On Saturday, Aug. 26, Showtime Boxing will hold a pay-per-view event pitting undefeated boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. against current UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. The event takes place from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Mayweather, 40, has not competed in nearly two years. He retired in 2015 with an unblemished record of 49-0, including wins over Manny Pacquiao and Oscar de la Hoya.
McGregor, meanwhile, has no professional boxing experience, but he carries a record of 21-3 in MMA competition. The Irishman simultaneously held the UFC featherweight and lightweight championships before relinquishing the 145-pound strap earlier this year.
The fight will be a 12-round affair, taking place at 154 pounds with eight-ounce gloves.
The event kicks off with four preliminary-card bouts at 7 p.m. ET on Fox before transitioning to pay-per-view at 9 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Zach Aittama and Rob Tatum break down the spectacle in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: does Conor McGregor stand a chance?
Aittama: Wow. Already with the hard-hitting questions?
McGregor is a two-division UFC champion with 21 pro wins and 18 knockouts in his professional MMA career. The Irishman is a southpaw with a strong striking background and ever-improving technique under coaches John Kavanagh and Owen Roddy at SBG Ireland. McGregor predicted he would become a world champion before he ever graced the Octagon. He predicted he would knock out José Aldo in the first round. He predicted he would be the first fighter to ever hold two UFC titles simultaneously. And now, McGregor predicts he will beat Mayweather by knockout.
Let me stop right there. Does McGregor knock out Mayweather on Saturday night? Not a chance.
Mayweather is one of the most well-developed technicians and skillful talents to ever grace the boxing ring. Since birth, he was destined to become a boxer, and it was apparent when he burst onto the amateur scene in the early 1990s that he would soon become a star. Mayweather won his first world title at the age of 21. He conquered his second weight division at 25. He became one of only five fighters to capture a title in five different weight classes. He tied Rocky Marciano’s famed record of 49 wins in a row to start a career after defeating Andre Berto in his last fight before retiring for the second time. Mayweather is coming out of retirement again for a fight that seemingly everyone asked for and nobody wanted.
Mayweather has beaten many of the best boxers of his generation. He was the first man to defeat Diego Corrales. He stopped Arturo Gatti, bested Zab Judah, edged out boxing legend Oscar de la Hoya, and brutalized Ricky Hatton. Mayweather bested Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley, despite getting stunned by “Sugar” in the second round of their 12-round contest. Mayweather defeated Miguel Cotto, dominated Robert Guerrero, and handed Canelo Alvarez his only career loss. Mayweather broke gate and pay-per-view records with his much-anticipated showdown with six-division world champ Manny Pacquiao.
So, can McGregor beat Mayweather? I’m pretty sure the audience can deduce that the plausibility of McGregor beating an all-time great in a sport he’s never competed in on a professional level is less likely to happen than winning the $700 million Powerball lottery. According to the Powerball website, the odds of winning are one in 292 million. Those odds seem insurmountable, right? At least McGregor is winning a lottery of sorts by taking part in this record-breaking “money” fight. He’s projected to make nearly nine figures and possibly more when he steps foot into the boxing ring for his professional debut. To put this into perspective, top pound-for-pound great Vasyl Lomachenko only earned $100,000 for his pro debut.
But really, does McGregor have a chance in this contest? Are there certain techniques, approaches or movements that could possibly throw off Mayweather? McGregor is “awkward” and “moves like an MMA fighter.” He must be able to show something that Mayweather has never seen before, right?
Okay, enough with the games. Mayweather not only has an astronomical advantage in terms of technique and skill level, but he will very likely be the faster fighter despite the more than 10-year age difference. His reaction time is built into his genome. He’s drilled, sparred and reacted to more situations than McGregor could hope to dream of in a lifetime. The intricate details of his defense, counter and offensive attack can’t be overcome in a year and a half of training. Mayweather molds his style around his desires, and there have been few fighters who could topple his technical acumen inside of the ring. Mayweather’s game is cerebral. Mechanical. He is always a step or two ahead of his opponents, often times able to force them to bend to his will and game plan. Even without these traits, Mayweather is a superior defender with a layered defense that heavily employs on shoulder rolls, a high guard, head movement and calculated attacks.
It’s unquestioned that the boxing level in MMA is much lower because fighters are required to focus on every aspect of the sport. McGregor has some of the best boxing in the lightweight division. However, he’s really only developed his hand techniques over his past few outings. To say he has to climb Mt. Everest to get a victory is an incredible understatement. There are ways he could make this interesting. Everyone expects him to come out early, but no one really knows until the bell sounds. Could McGregor benefit from staying on the outside and attacking in the final seconds of each round? Would he succeed inside of the pocket with a different clinch game than Mayweather is used to seeing? Is McGregor going to press forward until he can’t sustain his output? Is McGregor going to fade as Mayweather begins to find his timing and rhythm?
We really won’t know the answers to these questions until fight night, but I suspect we may get to see a little bit of everything before Mayweather stops McGregor inside of nine rounds.
Tatum: My fellow columnist prescribed a large dose of reality in his breakdown of this fight. In the boxing ring, the bout doesn’t come down to who can hype the fight the most, it comes down to experience and skill. These areas strongly favor Mayweather.
McGregor does have amateur boxing experience in his native Ireland, and yes, his movement is awkward. But in the striking arts, awkward usually translates to flawed or vulnerable, especially against a technician like Mayweather.
Fans will likely counter with, “What about his power?” Well, sure, McGregor has a dynamite left hand in his bag of tricks, but are you going to tell me that Cotto and Alvarez didn’t pack a similar weapon? How’d that turn out for those world-champion boxers? Mayweather is one of the greatest pugilists of all time and is arguably the best defensive boxer ever. Whenever McGregor cocks his left hand for a power shot, Mayweather will be long gone and delivering a combination of counter punches.
Another factor that tips this fight heavily in Mayweather’s favor is his propensity of body work. With his movement and speed, he is able to create openings not only for head strikes, but to rip the body with regularity. It slows down his opponents and can lead to finishes. Sound familiar, McGregor fans? That’s the exact recipe Nate Diaz used against the Irishman inside the UFC Octagon. Diaz, a solid boxer in his own right, was able to attack McGregor’s body with volume and slow him down.
And since we’re bringing up the Diaz fights, don’t forget that McGregor got hit a lot in both fights. His movement might throw people off in MMA, but he’s still very hittable. That’s not going to bode well for him against someone with the speed of Mayweather.
I’m going to echo my colleague on this one. McGregor will come out aggressively and look for a finish, but he’ll find a lot of air. Mayweather will slip and rip the body over and over, slowing McGregor’s advance. By the time the fight hits round seven or eight, the referee will have no choice but to step in and halt the bout, giving Mayweather the TKO victory.
What happens if McGregor does shock the world? Does it help MMA or hurt boxing? Does it even matter?
Tatum: My first thought is to frantically start preparing for the zombie apocalypse (I kid, I kid). But if you were one of the bettors who took a flier on the Irishman, I’m sure your first action is going to be to cash your bet and celebrate with some Irish whiskey. However, once the dust settles from the initial chaos, I hope you realize it was all for show.
For starters, Mayweather is 40 years old and has not competed in two years. From his perspective, the fight means nothing more than a paycheck. He’s already established himself as one of the greatest boxers of all time, and perhaps the best defensive fighter ever to step foot in a ring. Win or lose, people will always talk about his ability to frustrate his opponents and defeat many of the world’s best boxers during his heyday in the sport.
Meanwhile, McGregor is still in the prime of his athletic career. Although many feel it’s the UFC champion and the sport of MMA who have something to gain in this fight, that’s a bit of a stretch. A win over Mayweather may further build McGregor’s aura as one of the biggest combat-sports athletes on the planet, but really, the only lasting outcome of beating a past-his-prime boxer is that MMA fans would be able to poke fun at boxing fans.
That said, if Mayweather wins, people will argue he was supposed to win since he’s the boxer. If McGregor does pull off the upset, others will argue Mayweather only did it for the money. At the end of the day, no matter who has their hand raised in this fight, this fight actually helps combat sports on the whole. Overall, it’s gotten the attention of casual fans of both sports, and I can’t recall a more talked-about fight in the last few years (for both good and bad reasons). While the in-ring action may not be on par with a typical boxing main event or a UFC title fight, the fact of the matter is that it still got people talking about fighting. So, barring any crazy nonsense like McGregor throwing a head kick (he won’t) or Mayweather just running around the ring for 12 rounds, yes, this fight does matter.
Aittama: I agree. One of the best boxers of his generation meets the biggest mainstream star in MMA history during a momentous time in the world of combat sports. Their paths crossed in completely different times in their respective careers, though. Mayweather is coming out of retirement after two years, whereas McGregor is potentially on the trajectory to replace “Money” as the biggest pay-per-view draw in combat sports. Even if you believe this fight won’t be sporting and is merely entertainment, there is no denying that it is big business for all parties involved, including the fighters, promoters and the media covering this circus-like event. The attention on the contest will potentially drive fans to boxing or MMA, or at least make them more aware. Also, it’s important to note that this very fight could potentially change how the UFC is able to promote events with the Ali Act revisions, lawsuit and much more coming down the pipeline in the promotion’s near future.
This match is trending to become the biggest fight in combat-sports history in terms of pay-per-view buys and gate revenue. However, does this fight really build either sport, or is this purely a one-time event that will fade as the world moves into the school year, football season and the holidays? How much traction can either sport gain following this event? Are the same people who are going to buy this pay-per-view going to buy Alvarez’s fight with Gennady Golovkin? I don’t necessarily believe this fight’s success will directly translate to new boxing fans, especially if Mayweather decides to hang up the gloves again. Are the people watching at home, the bar or a friend’s place also the customers watching the undercard? Is there an interest beyond the main event for the casual fan? If people tune in for Gervonta Davis and Badou Jack on the undercard, they might just become boxing fans. But, again, that is a difficult question to answer until the fight plays out and we see the response from the viewers.
The fallout in MMA will be known as we move forward into the coming months. The UFC has 16 events scheduled to finish out 2017. The big question for most following this contest is whether or not McGregor comes back to the sport where he birthed his star power. The UFC would take a major hit if the Irishman never steps foot in the Octagon again. Even if McGregor gets knocked out and outclassed by Mayweather in the boxing ring, there will always be a baseline fandom that seems to never sway from their guy. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what his fans would have to say if McGregor pulls off the big win.
Ultimately, these men are just two fighters throwing punches at each other. Anything truly can and will happen in combat sports. Despite the odds against McGregor, this fight matters because we want to watch the mystery unfold.
Which fighter outside of the main event deserves the most attention?
Aittama: That would be Gervonta Davis.
The current IBF world super featherweight titleholder is undefeated in his professional career with 18 victories and 17 knockouts. The Baltimore native trains under Calvin Ford and fights for Al Haymon and Mayweather Promotions. The former Golden Gloves national champion is still only 22 years old.
The undercard is filled with compelling fighters and match-ups, and Davis will be the highlight in an excellent night of boxing. The southpaw has incredible hand speed and destructive power in his punches. He is slick in his movements with great footwork and defensive responsibility. Davis can adjust his style depending on his opponent’s strong points and weaknesses. He shows a tremendous ability to adapt to what his opponent gives him, and he capitalizes on almost every opportunity that arises.
Davis utilizes every tool in the southpaw handbook. He uses his left hand to optimize efficiency. He throws from different angles of attacks from the left side, including his frequently used left uppercut, his cross and straight, and a counter left hook. His ability to throw combinations off of his left hand opens up opportunities to score with his jab and right hook. Davis can fight inside or outside, and he covers distance very well, especially with his lead right hook, which he pairs with his left uppercut. If Davis has his lead foot outside of his opponent’s lead foot, then they’re in serious trouble.
His opponent, Francisco Fonseca, is also unbeaten in his pro career. The 23-year-old has won 19 consecutive fights since fighting to a majority draw in his professional debut. Of those wins, Fonseca has stopped 13 rivals. The Costa Rican fighter is on the rise. His best opponent was Mexico’s Luis Gonzalez, who has lost three of his past five fights and has split wins and losses in his past 12 outings. Fonseca is an aggressive puncher with a high output and some solid killer instinct.
There are levels to combat, and Davis will prove he is on his way to the top with a stoppage of Fonseca. It will mark the third opponent in a row for Davis who entered the contests without a defeat, but who left with a loss.
Tatum: England’s Savannah Marshall.
The 26-year-old will be making her professional debut on the night’s undercard after a very accomplished amateur career. Marshall, dubbed the “Silent Assassin,” earned a gold medal at the 2012 World Championships in China and competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Although she did not medal in Brazil, Marshall is still the only fighter to ever defeat two-time Olympic gold medalist and current WBC/IBF titleholder Claressa Shields.
While the aforementioned Shields has already started making waves in the professional ranks, this fight will be a showcase for the British fighter. Marshall, who has been training under the tutelage of Peter Fury in her homeland, will take on Sydney LeBlanc in the night’s opening bout. LeBlanc, despite eight professional bouts on her record, will be overmatched in this bout.
This fight is just the first step toward a future rematch between Marshall and Shields. So tune in early and catch one of the most promising women’s boxers on the planet.
Pair this card with…
Tatum: A grain of salt. This fight is a spectacle. It’s a money grab by both sides. But you know what? It got everyone’s attention. I, like many, have been critical of this fight since it was first discussed, but come Saturday night, I will be watching somewhere or somehow. I don’t think you should shell out $99 of your own money for this event, but take advantage of the fact that a lot of fight fans will be out watching this. Enjoy yourself, have some playful debate on boxing vs. MMA and don’t read too much into the result, whatever it may be.
Aittama: Friends and family. Don’t read too much into this fight, as my colleague said. Take it for what it’s worth: a fight between dominant fighters in their respective combat sports. Enjoy this event on the last weekend before Labor Day weekend with your friends and family. Break out the grill, toss on some food, pop that bottle, and gather together to watch this once-in-a-lifetime showcase. This is the type of sporting event everyone will be talking about on Monday, no matter the result.
Main Card (Pay-per-view, 9 p.m. ET)
Light MW: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor
IBF Jr. LW Title: Gervonta Davis vs. Francisco Fonseca
WBA LHW Title: Nathan Cleverly vs. Badou Jack
USBA CruiserW Title: Andrew Tabiti vs. Steve Cunningham
Preliminary Card (Fox, 7 p.m. ET)
WW: Thomas Dulorme vs. Yodenis Ugás
WW: Juan Heraldez vs. Jose Miguel Borrego
Super MW: Kevin Newman vs. Mark Anthony Hernandez
Super MW: Savannah Marshall vs. Sydney LeBlanc
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