Commentary: ‘MayMac’ and the illusion of competition
You got what you wanted, didn’t you?
Well, maybe not you, specifically. Hardcore boxing fans weren’t interested in a boxing match between the undefeated Floyd Mayweather and the also undefeated by way of never having a professional boxing match Conor McGregor.
But it was a fantasy bout built on the digital shoulders of social media in an effort to bait the retired Mayweather into fighting one more time after he decided to walk away from the sport in 2015.
Another nine figure payday was dangled in front of Mayweather, which was essentially a low risk, high reward deal for a boxer who seemed content on retire. But the allure of the payday was something the man nicknamed “Money” simply couldn’t pass up. He may not have asked for it, but he damn sure was going to take it.
Perhaps that what the ski mask he wore during his ring walk symbolized? Because Mayweather was essentially robbing the bank based off an idea that his opponent created. And much credit goes to Conor McGregor in manufacturing belief that he could beat one of the greatest boxers of all-time at his own discipline. This was Wolf of Wall Street level manipulation at work by a man who truly believed the words he said.
We should have known better.
There was a caveat to all of this, however. Considering that it was set to break records for combat sports events, it meant that mainstream America would inject themselves into the nuances of boxing. It’s always fascinating to watch people become Bert Sugar on major fight nights after spending the other 364 days out of the year with a total lack of interest in the sweet science.
In the immortal words of Roger Mayweather: Most people don’t know sh*t about boxing.
And no truer was that statement was when McGregor stepped into a boxing ring to face Mayweather.
For weeks, Mayweather would tell anybody who was listening that he’s essentially going to walk the Irishman down and finish him inside of 12 rounds. Most MMA fans didn’t listen. They thought that the UFC champion could deal with Mayweather’s power considering that he had faced much bigger opponents in the past. Then there was the other sector of casual fans who figured that a 49-0 boxer should get rid of a debuting boxer from the world of MMA in the first three rounds.
Both suggestions were simply nonsensical. Mayweather isn’t a one shot kill fighter, but he has a certain way of stinging his opponents into submission if they keep coming forward.
But casual fans underestimated Mayweather’s boxing IQ, the fact that he never overlooks a fighter and his ability to gameplan in accordance to what his opponent shows him in the first couple of rounds.
After watching McGregor’s braggadocio of an early knockout materialize in the physical form for the first three rounds, Mayweather pinpointed the exact mileage that his opponent had left in the tank and proceeded to march forward in an effort to squeeze whatever was left out before dishing an outpouring of punishment to bring his prediction to fruition in the 10th round.
McGregor’s heart kept him in the fight but his conditioning ultimately betrayed him as Mayweather forced the UFC knockout artist to fight off his back foot, which he doesn’t handle too well.
But a fascinating narrative crept into social media after the fight that went from a McGregor knockout to a moral victory where he made it to the 10th round. The latter suggests that he wasn’t in step with Mayweather’s game plan the entire way. McGregor supporters point to the Irishman landing 111 punches, just a few shy of what Canelo Alvarez landed and more than Pacquiao. They used these numbers to justify that McGregor outperformed all estimations.
But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t promise a knockout and then backpedal into a moral victory after your fighter gets stopped.
While credit should be given to McGregor for daring to be great, nobody should be fooled into thinking these numbers mean anything. Could Mayweather have deployed the shoulder roll and opted to counter McGregor for 36 minutes? Sure. If he went that route, fans would have admonished his performance even though it’s probable that McGregor wouldn’t have landed more than 15% of his punches. Instead, Mayweather knew that he could take a few of a depleted McGregor punches on the chin and shoulders (and the back of the head) in an effort to pressure him into a fatigued state.
If Mayweather is nothing else, he’s careful. This was a very deliberate plan that would easily work on a fighter that was a boxing novice. A smarter fighter would have picked their spots better and conserved much of that energy for the later rounds.
But McGregor’s greatest asset is his worst enemy: his pride.
Mayweather knew that McGregor was confident he could knockout the unbeaten fighter. With that knowledge, Mayweather effectively turned the 29 year old’s aggression against him.
Depending on how you measure success in this fight, you can certainly say that McGregor made a solid showing of himself in his first boxing match. But to believe that the punches landed is an indicator of greatness or Mayweather being overrated is foolish.
Again, the ski mask represented a robbery that was about to take place. It wasn’t rocket science but it was exactly what a well conditioned 40 year old fighter who had solid, but unspectacular power needed to do against a younger fighter that had never fought longer than 25 minutes. McGregor didn’t understand how the nuances of boxing would come into play as the fight dragged on. He didn’t realize that Mayweather was purposefully pulling him into deep water with the full intention to drown him when his feet could no longer touch the bottom of the pool. And if that took taking a few punches in order to make it happen, then so be it.
One hundred and eleven punches and Mayweather left the fight unscathed. It was a glorified sparring session meant to teach the mixed martial arts world a lesson. But all it did was create a bigger legend out of McGregor, who will likely find his way into another boxing match in the near future. Unfortunately, a younger fighter with power (Canelo and GGG) wouldn’t afford McGregor the luxury of swimming until he tired. Instead, they would eat him alive the moment he dipped his toe into the pool. The only game plan would be destruction and that wouldn’t bode well for Mystic Mac.
Unfortunately, casual fans didn’t understand what was going on. Otherwise, this fight would have never, ever happened. McGregor could have remained in the UFC and defended his lightweight title while Mayweather would have remain retired.
But now both are nine-figures richer thanks to the fans belief that this could be a competitive fight.
We only have ourselves to blame.
Love him or hate him, Mayweather did what he told us he was going to do after we demanded that he fight a guy who never boxed professionally to satisfy our ignorance. Again, the “we” isn’t necessarily about the readers as much as it is the greater community of casual fans who may only watch a handful of fights a year and believe highlight clips on social media tell better stories of these fighters than watching the full fights they are in.
No, Floyd Mayweather didn’t underwhelm. No, Conor McGregor didn’t overachieve aside from being too ballsy for his own good. No, this fight means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things aside from the fact that McGregor will be raking the UFC over the coals to get the millions he wants for his next fight.
But if you bought into it thinking any of these things happened, an admission that you were duped by a car salesman who convinced you that a lemon was a bar of gold would be in order right about now.
Don’t hate the players, hate the game that everyone asked for but nobody realized they didn’t want until it was over.