This past Saturday night, MMA fighter Connor McGregor took on pro-boxing all-star Floyd Mayweather. The fight was heavily hyped, with odds spiraling into new heights. The match was set to go at 12 rounds along pure boxing rules. The match lasted until the 10th round when McGregor was defeated by TKO (technical knock-out; referee stoppage due to one fight being unable to continue fighting). The match was and is remarkable for several reasons, which I feel inclined to discuss.
#1 – MMA delivered
While there is some carryover between mixed martial arts and boxing, many believe that the MMA competitors’ arsenal is too diffuse to allow for the specialty and expertise of a boxer. MMA fighters needing to train so many different skillsets, and consider so many different types of opponents, they don’t have the luxury of really focusing like a boxer can. And while the history of boxers going toe-to-toe against MMA fighters on MMA rules has not always but usually gone to the MMA fighter (see Julius Francis, Ray Mercer, and James Toney), most everyone agrees that in a pure boxing match, an MMA fighter will get handily defeated.
We now have evidence that this isn’t automatically the case.
While McGregor trained exclusively on boxing for this fight, and wasn’t ignorant of boxing beforehand, this has added considerable weight to the notion that MMA fighters can compete against boxers on their terms. Of course, only a fool would mistake an elite fighter like Connor McGregor making the leap thanks to intensive training for just ‘any MMA fighter’, there is no denying that McGregor suffered no quick defeat and, in fact, acquitted himself every bit as well as some of the highest-level boxers in the game.
#2 – McGregor came to win
While McGregor was defeated (any complaining about early referee stoppage is purely the realm of conspiracy theorists), there is no doubt that he fought at the highest level. He fared every bit as well as Victor Ortiz and Ricky Hatton, and made it far father than all but the most ardent of fans thought he might. That he lost by TKO and not KO is also to his credit. Going forward, should McGregor choose to continue to compete in boxing, it should be a surprise to no one that he might prove to be a major contender.
#3 – Floyd Mayweather is the best boxer in modern history
While the likes of Jim Johnson, Joe Louis, or ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson, might make a strong case to the contrary, with the defeat of Connor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather finally surpassed Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 undefeated streak. Claims about tactics used, conditions (like longer matches), work rate (punches thrown per round), power or skill (punches thrown versus punches landed), at the end of the day, the number of victories is the first and primary metric by which professional boxers are measured and Floyd Mayweather has ascended to the apex in the modern era.
#4 – A monster beat an asshole
Connor McGregor has a long history of thinly-veiled racist insults (and some not-so-thinly veiled), along with homophobic and sexist slurs. He’s a crude man who will say anything to elicit a reaction, approaching and tipping over a line, though usually without quite crossing it. He’s crass and an ass, but his egregious behavior has seemed to be mostly words. Mayweather is an entirely different matter.
Setting aside financial grievances like tax evasion and shady practices like asking for tax exemption for the winnings off of fights numbering into the millions, Mayweather has a long history of intimidation and domestic abuse. While details of individual cases can be disputed, there is no denying that he has been convicted multiple times of domestic violence. He’s avoided jail time in most cases and has negotiated away more serious charges with plea bargains, but the rap sheet spells a pretty clear pattern. His victims include not just multiple girlfriends but also his own children.
So there we have it. A major, headlining fight that set a new standard in just about every facet. Modern boxing has a new king of the hill, as well as potentially a very bright new star. MMA has shown it can compete with boxing on boxing’s terms, a staggering realization when compared to boxing’s history in the octagon. And fight audiences proved they will overlook just about any past transgression if it promises a good show.
To quote Johnny Gomez, “Good fight and good night”.