Conor McGregor has recently received his California boxing license setting up a potentially lucrative fight with Floyd Mayweather. This article explains why I think Conor would lose this spectacle, and why it still worth him trying at least.
The entry point in the saga is that Conor seems to be in a pay dispute with the UFC. In the UFC 205 post-Alvarez fight conference, he repeatedly said he wants an equal stake in the gate revenues if he is to return to the octagon. For a fighter that had more pay per views than the whole of boxing combined in 2016, but a fraction of a boxers pay, he has a point: he is undervalued at present. A fight with Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather would increase his highest UFC cheque by a factor of 50. It's something Floyd has seemed open to, and has been rumoured to be having “50-0” (50 wins , 0 losses) merchandise being made already in anticipation of his comeback victory.
Floyd is typically confident, but then he has earned the right to be: his numbers speak for themselves. He is as skilled a businessmen as a boxer, and for someone said to be totally illiterate, he knows how to count zero’s just fine. He is everything that Conor should aspire to in sporting and business fields. He set up his own promotion company, having no bosses like Dana White in the UFC or Bob Arum in boxing, ensuring that he takes home the biggest cut of any event he is in, and is said to have amassed an $800m fortune in the process. And this figure seems an adequate monetization of his talent, as probably the pre-eminent athlete of his era in any sport.
But is this still his era - he has been retired for over a year after all? If Floyd enters the ring in anything resembling the condition he has fought before, I would imagine they would have to fight 50 times for Conor to win once. Floyd probably won't knock him out: he hasn’t done that to an opponent since Ortiz in 2011 (infamously hitting him after hugging gesture, before this the next last knockout was Hatton 2007), but he would outpoint him nearly every round until the 12th. This will be a boxing match, on top of whose rules Floyds contract will add extra stipulations (like Glove types) to his increasing benefit. Totally in keeping with the marginal gains philosophy. And the rules of the fight will determine who wins this spectacle. For example, if Floyd entered Conor's octagon, Conor would win every time, and he wouldn’t last longer than a minute.
Conor's chance improves depending on what toll time and lifestyle have taken on Floyds body. Conor also has a 2 in reach advantage which would make it the largest Mayweather has faced. Imagine how the Alvarez fight could have gone if Eddie's final punch of the fight was even one inch closer. Would he then have faced the four punch combination that finished him, or would Conor have been staggered?
One aspect that will be quite telling is if this match with Floyd is his first fight professionally, or if he takes at least one opponent before him. It makes little sense to test yourself first off with someone with a legitimate claim to being the best ever in his sport, unless you think you will be beaten by a lesser fighter thus reducing the chance of the Mayweather payday.
Conor has the range controlled in the octagon, but Floyd is the master in the ring. As good as Conor is in his stand-up game, Floyd has shown under boxing rules, he is by far the best around. The nearest competitor to him was Manny Pacquiao and I had waited since at least 2008 for Manny to prove himself the better fighter, but he couldn’t get close to Floyd, who turned in a thoroughly brilliant performance, but in a cumulative sort of way, mostly after the final bell when it was clear Floyd had choked the drama from the spectacle so completely, so professionally.
Mayweather with his characteristic timing picked the fighter that was on the descent from his 2010 peak. Timing beats speed as someone once said. Heavy hitters such as Hatton, Canelo, Marquez were forced to wait to land even one big shot, and that chance never came for them. He just leaves no openings where you could see Conor's left landing (out of all 49 fights I watched of his, only twice, versus Mosely & Maidana, has his defence been significantly breached). It sounds almost flippant, but Conor's best chance would be a first round knockout, before Floyd finds his range and balletic rhythm.
But even after all this, its still worth Conor pursuing. He will lose no credibility in MMA for having tried a different sport and lost. He doesn’t have the perfect unbeaten record to defend like Floyd's perfect boxing record and whatever sense of loss he does feel will surely be soothed with that gargantuan chunk of cash. And with a family on the way $100m will go along way to ensuring he doesn’t need to fight forever to support them, with all its associated risks.
This is the bare minimum to expect too. What happens if he confounds expectations like throughout his career, and actually beats Floyd? Well a $300m rematch would be on the cards at the very least, and the prestige of taking Floyd's perfect record would be world shattering. I really, really hope this is the case, but experience tells us Floyd always finds a way.