It has been an overblown circus of bluster and hyperbole from the outset, while many contend it has undermined boxing’s integrity – but there’s little doubt the showdown between revered veteran pugilist Floyd Mayweather and MMA superstar Conor McGregor is the most anticipated fight of the past two decades.
The ultra-hyped showdown’s legitimacy notwithstanding, from a worldwide interest and betting standpoint, the contest ranks alongside any in the sporting universe. But can the motor-mouthed Irishman take down the unbeaten ‘Money’ in his first professional boxing bout?
The 40-year-old American has won world titles in five weight divisions, but his legacy – which he puts at great risk in this fight – hinges on his hallowed 49-0 record, winning 26 bouts by knockout and 23 by decision.
Mayweather is regarded as one of the most technically flawless boxers of all time, with a perfect defensive technique bringing countless opponents undone. Besides his age, the biggest factor holding ‘Money’ back is that he has not fought in almost two years – his last bout was a unanimous decision over Andre Berto in September 2015.
Meanwhile, nine of his last 10 wins came by decision; his only knockout since 2007 was when he stopped Victor Ortiz in the fourth round in 2011. Mayweather’s long-awaited superfight against fellow boxing legend Manny Pacquiao in 2015 was a largely dour affair, with Floyd clinching a decision with his outstanding defence and accurate counterpunching.
But while his more recent fights have not been overly exciting, Mayweather has proven time and again his ability to take a punch.
‘The Notorious’ is the current UFC Lightweight Champion, defeating Eddie Alvarev by TKO in November last year to lift his career record to 21-3. In the MMA realm, he is known predominantly as a striker who prefers to fight standing up rather than on the ground.
But his profile, endless self-promotion and trash-talking have had as much to do with securing this extraordinary showdown with the twice-retired Mayweather as his boxing ability.
McGregor enjoys a significant size and reach advantage over Mayweather, and there’s no doubt he’ll go the aggressive route and try and find an early knockout against the superior boxer.
What the experts say
Boxing experts and former greats are almost unanimous in declaring Mayweather a certain victor in Las Vegas this weekend.
A common thread in that assessment is the fact MMA fighters, generally speaking, leave themselves open for punches.
McGregor will have been training tirelessly to shore up that deficiency in recent months, but that is a relatively short time to prepare for a boxer of Mayweather’s tactical offensive smarts – let alone being able to unpick his defence.
But it only takes one punch to win a fight, and there is a lingering doubt amongst the boxing fraternity that the powerful McGregor could, just maybe, find that one punch required to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history.
First of all, make no mistake that the $1.20 for a Mayweather victory and $4.80 for a McGregor boilover is about as conservative as you will ever find – and that is largely due to the money pouring in overwhelmingly for the popular McGregor as opposed to the widely-hated Mayweather.
Unsurprisingly, a Mayweather TKO ($2.80) is the shortest-price exact method of victory, followed by a Mayweather unanimous decision ($4.25) and a Mayweather knockout ($5.50).
A McGregor knockout is paying $7, compared to $81 for a unanimous decision. That illustrates that ‘The Notorious’ stunning the legend with a powerful barrage is a genuine threat, but there’s no way he can go the distance and win.
A Mayweather DQ win at $7.50 is worth considering with the fiery Irishman a chance of letting his no-holds-barred MMA instincts take over if things aren’t going his way.
It’s going to be one hell of a spectacle however it plays out, but the smart money lies with ‘Money’ breaking down the inexperienced McGregor and finishing him off around the six- or seven-round mark.
Tip: Floyd Mayweather by TKO @ $2.80