And so, finally, it is over. Last night in Las Vegas, it all went down. Floyd Mayweather, boxing’s pound-for-pound king, met UFC star Conor McGregor at the T-Mobile arena in Vegas for 12 rounds of boxing. What should have been an exhibition match and nothing more, galvanized the attention of sports fans. For roughly 40 minutes, millions of people in America, Ireland and elsewhere, stopped what they were doing to take in a most unlikely showdown.
The Irish-centric crowd was clearly in favor of McGregor, but Mayweather, at 49-0, entered the ring as the man to beat, the man who had to fall if the fairy-tale were to be fulfilled. For, amazingly enough, Conor McGregor, the man who was getting a chance to battle the undefeated “Money” Mayweather and earn millions of dollars, had never before engaged in a professional boxing match. All the hype, all the money, all the predictions, all the salesmanship, had led to this one moment. Floyd was of course the heavy favorite among legit analysts, but McGregor had his believers, and also, according to him, his own indomitable self-belief, the uncanny predictive powers of “Mystic Mac.”
McGregor came out hard and fast at the opening bell, while Mayweather went straight to the ropes and, to the shock of many, it was the Irishman who carried the fight and capped the opening round with a solid uppercut. Surprisingly, the entire first two rounds were essentially McGregor’s. The third was Conor’s, as well, despite the fact he was repeatedly striking Floyd in the back of the head, a flagrant foul. But in the fourth Mayweather came alive and started landing. McGregor held his own, but it was close and Floyd continued to land in the fifth, his sharp right hand to the body finding a home again and again.
An uncharacteristic performance from Floyd — flat-footed, coming forward, taking shots — continued as he became more and more dominant. He took the sixth and seventh rounds as Conor became more visibly exhausted, his mouth open as he struggled to keep up, and while the Irishman won some exchanges in the ninth, the round still belonged to “Money” as McGregor looked completely exhausted at the bell. Mayweather kept coming forward, looking to hurt and dominate his opponent, and in round ten he pulled out all the stops, landing shot after shot. An exhausted McGregor was completely overwhelmed and referee Robert Byrd stepped in and stopped the bout.
Floyd stated afterwards that his entire game plan was to take McGregor deep and then stop him when he tired. And that was exactly what happened. While McGregor was brave, he was, in the end, an MMA fighter in his first pro boxing match, up against a man who has been boxing since he was a small child, whose command of his craft, even now, at the age of 40, is not to be questioned.
“I turned him into a Mexican tonight,” McGregor said afterwards, alluding to the fact that Mayweather essentially tracked him down and knocked him out, something Floyd rarely does. McGregor then stated that he thought the fight was stopped too soon, that he would have preferred going out on his back. As McGregor nemesis Paulie Malignaggi stated though, if a fighter isn’t throwing punches, the referee doesn’t have much of a choice but to halt the proceedings.
In the end, to state the obvious, this was a money play and huge amounts of cash were undoubtedly made. There was good reason for the two men to be embracing and smiling afterwards and it had nothing to do with sportsmanship. This was never a legit showdown; it was a mass market product, packaged and sold to the masses to fill the already bulging pockets of millionaires.
And while the match appeared more competitive than anyone had a right to expect, in truth Floyd was in control the whole time. He boxed to fulfill the expectations of his opponent’s fans, to give them hope, to give everyone a show, to make sure no one today can complain that the fight was boring. In a perverse way, it stands as one of the most impressive performances of Floyd’s career.
The bottom line is this: no matter what each man does from here on out, he will do it while being incredibly rich. After all, they did call it “The Money Fight.” If you bought it, here’s hoping you feel good about it today. And if you don’t, hang tight; Canelo vs Golovkin is, not a moment too soon, just around the corner. — Carlos Ramirez