This was every bar-argument and dream scenario that sports fans have dreamed up while watching the game and drinking beers. Who wins in Batman versus Superman? Football stud against basketball star? Hockey forward matched up with a lacrosse wing? Wrestler and marine? Titan or giant? Boxer pitted against an MMA fighter? This is not only the cross-port matchup we all have dreamed of, but the gauntlet was being crossed by the sport’s best. Floyd Mayweather was 49-0 heading into the fight, facing off against one of the most aggressive fighters in MMA who also had claimed two belts of his own in Conor McGregor.
The fight was even delayed because of heavy traffic on the fight pass, bringing to memory the blackout in the 2012 Super Bowl. Even the walkouts had drama; McGregor draped in the Irish flag and Mayweather dawning the black ski mask. Even with the meet in the middle of the mat between fighters and ref, the death-stare from McGregor met with Mayweather’s indifference were all somehow adding excitement to the most hyped fight in history. And yet, it was still there; that thought in the back of everyone’s mind that gave some doubt to how good this fight would be. This would be a show of Mayweather displaying his elusive style of boxing, mixing with a fighter whose style of boxing was less than refined. Would this be Mayweather dodging and ducking past an early barrage from the Irishman, waiting for him to exhaust himself? The odds were against McGregor switching sports to fight the best fighter in boxing. This fight seemed too predictable to be really great, to live up to the massive hype train that has been driven all summer long. It could not possibly as good of a fight as we all wanted it to be.
Then, McGregor came out fiery in the opening rounds, coming out aggressively and pushing Mayweather into the corners and onto the ropes. The world knew he would need to be on the attack and physical if he wanted to win the fight, what most did not anticipate was his great form and the amount of punches he would be able to land. McGregor lead in hits and punches through the first three rounds.
The Irishman looked crisp and composed, and while the MMA did present a bit of a reflex problem with him grabbing the waist and offering up some hammer punches (all illegal in boxing), he did a great job early on making the switch by diving into a fraction of the sport he made a profession. He exhibited power and confidence, while not falling into the trap of playing too far into Mayweather’s defense so he could use his speed against him. Mayweather seemed to be caught off guard by the comfort level of McGregor, as well as the reach and height of the heavier boxer, taking hits and backing down for most of the opening four rounds.
But, as many predicted, time was the biggest asset in Mayweather’s favor, as the battle took an apparent physical toll on McGregor. In the seventh round, Mayweather moved in, after sitting back waiting for an opening, McGregor opened up and took some solid blows by Mayweather’s quick hands. In the ninth round, Mayweather unleashed a series of combinations that put McGregor on the ropes.
McGregor looked spent, unable to return the constant attacks mounted by Mayweather and too tired to even get his hands up to protect his head. In the tenth round, McGregor found himself on the ropes again, chased heavily by Mayweather who had taken out the teeth to finish off the tough Irishman. Mayweather was ready to cut down McGregor when the fight was stopped.
McGregor appeared wobbly and the referee made the decision to end it. Inconceivably, by far the most ruthless, violent sport still held legal, the ref stepped in to stop the fight before a fighter had hit the mat, leaving a sour taste to a surprisingly satisfying night. While it was a disappointing finish to a fight that involved two of the best in the world, Mayweather went in and took care of business in entertaining fashion, showing his patience and ferocity throughout the course of the fight.
Chasing around an increasingly fatigued McGregor, much like a Komodo Dragon that captured its poisoned prey, waiting to move in for the kill he always knew was assured.
As Mayweather moved to 50-0, passing Rocky Marciano for the best record in boxing and securing his place in sports history in what he promised “was my last fight”. And while he did lose, McGregor proved he could cross sports and hold his own, showing an incredible ability to hang with the best boxer in the world, even if that boxer was a 40-year-old. Moreover, the fans won because this was an incredibly entertaining fight that went as most predicted it would, lasting almost the entirety of the 12 rounds while avoiding going to a judge’s decision, with both fighters going on the aggressive for fireworks. This was as good as we could have realistically hoped for in this bout. This matchup will forever be remembered as one of the classics in boxing’s long history.