According to retired MMA journeyman Brendan Schaub, there exists “no chance” of Floyd Mayweather knocking out Conor McGregor. This reasoning requires the kind of suspension of common sense which has consistently blighted the melodramatic build-up to this Saturday’s huge crossover contest. Indeed, common sense was shunted to the sidelines from the moment this match was announced and Schaub’s statement is only one small part in the “post-truth” publicity campaign working to make Mayweather vs McGregor one of the biggest events in recent sports history.
If such a comment was the swift keyboard work of an acne-riddled teenager in a YouTube comment section, it would warrant no further analysis. But Mr. Schaub has somehow wangled his way into a ringside seat as a Showtime commentator in order to deliver the pro-McGregor breakdown. We are being asked to genuinely accept that a professional boxer who has operated at an elite, world-class level for three decades is not capable of rendering helpless a competitor who has never fought a professional boxing match. McGregor is attempting an absurd subversion of all sporting logic. But more significantly, via such sideshow barkers like Schaub, we are under attack from a belief system that is attempting to belittle the art of boxing.
McGregor has brought in no sparring partners of note to prepare for his professional debut. He enters the contest armed with bulletproof self-belief and a useful straight left hand, a left that has conquered the world of mixed martial arts. McGregor counters efficiently in the octagon using basic slip and one-two techniques, admirable in a world where opponents are proficient in a variety of combat disciplines and thus cannot focus exclusively on the skills of fisticuffs. But, we are told, this will actually work in Conor’s favour come Saturday night. Unburdened by the conventions of pugilism, he will baffle Floyd with the unorthodox and the unexpected. Mayweather will be undone by an eccentric maverick, a wily genius of combat sports, who is primed to unleash wholly original and devastating strategems the likes of which no boxer has seen before.
The line of ill-logic that backs “Mystic Mac” tells us that instead of attempting to employ disciplined boxing tactics and technique in order to beat Floyd, Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, Zab Judah and Shane Mosley should rather have adopted a completely idiosyncratic approach. Pointlessly switching stances while out of range, haphazardly waving their arms about, and using the same punch with the same speed and delivery every time, would presumably have yielded much better results.
Someone should have told Manny Pacquiao not to bother bringing in experienced and dangerous sparring partners to sharpen his preparation. If instead he had employed a retired, out-of-condition and feather-fisted boxing commentator plus a few MMA journeymen, maybe it would be The Pacman who is about to learn about the limited nature of boxing by facing the UFC lightweight champion. Similarly, someone should have told Oscar De La Hoya to not bother enlisting the services of elite boxing trainer Freddie Roach to help him prepare for his confrontation with the erstwhile “Pretty Boy.” He would have been much better off training in an MMA gym and developing more avant-garde tactics.
Needless to say, Schaub’s opinion can be safely discounted. His is the voice of ego and blatant self-interest and it is Conor McGregor’s marvellous ego and skill for self-promotion that has earned him this career-defining payday. Rankings exist in both MMA and boxing for a reason. They offer a guide to the ability and potential of the fighters who occupy them, fighters who dedicate their lives to developing their skills in order to become elite competitors. Yet rankings in this instance matter not at all. It is primarily the confidence and self-belief of McGregor, the gift for self-actualization of the man they call “Mystic Mac,” that acts as a magnet for all manner of delusion.
The simple truth is that if Julius Indongo was to fight McGregor tomorrow in a boxing ring, Conor would require an ambulance after a few minutes of destruction. This is true. This is logic on a clear scale. Watch Indongo against Ricky Burns and witness a true weapon of a left hand in action. Then, when you’re finished, watch Indongo look like a novice against the new top dog of the boxing world, Terence Crawford. If Crawford was to box a 40-year-old Mayweather, he would be considered a slight underdog. Perhaps. The bookmakers would be split. But if Crawford was to box McGregor, nobody, and I mean nobody, would put a dime on the fiery Irishman. Yet the bookies consider McGregor a live underdog against the undefeated, multiple world champion, Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
McGregor’s famed mind games will not work against Floyd. The shaking of the head when hit, the smiling and playing to the crowd, none of this will affect Mayweather, an experienced and dedicated pugilist who mastered those games many years ago. When Floyd starts to counter the predictable left hand, and when McGregor feigns disdain after withstanding some of the initial, probing punches from the man some call “TBE,” that’s when Mayweather, a boxing super-computer, will have completed his final download.
Soon after, or whenever he pleases, Mayweather will begin rattling off two, three and four punch combinations, sequences of speed and surgical precision the likes of which Conor McGregor has never seen. The body shots will start to dig a little deeper, setting up even harder blows upstairs, and then it will just be a matter of time before Floyd Mayweather Jr. completes the last act of a fascinating career with a gift to all serious boxing fans, a vivid reminder of just how complex and intricate this deadly sport truly is beneath the veneer of two men throwing fists at each other. A safety-first points win will not suffice this time. Mayweather needs to repel this assault on his legacy and career with nothing less than a victory that is absolute, categorical and violent, in the process restoring some of the dignity and prestige of the sport of boxing.
Saturday night will be one of glorious absurdity, fuelled by the superficiality of social media and Mayweather vs McGregor may well prove a surreal farce of some description. After all, anything is possible. But that said, I’m not buying what you’re selling, Mr. Schaub. The pick here is Floyd Mayweather. Inside the distance. And with authority. — Gary Elbert