Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor made fools of us all.
It made fools of those who couldn’t be bothered to analyze the fight in depth, substituting analysis for ironic detachment and obscure but deliberate Hakuho references that even the Financial Times made the mistake of featuring.
And it made fools of those who predicted that there was no way the ring entrances would one day have their own urban dictionary page.
The only people who weren’t fools? Mayweather and McGregor. I take it back; Mayweather, McGregor, the people that didn’t pay for the event, the Angels for overcoming Houston’s blown lead, and probably everyone that doesn’t consume prizefighting like candle lit dinners.
Nonetheless, the prizefight turned into a legitimate bout. And not just “given the circumstances.”
So naturally, that means an unending stream of hot takes, cold takes, and bloviating disguised as “analysis” for everyone else. Let’s swim through this non-stream, shall we?
“He made him flip cheeseburgers”
If you’re a normal human being, “flip cheeseburgers” is the only thing you can hear in this exchange between Teddy Atlas and Stephen A. Smith.
But it’s a good synthesis of how most people’s brains processed the fight: like scrambled egg in a burning magnetron.
Instead of trying to contextualize the fight itself, I’d prefer to go the index card route. The fast facts in no particular order:
- Conor has good instincts. This may sounds like empty jive, but in making the transition to full fledged boxing, Conor had to pick up small habits on how to close the distance, reset, and pressure without kicks, elbows, takedowns, et cetera. These were all things that looked natural to him. His rhythm wasn’t in any way hindered by the fact that he’s not a professional boxer. In a way I think the decision to keep Kavanagh was validated; a boxing insider made have tried to coach Conor’s instincts out of him.
- Conor’s timing is still elite by any standard. Timing is a curious thing. Well, unless you read my sports science article. Landing a counter uppercut on Floyd was shocking, and impressive.
- Floyd’s gameplan went exactly as advertised; let Conor pressure early, and tag him late.
- Floyd’s gameplan was not perfect. A part of this likely had to do with adjusting to Conor’s attack to an extent, but Floyd’s age was more significant.
- Conor won the first two rounds. Regardless of what Burt and Guido thought.
- Floyd began to dominate later. Landing 58 percent of your power punches is usually a sign of this.
- Floyd’s body punches were more damaging than Conor being fatigued from “boxing for the first time.”
- Floyd won.
- Richard Spencer did not.
- Nor did Dana’s leverage.
I can’t fault MMA fans too hard for their misconception of Mayweather. For most, boxing isn’t a sport they watch much. Their knowledge probably comes from Joe Rogan’s debate with Lou Dibella. So Mayweather’s performance, to many MMA fans, reads like something of an aberration given Mayweather’s record, history, and reputation. And if it’s an aberration, then that speaks to Conor’s overall effectiveness. This mentality lays the groundwork for fast food “what could have been”s and “if they fought in the cage” instead of real analysis.
Yes, Conor did “better” than other pro boxers. At least, statistically. But statistics are approximations of what’s happening, not how it’s happening. And there is variation to how strong or weak those approximations are.
Mayweather has always dropped individual rounds due to inactivity. Boxing is ultimately a sport of attrition; the sum is determined not merely by the parts, but how those parts are synchronized with tactics, both specific and broad to create the preferred long term outcome.
Mayweather’s performance might not have been prime Mayweather, but it was still Mayweather - a boxer known to sacrifice flashy combinations, urgency, and Mayorga inspired stupidity (or what used to be awesomeness) for the long haul of victory.
Ruck of the Irish
Tonight was not Jordan or Tebow playing baseball, Brock Lesnar playing football. Conor crossed over from MMA & hung with one of the GOAT's— Ian McCall (@Unclecreepymma) August 27, 2017
“He (Conor) forced a gourmet chef to be a fast order cook.” - Teddy Atlas
For my money, this is the best analogy for the fight. It cuts through the binary McGregor looked great/Mayweather got old opinions about what this fight meant for both sports in favor of something more nuanced.
To the extent that McGregor “proved” anything, it’s that elite mixed martial artists are as dedicated to their craft as any other athlete. That dedication can overlap into performative success in other sports. This isn’t an example of “disruptive innovation” or any of that secret hot sauce bull**it.
It’s similar to Jennie Finch striking out Albert Pujols.
A better comparison materialized when the NHL’s Nathan MacKinnon proved he could accelerate faster than Olympic gold medalist speed skater Charles Hamelin. Sure, both use skating to harness their craft. Just like Floyd and Conor both use punching to harness thiers. But MacKinnon used hockey skates, which have sharper hollows. Hamelin’s speed skates do not, nor are they are not built for acceleration. The closer both got into a fuller simulation of speed skating’s apparatus, the less impressive MacKinnon’s achivement became. MacKinnon is still doing better than expected, but only in a vacuum. Ultimately it’s just an example of how mechanics, be it skating or punching, are connected as much to the performers as they are to the apparatus that manipulates them.
It’s okay to admit that Conor performed better than expected, but was never close to outperforming Floyd.
Ppl are so desperate for Floyd Mayweather Jr. to be a "loser" they dug up some guy he fought before he went pro https://t.co/OF2DAn2G84— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) August 27, 2017
Because this was Floyd’s last fight, the revisionism has started early. Rocky Marciano’s family helped initiate the debate. But let’s not forget the history Mayweather himself made (no matter how silly or inadvertent). Nor that Rocky Marciano isn’t in the discussion for ‘best record ever’. Marciano was a great fighter. And limited footage suggests he’s probably better than given credit for. But talk of “controversial decisions” and “freakshows” trying to question Mayweather’s resume is a dead end. We don’t have the same amount of footage to potentially dissect all of Rocky’s career. No talking point should die sooner than “Floyd doesn’t deserve to be 50-0” - a criticism that shatters the foundation of those usually making it; McGregor fans arguing he could have had a great boxing career.
And that's the difference. If Mayweather's walking you down, there's a fundamental problem somewhere. Last night, McGregor, as a debutant...— Tom Craze (@TomCraze) August 27, 2017
Naturally, one of the biggest discussions is whether or not Conor McGregor has a future in boxing. But a lot of these discussions don’t take into account, at least among casuals, how diverse the skillsets are among the rest of boxing’s elite. McGregor acquitted himself well in the first several rounds against an elite counterpuncher who averages under 40 punches per round. Can McGregor acquit himself well against a boxer who averages 17 power punches alone per round with the strength of a light heavyweight? I’m really not that interested in finding out. Although maybe that’s just me.
Regularly Scheduled Grandstanding
PPV issues and UFC Fight Pass crashes creating looming monster refund possibility. Dana White Threat Level elevated to Boysenberry pic.twitter.com/zia2LcMqQ2— smoogy (@smoogymma) August 27, 2017
Especially when you add the wrinkle of Paulie Malignaggi begging for his own payday with Conor.
As ‘fun’ as the Conor diversion has been, he’s a relative newborn in terms of elite MMA status. His rematch against Nate Diaz was hardly definitive. And Eddie Alvarez is definitely not the most interesting lightweight matchup for him. McGregor’s an exciting fighter. He was an exciting boxer too. But boxing is not where he can establish an active legacy. It’s been fun, but maybe non-MMA adventures belong at Rekall.
P.S. - On a serious, personal note, I’ve traveled the world. Not in a “during college me and my bros got so drunk we hurled off the Eiffel Tower and onto Woody Allen’s favorite pickup spots” way. Simply that I’m lucky enough to say I’ve traveled here and there. To that end, I love Texas for all the stereotypes that it is, as well as the stereotypes that it is not. If you’re from Houston, and in need of help, don’t hesitate to reach out. I can’t promise anything, but if there’s even a slight chance I can provide an emergency BNB, or assistance of some other kind, I will absolutely do the best I can. Having a home doesn’t mean much if you’re not willing to invite those in greater need of one.