You have to hand it to Conor McGregor. He went into the ring Saturday night in front of the whole world and acquitted himself quite well. He lasted until the 10th round before his bout with Floyd Mayweather was stopped. He put on a much better show than most people expected.
But the best thing McGregor did, all in all, was pick the right opponent. The 40-year-old Mayweather was hardly the same fighter who gained the reputation as one of the best ever. The 50th consecutive win of his career was nothing like most of the ones before it. McGregor found an opponent who couldn't beat him senseless -- which, when you think about it, is just about the most important thing when you're shopping for someone to trade punches with.
Ironically, it was the same for Mayweather. He also found someone who couldn't put him away, even though McGregor gave Mayweather a pretty good pounding. McGregor landed 111 punches in just a bit more than nine rounds. That's amazing considering nine of Mayweather's opponents had been able to land fewer than 100 shots on him in 12 rounds. But this obviously wasn't the same Mayweather.
Through the first few rounds he chose to watch, rather than fight. He threw only five punches in the first round. Most of the early rounds he spent covering up and later claimed it was the game plan all along to let McGregor punch himself out.
That was a fine game plan but a younger Mayweather -- the man is now 40 -- would have danced and avoided contact, which he did just about as well as anybody. But Saturday he didn't move much and mostly just covered up and took the blows on his gloves until he realized that McGregor really couldn't hurt him with his punches -- which very often had no leverage or power behind them.
McGregor's jabs, after the first few rounds, were patty-cakes. Love pats, with little behind them. And while commentators talked about seeing a "new" Mayweather, one that was coming forward instead of retreating, I'm pretty sure that was because he was facing his first opponent in years who didn't pose any threat to his well being. There was no need for caution against McGregor's weak arm-only punches.
Mayweather had discovered that McGregor didn't have enough power to hurt him.
I'm guessing, too, that Mayweather -- known to place wagers on himself -- may have had a prop bet that the fight would go eight rounds or longer because he really didn't get serious until that point of the fight. When he did, he rained punches on the Irishman. But strange thing, the punches didn't have much effect. Mayweather's hands, by now, are worn out. He's broken them and banged them up so often that there isn't much left in them.
His own father said prior to the fight he didn't think his son had enough left in his hands to bring a knockout:
“I ain’t gonna say a knockout, because my son got a hand problem,” Mayweather Sr told FOX Sports 11. “That’s a true story, he got a hand problem. He gonna make Conor McGregor look like a fool. Believe me.”
By the end of the fight, Mayweather had hit McGregor with everything left in those sore hands but not only didn't he knock him down, he didn't even cut him or force major swelling. Afterward, McGregor was like a kid who had emerged from a final exam with a C-minus but was elated he still passed the test. He made a small fuss about thinking the referee should not have stopped the bout and made sure that everyone knew he still had all his senses about him.
His problem, of course, was fatigue. In no way was he ready to go 12 rounds and even though he wasn't hurt, he was dead tired. He could barely stand -- not from his foe's punches but because he was out of gas.
It made for an entertaining enough fight, much better than most people thought it would be. But I'll say this with all sincerity. Nether man should get back in that ring again. Mayweather is pretty much done and without movement and punching power, I'm not sure he could handle the world's best any longer.
And as for McGregor, he picked the right opponent. He fought one of the all-time greats -- but a man far past his peak -- and made a boatload of money. Had McGregor been in the ring with even a good 150-pound fighter -- not a great one -- he'd probably have been carried out of the ring in a daze. I hope for his sake this fight didn't delude him into thinking he's a great boxer, because he's not.
Matchups make great fights and in this case, the matchup was better than expected. And so was the fight.