Saturday 23 September 2017 / 10:41 PM

MAYWEATHER v McGREGOR POST-MORTEM

Closing the book on the polarising ‘May-Mac world tour’

After months of speculation, boisterous pressers and extravagant marketing, the most anticipated crossover episode since Family Guy showed up on The Simpsons came and went as fast as Mayweather’s leading left.

Considering the nature of the match-up and the personalities involved, the lead-in was always going to be rather strange. How the fight would play out was far more ambiguous. Conor McGregor’s boxing ability was essentially hearsay, based off a rough idea of projected translation from the octagon and snippets of video that made its way to the interwebs.

There were suggestions Conor may find a way to even the playing field: his legitimate size advantage, the athletic superiority brought upon by the 11-year age gap, and some alternative strategy to boot. The aforementioned sparring tapes (that were a part of a bizarre controversy themselves) did very little to kill suspicions that McGregor was underqualified for the job. Regardless, he’d need to land heavy and early to be a chance.

So when he came out aggressive it was no shock, but appearing competent was a pleasant surprise. Controlling the pace of the early rounds, McGregor landed scoring strikes and settled in fairly quickly.

The 40-year-old Floyd has clearly lost a step — a natural decline expected with age — but even that wasn’t enough to close the gap between the two. For all of Conor’s dynamic striking and untoward approaches, overcoming Mayweather’s technical ability is off the charts, and it was going to take something special, something maybe even ‘The Notorious’ wasn’t capable of.

After finding his rhythm, measuring McGregor’s gameplan and tweaking his own, Floyd calmly begun to swing momentum. Coinciding with McGregor’s growing fatigue, without pushing the pace he found his weak areas — Conor’s defensive guard was especially problematic — pressed him close and drilled McGregor often. A few wobbles, which McGregor credited to fatigue post-fight, and the result was beyond reach.

(Aside: Suggestions the fight was stopped early are ridiculous. Deep into Round 9, Connor had already been rocked, and it appears Floyd was looking for a flashy finish rather than getting the job done. In the 10th, up against the ropes, unprotected and clearly struggling, the fight was over. End of discussion.)

***

McGregor has everybody chasing a feeling that he’s tied to his brand and sold masterfully since conquering Jose Aldo. Floyd is boxing’s, and maybe sports’, best villain (the ski-masked entrance was a home run). The newest hero, a mercurial Irish juggernaut with undeniable ambition and star power was next to take a shot at the throne. But this was the world’s best ping pong player against a post-prime Roger Federer… the skill set is transferrable, not exact.

Conor McGregor could see the future:

“That felt more like a business transaction than a fight. Respect to Floyd though. Boxing is not the style of fighting to stop him.”

Those comments came via Twitter after the Pacquiao fight, and could be cut and paste as a reaction to the entirety of the ‚Money fight’ process.

That isn’t to say McGregor wasn’t there to win, he was: the allure of glory is what drove the event, and an upset for the Irishman would have catapulted him into the stratosphere. Rather, it was a conceptual dream-fight that captured the public’s attention enough to bring it life. That in itself is business — good business at that, the huge paychecks that accompany the fight are reflective of the worldwide interest.

Doubt was fair, but the cries of ‘farce’ or labelling the fight a ‘freak-show’ were overblown (often led by non-fight fans and boxing purists in fear).

And despite the expected result, sticking to that viewpoint would be unfair: McGregor managed to trail only Canelo Alvarez (117) in strikes landed on the defensive mastermind with 111. No surprise that the top three (Pacquiao, 81) all came at the back end of his career and can be accredited to Mayweather’s slowing pace, but the numbers don’t suggest total ineptitude from the opposition.

Whilst the outcome never appeared in doubt, the UFC had a particular stake in both how the fight played out and who walked away victorious. The UFC is growing exponentially, but the purse takeaway still doesn’t match headlining a boxing PPV. That may change soon, but in the interim it threatened to pull MMA’s poster boy away at the height of his powers.

Conor was better than expected, but still far behind the standard. Barely holding serve with a 40-year-old, albeit still a highly skilled one, firmly suggests McGregor’s future remains in the octagon.

He may not step into the ring for a while, but his mere presence in the fight has pushed his star power far beyond the global scale, his next UFC bout promising to be spectacle. They may have had to lend him to their pseudo-rivals, but they will walk away the biggest winners once a refreshed and wildly famous McGregor returns home.

Conversely, boxing has to recover fast. It’s a strange predicament: more eyes were on the squared-circle than ever in history, yet it could somehow damage their reputation moving forward.

Fascinating, captivating or polarising aren’t words that are often tossed around with boxing at the moment. But how much of that increased attention came from the stars, neither who will compete following the bout, as compared to the sport itself is genuinely troubling.

Taking on this fight with the aim of drawing in casual fans is fair, but expecting to retain them — and how that leaves them thinking about the sport — is a totally different question. The upcoming Golvkin-Alvarez fight, featuring arguably the two biggest current draws, will double as an intriguing litmus test and nervous wait to see how well the attention holds over.

In a world where holding audiences’ eyes for more than 20 seconds is difficult, captivating the world’s collective attention deserves merit in itself. The product, whilst gimmicky, was better than expected, at times entertaining and falling just short of enthralling.

Nobody was realistically expecting a classic boxing bout, so for an event that was quickly written off as a fraudulent money-grab, it’s hard to argue against the final verdict being anything but success. The fight was fine, but the same way the real value was in the press conferences and surrounding events; where everybody involved goes from here will be far more interesting.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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