Mayweather vs McGregor. Boxing vs MMA. Who wins? Personally, I’ve held off commentating on this potential bout as I see it as the very definition of “believe it when I see it”. Neither man has anything scheduled and by using the other’s name, they can stay relevant and at the forefront of their respective sports. They’re both massive names in their own domain so the media will happily build articles around mundane quotes from the pair and fans of both sports will continue to lap it up.
Despite co-creating a boxing website, I am huge fan of MMA, more specifically UFC, and struggle to understand the tribal divide between the two. Naturally, you can follow one without the other but the constant comparisons and belittling of the other is as tiresome as Mayweather-McGregor chat. Yes, I appreciate the irony of this piece criticising such talk while giving it time on this very site. However, while I have long since tired of the constant back and forth between the two superstars I do find the comparison of the two sports fascinating.
It isn’t really a discussion that applies to any other similar sports. How often has a badminton player challenged Andy Murray to cross over? Do many cricketers move over to baseball to chase the big bucks? The case of Sam Burgess flitting between rugby league and union springs to mind but outside of the combat sports it’s not really an idea that is given too much air time.
Supporters of MMA and boxing seem the most defensive against anyone who dare suggest that an outsider could come in and be successful. If you are talking specifically about Mayweather and McGregor I fully support the claim that Floyd would comprehensively outbox the Irishman, and that is coming from Conor’s biggest fan. What he has done for MMA is unparalleled and he deserves huge respect for that. However, none of the elite level boxers Floyd faced beat him (Castillo I is much disputed) so it would be a monumental shock if someone with basic experience of the sport waltzed in and did so.
So, while I agree with that common sentiment, I must take umbrage with the general statement that McGregor would be out of his depth lower down the boxing pyramid. Peter McDonagh has been very vocal in his desire to face the “Notorious” in an all Irish affair. And most boxing fans seem to agree that any decent level boxer would be too much for him. He has a brief amateur background and is used to punching for a living, among many other facets, so I believe his transition into boxing wouldn’t be as tough as many predict.
An interesting case in point is Curtis Woodhouse who made an unlikely success moving from football to boxing. A far more drastic change in career path McGregor’s projected route. While he regularly sparks debate on Twitter, and on one occasion chased down a particularly annoying online troll, Woodhouse often speaks sense.
He roundly dismissed McGregor’s chances against Mayweather and drew the ire of many MMA fans who tried to make a case for their man. Most of them, somewhat reasonably claimed that if (one the biggest if’s in sporting history) the southpaw landed cleanly on an inactive Floyd, he could knock him out. He could. History does however tell us that the chances of this are extremely remote. Mayweather made a career of avoiding punishment in the ring. So much so that the latter stages of his career appeared more of a money and match-making exercise designed to ensure his longevity. He did however concede to us that with sufficient training and preparation, including actual boxing matches, McGregor could box his way to a good level. There is just a world apart from this and competing with Floyd Mayweather.
The most common argument in favour of the Crumlin man revolves around the exact rules of the bout and the gloves permitted. Now, these are the most futile discussions in my humble opinion. Within his own sport, Mayweather called the shots and regularly played by his own rules. Marcos Maidana was infamously denied the usage of his own “puncher’s” gloves, despite them being perfectly legal and approved by the appropriate commissions. Juan Manuel Marquez was compensated financially for Mayweather missing weight but was at a severe disadvantage come fight night. So anyone under the impression that kicks might be allowed, or this will be contested with MMA gloves (Floyd reportedly suffered from hand injuries for years and wore more cushioned gloves to compensate) needs to leave their naivety at the door before entering the debate.
The cynic / realist in me knows that if both men can make enough money out of this event, it will happen. I just won’t be particularly excited about it. Mayweather wins a boxing match. McGregor wins any other variation for me. Even without the grappling element, that McGregor doesn’t favour, Floyd’s traditional boxing stance would lead him into trouble against leg kicks and the like. I think both men are fully aware of this and that is why you won’t see Floyd entering the Octagon and calls from other boxers such as the aforementioned McDonagh, Paulie Malignaggi and Amir Khan will fall on deaf ears. These scenarios represent more of the risk at only a fraction of the reward. And let’s not kid ourselves, this talk is all about immense reward, minimum risk.