EDITORIAL — I have been writing about both boxing and MMA for nearly a decade now. When I was still a student living at my parent’s house, I remember staying up until the early hours of the morning to watch Floyd Mayweather fight Arturo Gatti, and waiting until Monday night to watch the replay of the UFC shows.
As a student of both sports, the match-up between Mayweather and Conor McGregor strikes me as inherently ridiculous. To use a more American analogy; just because Lamar Miller is the fastest running back in the NFL doesn’t mean he would be able to compete with Usain Bolt in the 100 meters.
However, there’s one major difference between a race and a fight. Races are settled by the simple matter of who is first over the line. There’s very little capacity for controversy when it comes to determining the outcome of the events that Bolt had been competing in until his recent retirement.
By contrast, the outcome of Mayweather’s fights are inevitably decided by a panel of three human beings. His last ten bouts have all gone the distance. Against Oscar de la Hoya, he won by split decision, and the victory over Saul Alvarez came courtesy of a majority decision.
Few people felt that Mayweather deserved to lose either of the aforementioned fights. But it goes to show how fine the margins between success and failure can be in combat sport. Had just one more judge failed to award him the decision against either the “Golden Boy” or “Canelo” the opportunity to obtain an unblemished 50-0 record would have been lost forever.
I can only ever remember seeing Mayweather hurt once. And that was against multiple division world champion Shane Mosley, a far superior boxer to McGregor. So even wearing 8-ounce gloves, the prospects of the multiple division UFC champion hurting the undefeated boxer look bleak.
But, while McGregor will probably struggle to actually punch Mayweather, I have total faith in the Irishman’s ability to upset, unsettle, and frustrate the boxer. I expect him to clown around by switching stances, holding his hands behind his back, employing unorthodox footwork, and using an array of tricks and tactics seldom, if ever, seen inside a square ring.
I anticipate McGregor subjecting Mayweather to a torrent of verbal abuse while providing a running commentary on the action. The TV microphones might not pick it up, but it would be audible to the judges and the question is: what impact will these potentially unprecedented antics have on Burt Clements, Dave Moretti, and Guido Cavalleri?
These three men will in all likelihood decide, quite literally, the outcome of the fight. Referee Robert Byrd will also have a vital role to play. Will he try to enforce the traditions and conventions of boxing as well as the rules? Or will he let the Irishman get away with all but the most blatant infractions?
Mayweather probably won’t make many mistakes; he seldom does. But one of these officials might, which is why, assuming this contest does indeed go the distance, absolutely anything could happen.
McGregor can’t outbox Mayweather; he won’t try to. But the MMA star could try and turn the fight into a spectacle so bizarre that the judges simply don’t know what to make of it. Could he could make this boxing match so bad that there is not enough meaningful action to determine a clear winner?
He could. And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that was the strategy. If McGregor moves forwards too much or overcommits to combinations, he will get knocked out, just like Ricky Hatton did. But if he maintains distance and keeps the punching to an absolute minimum, the fight might just be close.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps McGregor genuinely believes that after a year or so training as a boxer, he has what it takes to hurt and even finish Mayweather. But I suspect he’s far too shrewd an operator to take anything other than a strictly pragmatic approach to this fight.
If my synopsis is correct, then the fight will be bizarre. It will be frustrating for the fans and there will be boos, but it will also go the distance. If at the end of it all three judges are left asking themselves ‘what the hell just happened?’ there’s no way of knowing what the outcome will be.
(Follow @JamesGoyder on Twitter)