Saturday night was a lose-lose situation for Floyd Mayweather.
The 40-year-old undefeated boxer, regarded by many as one of the best ever, stepped into the ring for one of the most over-hyped fights in the history of his sport against a mixed martial artist that had never worn a pair of boxing gloves in a competitive clash.
While Mayweather’s eyes might have been on the material object he shares a nickname with, money, he was shouldering the reputation of boxing against Conor McGregor, the brash Irishman 11 years his junior who promised a shock upset in dominating fashion.
Think about it. Had Mayweather lost to McGregor, boxing’s validity would have been discounted and given a black eye it probably could have never recovered from.
Could you imagine a first-time fighter defeating one of the sport’s greatest champions?
Mayweather’s career would be tarnished as mixed martial arts competitions like UFC would simply overwhelm the fighting game.
Which is why, understandably, there was some uneasiness in the opening three rounds.
McGregor shot out of the gates like a cannon and went straight after the defensive Mayweather, landing some early hits, including an uppercut to “Money’s” chin.
I do, however, have a difficult time calling McGregor’s attacks punches given his inexperience:
For example, as seen above, the 29-year-old’s wide stance actually worked against him in terms of the power department. When he was able to land on Mayweather, he was unable to get much leverage as he relied mostly on his arm strength. Had a more experienced, clinical boxer landed that uppercut on Mayweather, who knows? Maybe the fight would have been over in a round-and-a-half with the undefeated champion on the canvas.
This in no way is me trying to detract what McGregor did on Saturday night, though the constant bonks on the back of Mayweather’s head became tiresome after the fifth and sixth times. Had you told me the brand-new boxer was going to take the champ 10 rounds, chances are I would have respectfully disagreed.
But that’s exactly what happened as McGregor surprisingly took four of the first nine rounds, at least by my scorecard.
And he fared far better than some of Mayweather’s last few opponents:
Punches landed against Mayweather in his last three fights:— Thomas Duffy (@TJDhoops) August 27, 2017
Pacquiao: 81 (12 rounds)
Berto: 83 (12 rounds)
Conor McGregor: 111 (10 rounds)
Then came what we all thought was going to be McGregor’s downfall, his fatigue.
As Mayweather did what he did best, defend, McGregor ever-so-steadily started running out of gas as he just could not find a way to land that devastating killer blow.
That’s when we saw a transformation in Mayweather’s approach.
Throwing punches at a rate we haven’t seen in at least a decade, Mayweather picked apart McGregor with a barrage of one-two’s, stunning him with a right hook in the ninth round.
By the 10th, McGregor was unable to protect himself allowing Mayweather to achieve that perfect 50-0 record when the fight was called after a quick-striking assault.
But here is where we get to the second half of Mayweather’s lose-lose situation.
While the defensive tactician played the waiting game with McGregor, Mayweather’s triumph was immediately met by plenty of opposition questioning the substance of his victory given the length of the bout.
Maybe those folks are just angry McGregor supporters. Or maybe they just never watched a Mayweather fight and are oblivious to his style of fighting.
It’s those people though who shelled out the money to watch this superfight and at the end of the day, they hold the power. If they don’t watch, boxing struggles to survive.
So yes, Mayweather’s victory ensures that boxing lives to fight another day against the popular, still-developing powerhouse that is UFC, but this big money fight still provided a blow to the sport’s reputation as McGregor’s performance created yet more uncertainty surrounding boxing’s legitimacy.