Written by: Remi Se
There are a thousand hot takes from experts, analysts, celebrities, bloggers and completely random casual fans to be found about the Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor bout. The vast majority of major boxing fans look at the fight as an easy win for Floyd with some analysts, like Max Kellerman, going as far as claiming that Conor won’t land a punch. On the other side, MMA fans have handicapped Conor’s chances but given him anywhere from a puncher’s chance to a legitimate threat against Money’s perfect record. The problem is when boxing meets MMA in these discussions, those who have watched Conor’s career tend to use arguments such as “every time Conor says he will do something, he does it” as if someone who has witnessed Floyd’s near flawless defense is going to have their mind changed by vague mysticism. The boxing world is asking “can Conor land punches” while the MMA world responds “yes, he can” but never bothers to explain HOW. There’s good reason for that, no one really knows what Conor will look like boxing. Translating McGregor’s MMA skillset to boxing is difficult and the fact that he’ll attempt to use his skills against arguably the greatest defensive boxer of all time only serves to muddy the water further. But let’s take a look at the weapons Conor has used in the octagon that can work in a boxing ring and explore some of that ways Floyd has been hit before. This isn’t about whether Conor can land a punch or not over 36 minutes; let’s take a look at what Conor can do strategically to give himself the best opportunities to land those strikes.
Some have claimed that Floyd has never fought someone as powerful, fast or unorthodox as Conor. In reality, with a resume including De La Hoya, Pacquiao, Maidana, Canelo, Cotto, Mosley, Judah, Gatti, etc. you’re looking at some of boxing’s hardest punchers, fastest hands, toughest chins and throw in Emanuel Augustus for unorthodox as well. Conor is big, Conor is fast and Conor will be unorthodox but it’s going to take more than any of those variables to actually make this competitive. The one physical attribute where Conor does have an undeniable edge is reach. Oscar De La Hoya is the last opponent Money Mayweather has given up a reach advantage to and Conor has an inch over Oscar. Boxing can be a game of centimeters, and Conor’s use of length and reach has been the single most important aspect of his striking success.
Conor fights at the very end of his reach, peppering opponents with volume and daring them to close the gap. As opponents look to punch their way into range, Conor can slip the shots and fire back. For a great example of this look no further than the Aldo knockout but for a longer view, check out the Eddie Alvarez title fight. Expect Conor to fight long, buying just a pinch more time to read Floyd’s offense and react. Whether the speed difference is too much to matter is anyone’s guess. Floyd is a genius in the ring and the typical traps won’t be enough to bait him into a hard counter, however he has rarely had to deal with a reach deficit. Against a high level counter puncher who has good hand speed, power and a reach advantage; the margin for error is smaller and a single miscalculation can become a difference maker.
Power from the Lead Hand:
McGregor’s jab has never stood out from the rest of his arsenal, but he has utilized lead hand uppercuts and hooks to effectively spark combinations for a long time. The lead uppercut is particularly effective for McGregor, essentially framing his opponents’ heads for a follow up left. That short power punch could be a particularly effective weapon when Floyd goes to the body. Floyd’s speed is undeniable and has allowed him to fire off jabs and straights to the body while escaping counters. That habit was responsible for the one time that he’s actually been knocked down. In the second round of his fight with Zab Judah, Floyd stepped in low to fire a body shot only to be met with a counter right hand that sent him stumbling off balance where his glove clearly hit the ground. While the referee ruled this a slip, upon replay it was clear that he had been knocked down. Of course, it’s tough to stake any solid claim on one instance, but the number of times that Floyd has been hit hard are low and this stood out for obvious reasons. Not only was it the only knockdown in Floyd’s career, but it also fits the habits of both fighters. McGregor likes to force opponents to cross a gap and Mayweather is so fast that he can typically get away with it. McGregor likes to use the lead hand for uppercuts and short hooks that would work well and only have to cover a short distance if Mayweather went low and Money loves to work the body.
The Left Straight:
Conor’s kiss of death is his left straight. It has been the finishing blow in fights with the likes of Chad Mendes, Diego Brandao and Dennis Siver. If the Notorious can find a home for his left, it can change a fight entirely. Of course that is much easier said than done against Floyd Money Mayweather. Mayweather is arguably the greatest defensive fighter of all time. He stifles opponents’ offenses, breaks opponents’ rhythms and weavse through combination attacks with head movement and shoulder rolls. Even scarier, Floyd turns defense into offense by using these moments to position himself for quick counter damage. Not only does he frustrate opponents, but he punishes them for missing. His defensive acumen however, has always shined more against orthodox fighters. Floyd’s shell allows him to roll punches off of his shoulders and effectively deflect them. This is more difficult against southpaw hand positioning. The left straight in particular has a pocket to the head that the shoulders won’t impact. Thus we have the intrigue of Conor’s best power punch, the one that he uses everything else to set up, being the punch that is best suited to break through Floyd’s unbreakable guard. The fight will be won or lost on whether Conor can find a home for that left and finish Mayweather with it before Floyd figures out the pattern. Once Floyd figures you out, the fight is his.
Being the Bully:
The first three examples, while realistic possibilities are more likely to fail than not. Floyd has spent his entire life facing the best technical boxers on the planet and he blanks world champions with no difficulty. It’s easy to point out what a fighter should do, but to execute a plan against the likes of Floyd is a completely different story. Floyd has been knocked down once in his career and you could probably count the hard clean punches he’s taken on two hands. But Conor’s experiences in the grappling world, particularly wrestling, turns the clinch into an intriguing place to find a blind-spot from Floyd’s experience. The clinch in MMA is full of options to create leverage and throw opponents off balance. Many of these techniques would be illegal in a boxing ring, but done with subtlety would only attract warnings when caught early on. Now take a look at the drama of Conor and Paulie Malignaggi. The two had a 12-round sparring session inside of a regulation ring with a world class referee calling the action. Paulie complained that Conor fought dirty and Dana White has admitted that Conor was docked two points for fouls. That was 12 rounds spent testing the boundaries to see what techniques Conor could get away with and for how long. He will come into the bout with a real weight advantage to push on Mayweather. Conor could use the clinch to try and slow Floyd down and make him feel clinch pressure from unfamiliar techniques. If Conor can take away comfort in the clinch, it would remove one of Floyd’s favorite ways to break an opponent’s rhythm. Should Conor land one of those big punches, Floyd would not have the option to wrap Conor up the way that he did when Shane Mosley landed one of the most memorable attacks on Money Mayweather that we have ever seen. This is one place where the fight can really become interesting.