Conor McGregor is a showman, a tough customer and a brilliant mixed martial artist. On Saturday night in Las Vegas he showed he could box too. But not nearly well enough to beat Floyd Mayweather, one of the all-time greats of the game.
Mayweather, out of retirement at age 40, won the fight on a 10th round TKO to take his record to 50-0. McGregor, a 4-1 underdog with bookies, but 100-1 with many boxing experts, proved he wasn’t hopelessly overmatched in a sport he had never before competed in professionally.
Mayweather’s strategy seemed to be to frustrate McGregor for long enough to exhaust him, then finish the job. It worked. “Our game plan was to take our time, then take him out at the end, down the stretch,” Mayweather said after the fight.
McGregor looked sharp in the first rounds, landing some blows, although also missing many because of Mayweather’s vaunted defense. As the rounds went by, though, he began to get sluggish, leaving openings for Mayweather to hit him again and again.
By round 10, he seemed almost out on his feet, and when Mayweather landed a series of blows with McGregor on the ropes, referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight. McGregor lost the fight, but he never went down.
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“They should have let me keep going,” he said afterward. “Let the man put me down.”
McGregor outlanded Mayweather, 51-40, in the first five rounds. But Mayweather dominated the rest of the fight, 130-60.
The judges’ scorecards were not needed, but two of them gave McGregor only the first round, while the third gave him rounds one to three.
The colossally hyped fight may well have been the biggest pay-per-view bout in history. Alex Rodriguez, LeBron James and Jennifer Lopez were among those in the well-heeled crowd.
Mayweather was magnanimous in victory: “He’s a tough competitor. I think we gave the fans what they wanted to see. He’s a lot better than I thought he was. But I was the better man tonight.”
McGregor said: “He’s not that fast, he’s not that powerful, but boy is he composed.”
Both men made a fortune fighting in one of the most talked about fights in years. McGregor plans to return to mixed martial arts. As for Mayweather: “This is my last fight tonight, ladies and gentlemen.”
But he has said that before.
Here’s how Mayweather beat McGregor:
1st round: McGregor comes out strong
McGregor comes out pushing Mayweather back onto the ropes. Mayweather seems content with seeing what McGregor has in terms of punching ability. McGregor is flicking his right jab out, trying to measure up a left hand but not landing anything seriously.
McGregor seems to have done something no one thought he would. He may have won that round.
Mather: Before the round referee Robert Byrd emphasized the bout would be “by boxing rules.” And there was no surprise kicking or takedowns by McGregor. And not a lot of punching from Mayweather, who was content to use his legendary defensive skills to frustrate McGregor. McGregor dropped his arms at one point, a tactic he has used in the U.F.C., as if to say, “Just try to hit me.” Mayweather did not take the bait.
2nd: McGregor keeping Mayweather at a distance
Referee warns McGregor for hitting Mayweather in the back of the head. McGregor is bouncing up and down in a somewhat awkward fashion for boxing. Mayweather seems to still be trying to figure him out.
McGregor doing a nice job of keeping Mayweather away, though he is not landing anything solid. But every time he even swipes his hands close to Mayweather’s, a big cheer goes up from the very pro-McGregor crowd.
We are starting to see Mayweather’s plan emerging. He is looking to hit McGregor with some lead right hands.
Mather: The fans who had stood for round 1, perhaps expecting fireworks, settled back into their seats for round 2. Between rounds McGregor smiling broadly.
3rd: McGregor winning rounds as aggressor
When McGregor gets in close, he seems to be hammer-fisting Mayweather on top of Mayweather’s head when they clench. The referee has warned McGregor about it several times.
Mayweather is taking his time figuring out how to get to McGregor. He has not shown much offensive aggression or landed too solidly with anything so far. McGregor has won the rounds so far, if nothing else because he is the aggressor. But let’s see if he can keep up the stamina.
Mather: McGregor could actually be ahead on the scorecards at this point. But there is a real sense that Mayweather is biding his time and hasn’t fired his big guns yet.
4th: Mayweather makes up some ground
At the start of round 4, Mayweather backs onto the ropes and covers up, allowing McGregor to take shots, none of which landed cleanly. I wonder if Mayweather is trying to rope-a-dope McGregor a little bit, make him tire himself out by throwing a lot of punches early in the fight.
Mayweather ducked under a McGregor jab and landed a pretty solid right hand.
Mayweather is getting some things going. He slipped a left hand from McGregor and fired off a right hand of his own. It was a close round but probably went to Mayweather. Mayweather also landed a couple of good body blows.
Mather: Every McGregor punch that lands, or looks like it lands, gets a roar from the crowd. Judges have been known to be influenced by crowd reactions.
5th: McGregor starting to look tired
McGregor seems to be swiping and tapping at Mayweather rather than throwing solid punches. It might be one sign of his inexperience in the boxing ring, as he is not used to throwing punches in close range the way that boxers do.
Late in the round, Mayweather started to talk down to McGregor. He hit him with a solid overhand right and then came back with a left. McGregor is breathing a little heavier, and the two fighters have had some real tussles when they have locked up. Mayweather looks a bit frustrated at what seems to be some wrestling moves by McGregor.
Mather: Mayweather is doing less defending and more lashing out. Could he be waiting for McGregor to tire to unleash his full arsenal? And McGregor is starting to look tired.
6th: Mayweather makes his move
With Mayweather’s back turned, McGregor was unleashing on him and the referee let it go on for a little longer than he probably should have. After appearing perturbed, Mayweather started going forward and unloading on McGregor, landing solid left-right combinations that got the arena to its feet. McGregor appears very tired and is not throwing back.
Fans have started with chants of “Conor,” but that appears to be doing little to uplift their fighter in a meaningful way. Although the fight is still pretty scrappy, Mayweather seems to be settling in.
Mather: Mayweather stung McGregor there several times, but eventually reverted to his defensive style. And another hands-behind-the-back display of bravado by McGregor as the round ends.
7th: Mayweather’s speed gets to McGregor
Even though McGregor is the bigger fighter, Mayweather certainly does not seem to be worried about his punching power. He is going forward, with his hands up, walking right through McGregor. In one moment, McGregor slid around Mayweather but was met with a right hook. Then Mayweather came back with a quick jab that hit McGregor before he could respond. Even though Mayweather is 40, the speed definitely is still there.
Mather: Championship fights in the U.F.C. have 25 minutes of fighting time. McGregor is up to 21 here and might have to go 15 more. His fatigue level is the most important factor right now.
8th: Mayweather starts taking control
When they are clenching, Mayweather is positioning his body in a way that McGregor can only hit the back of his head. For most boxers, they would not throw that punch. But McGregor is not most boxers. He is hitting the back of Mayweather’s head, and the referee seems reluctant to do anything about it. Mayweather seems a little bit frustrated by that, but it’s not stopping him from landing some peppery right hands. Mayweather seems to be taking control.
Mather: McGregor is falling behind in this fight, but is still gamely slugging it out. This is far from the ridiculous mismatch some predicted.
9th: McGregor, tired, looks like he’s had enough
Things got off to a chippy start. McGregor came out and landed a stiff right hand and then he hit Mayweather on the belt line. Mayweather appeared to be hurt by it, but the referee did not call a low blow. When the referee got in between them and Mayweather approached, McGregor flicked him with a right hand.
Late in the round, Mayweather came storming back with a series of right hands, that had McGregor leaning on the ropes with his mouth open.
10th: A flurry from Mayweather, and the ref stops the fight
This fight’s over. Mayweather backed McGregor onto the ropes with a series of rights and lefts. McGregor’s face was red and swollen. He was staggering into the ropes when the referee stepped in to stop the fight with 1:55 remaining in the round.