There Is No "Puncher's Chance" For Conor McGregor
As you might imagine, I have opinions about the upcoming boxing match between professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and mixed martial artist Conor McGregor. But prizefighting, unlike nearly every other sport and profession, is one of those things you're not "allowed" to have an opinion on unless you're either a certified expert or fully experienced in the field.
Yours truly cannot check those boxes. I have neither punched nor been punched in my life (and thank goodness for that — I wear glasses). In fact, I just ate most of a DiGiorno pizza on my own and probably couldn't raise my hands to defend myself if I needed to. So instead of regaling you with my takes on the spectacle, please consider the informed opinions of HBO boxing analyst Max Kellerman, whom I met one time and who (unbeknownst to him) speaks for me on all matters Mayweather-McGregor:
For those of you unwilling to slog through extended exposure to Stephen A. Smith, here are the most relevant Kellerman bits:
"Conor McGregor could be the most naturally gifted boxer who ever lived. Let's [say] he has more natural ability than Sugar Ray Robinson or Roy Jones, who both have more natural ability than Floyd Mayweather, take that as a given. He would still have zero chance to beat Floyd Mayweather. It's a complete disrespect to the craft of boxing."
The counterpoint to this statement is that, if everything is on the up-and-up, even the biggest underdog in a competition has some chance of emerging victorious. In boxing, this is called "a puncher's chance." No matter how overmatched an underdog is, all it takes is one flush connection with his opponent's temple to end the fight and shock the world. Surely Conor McGregor has a puncher's chance!
"Let me tell you what's going to happen: Conor McGregor will not land a single punch against Floyd Mayweather. Not one punch."
Kellerman has since amended this statement to account for the probable scenario in which Mayweather allows McGregor to make contact, if only to placate the paying public — most of whom dream of some grand Mayweather family comeuppance.
So that is the opinion of a boxing expert, and I agree with it. Floyd Mayweather has faced 47 professional fighters in a boxing ring, all of whom trained for most of their lives to reach the highest level of the sport. Only a handful of these boxers landed hard, clean shots on Mayweather, and maybe three or four even came close to defeating him in a 12-round fight. It's difficult to believe a fighter of a different discipline can be the first to blemish this résumé in his boxing debut.
But perhaps McGregor is the most naturally gifted boxer of all time, as Kellerman jokingly theorized. It's possible! After all, 16 of McGregor's 24 UFC bouts have ended by either knockout or technical knockout as a result of his fists. Maybe we should take this contest seriously...
...or maybe not.
McGregor held his first workout open to the media on Friday. He did not appear to be the most naturally gifted boxer of all time. Most observers were utterly confused by his tactics:
Whatever shoulder-loosening technique works for you, my man.
The biggest (and perhaps only) factor working in McGregor's favor is age: Conor just turned 29, while Floyd is 40 and hasn't fought in almost two years. Maybe McGregor has an edge in the hand speed department?
Another dead end.
"Come on, Rim. You know nobody goes 100% for a media workout. Post the Malignaggi knockdown!"
That's true, no fighter puts forth full effort for what is essentially a media photo-op. But given the circumstances here, with a skeptical public withholding their hard-earned cash, one might expect McGregor to convince them it will be a competitive fight. I'm not sure the arm-flailing thing accomplished that.
The Malignaggi "knockdown" (your preferred combat sport determines if you're offended by those quotation marks) became a point of controversy after McGregor posted a photo to his Instagram of retired boxer and current Showtime commentator Malignaggi on the ground during one of their sparring sessions. Malignaggi disputed McGregor's depiction of the story, and in the wake of the puzzling workout above, UFC boss Dana White posted video of the knockdown in question as proof that McGregor is a competitive boxer. It's sloppy enough that people basically see what they want to see.
At the very least, this footage shows McGregor is willing to do some, uh, non-traditional things in the ring, especially if the situation grows desperate.
“We’ll come with a different approach than what he’s used to,” McGregor told the Los Angeles Times. “It forces a man to react off my creation. When you’re reacting and not creating, you’re in trouble."
Unfortunately for McGregor, Mayweather's entire career is built on reacting better than anyone else. He is nearly impossible to hurt in a boxing ring — dozens of elite professionals have looked silly trying to pull it off. It's the reason he's lasted this long, and the reason his fights are so boring.
Compare the out-of-shape retired commentator in the videos above with the viper-quick Mayweather in the footage below.
Every opponent in that video trained his entire life in the sport of boxing. All of them lost handily to Mayweather. All of them were made to look like amateurs by the man who excels at reaction.
Mayweather can end this fight in any way he pleases at any point he chooses. He knows it, and McGregor knows it. There is no "If McGregor can catch him with one good shot..." scenario. That is a pipe dream being sold to the public as a means to enrich everyone involved with this boondoggle. Indeed, the only place McGregor will tag Mayweather is in the imaginations of McGregor's fans and the mural in his training facility.