Notes From the Combat Underground: The Biggest Fight in History

Some are calling it “the biggest fight in the history of fights” while others are labeling it a money-grab of epic proportions, which will destroy boxing. On August 26, Floyd Mayweather will face Conor McGregor in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena for 12 rounds of boxing and EVERYONE is talking about it. MMA fans, boxing fans and mainstream media are all weighing in on it.

Win, lose or draw, both men stand to make a lot of money with the fight purse estimated to be between $300 and $500 million; early predictions are for 5 million pay-per-view buys, eclipsing some of the recent past’s most profitable boxing matches.

The consensus among diehard boxing fans is that it’s all bullshit, a cash-grab, more theater than competition. Though McGregor is an elite MMA fighter, he has a 0-0 boxing record. This will be his first professional fight. Most consider Mayweather to be the greatest boxer of all time. It’s a tall order for your first pro bout. If McGregor somehow manages to pull out a win, he will become the stuff of legend.

What makes this so interesting? Both fighters are controversial and are polarizing figures. Mayweather’s life has been plagued with domestic violence charges, jail time and a wanton display of his riches. McGregor, though not a convicted felon, has alienated a lot of MMA fans due to his bombastic personality and disrespectful comments towards his opponents.

Both are high profile characters, and for over a year, they launched bombs at each other via social media. For a time, the vibe was that the fight would never happen, that it was all for publicity, especially since Mayweather is 40 years old and has been retired since 2015. McGregor is 29 years old, in the prime of his career, with an MMA record of 21 wins with 3 losses, and 0 wins and 0 losses professional boxing record. After a successful professional career in smaller, European promotions, McGregor entered the UFC octagon in 2012 and, through a series of carefully selected opponents, gamesmanship and fan support, has become the largest name in the sport of MMA. He secured two championship belts, one in the featherweight division and one in the lightweight division, and briefly held both titles simultaneously until he was stripped of the featherweight belt due to his unwillingness to defend his title. To date, McGregor has not defended any of his titles, instead choosing to seek fame and fortune in professional boxing with this bout against Mayweather.

To promote the fight, a four-city press tour was booked with stops in Los Angeles, Toronto, Brooklyn and London, and it proved to be a shit-show with both fighters routinely being late, making horrible fashion decisions (dig McGregor’s getup, which undoubtedly cost a fortune) but most notably, there were some racially insensitive comments thrown out there by McGregor at the Brooklyn stop, garnering a volley of retorts from the (mostly white) bloggers out there.

Then there was the Paulie Malignaggi incident. Malignaggi, a retired boxer and commentator for Showtime, who held multiple titles in his career, was called in as a sparring partner for McGregor. Earlier on in the build up to the fight, Malignaggi made some disparaging remarks about McGregor and his chances against Mayweather. Allegedly, McGregor called Malignaggi in to “make him pay for his remarks.” After a photo surfaced of McGregor allegedly knocking Malignaggi down, he left the camp, indicating that McGregor is a scumbag and that he was pushed instead of being knocked down due to punches. The jury is still out on the validity of those photographs. Some combat sports conspiracy nuts claim that this is just another setup for yet another boxing match that would feature McGregor and Malignaggi.

Throughout all of this, the Mayweather camp has been relatively quiet. It’s just another camp.

Does McGregor actually have a chance against the undefeated Mayweather? McGregor is a talented striker in the sport of MMA, where you have a wider skillset to call on; punches, kicks, elbows, knees as well as grappling and takedowns are all fair game. Boxing is a severely limited system utilizing only punches and movement. Also, a championship MMA match consists of five rounds, each being 5 minutes in duration. A Championship boxing match is twelve rounds, each round clocking in at three minutes. McGregor is notorious for having issues with conditioning and cardio. His two fights with Nate Diaz indicated fatigue which started to set in during the second round of both fights. In his MMA career, McGregor is a finisher, with knockouts coming early, sometimes within seconds of the first round. The deep water of a long, drawn out war of attrition is new ground that he has yet to really explore.  

Mayweather has been boxing his entire life. He won a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics. His style is designed to draw his opponent into the later rounds, using footwork and defense. He hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2011; he’s a tactician who has made a career figuring our his opponents’ patterns and drowning them in the later rounds.

Official Prediction: Mayweather by decision. McGregor is looking to prove a point. He’ll try to knock Mayweather out in the early rounds and empty his gas tank. Mayweather is looking to win, which means that he only needs to win seven of the 12 rounds. He may give up a couple of rounds in the process, but his long-view strategy and maturity as a fighter will pay off.