

I think Mayweather is going to take care of business inside the scheduled 12 rounds. It won’t be a quick finish. Mayweather doesn’t believe in taking chances and the days when he triggered off combinations — as when he stopped Arturo Gatti — have long gone. However, I do believe that Mayweather will have McGregor where he wants him, which is worn down, weary and wilting, by the ninth round. Thus, for me, Mayweather by 10th-round TKO looks a strong possibility.