Stop the nonsense – Conor McGregor doesn’t have even a puncher’s chance against Floyd Mayweather

The frenzied build-up has been such that it has clouded judgement to the point where people are ignoring the evidence: the debutant has no chance against the unbeaten grand master

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 4:43pm

The death of boxing? A new dawn for MMA? Next Saturday’s bout between unbeaten four-weight world boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jnr and impressively cocksure debutant Conor McGregor likely represents neither.

It still feels a bit strange that this spectacle is even going ahead. It all happened so fast. It was only a few months ago that this was still being described as what it is: two brilliant manipulators of the mass-media taking full advantage of the click-bait frenzy that is modern journalism by making arch claims of superiority and engaging in bouts of playground goading.

Somewhere along the way, someone looked at the hits, shares and likes the soap opera was garnering and came to the conclusion that far from a “what if” daydream this was actually a huge opportunity to make serious money. More than Mayweather had ever made during his illustrious career by some distance, in fact, and far more than McGregor could ever dream of making in the heavily franchised MMA game.

At this point, it can only be assumed that the majority of people who have parted with money to watch the bout, either at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas or on the most expensive pay-per-view terms in boxing history, are not fans of either boxing or MMA. Those with either dog in the fight know that realistically Mayweather wins the contest easily, unless of course he chooses to protract matters. Rather, the majority of buyers appear to be people who have been taken in by the improbably high production value that surrounded the whirlwind, worldwide media pantomime and the brash, race-baiting, trash-talking of its combatants.

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The build-up has been high melodrama of the sort that would make writers of Coronation Street blush and it appears to have caught the attention of the casual observer with US$100 to spare, as the money men gleefully forecast it will be the highest-grossing contest in the history of martial arts. Which was the plan all along.

The fact that it’s still virtually impossible to find someone who knows boxing – and doesn’t stand to gain from the spectacle – that gives the Irishman any more than a puncher’s chance in there with the virtually unhittable American is neither here nor there.

To be clear, that’s about as much chance as you or I would realistically have against an unbeaten fighter who the very best boxers in the world have called and found to be unbeatable. That’s not to do McGregor the disservice of a comparison to an overweight, black-belt laptop warrior, rather to accentuate how little chance he realistically has when bereft of his undoubtedly superior grappling and kicking skills.

Long before any of this was inked, McGregor said of Mayweather: “He’s a phenomenal boxer, a phenomenal athlete, an intelligent businessman, but he’s a novice in true fighting and that’s just simple fact.”

While all that may be true, McGregor could barely be called a novice in boxing terms, and that too is simple fact.

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The notion of a McGregor victory is no less implausible than the chances of Michael Phelps outracing a great white shark.

Whenever the bluster of the occasion gets the better of me and a thread of doubt creeps in to the point that I start to think McGregor has a whisper of a chance, I forcefully remind myself of what another world champion boxer, Englishman Ricky Hatton, said about his experience of fighting Mayweather.

In his pomp, Hatton was a maelstrom of furious energy with a fearsome body shot. When Hatton fought Mayweather in a 2007 Las Vegas promotion dubbed “Undefeated”, he was truly at the peak of his powers. Without a blemish on his record and off the back of four particularly impressive victories in defence of his world title, many experienced boxing observers had the contest an even fight.

In the event, Hatton was hopelessly outclassed. Mayweather, ever the tactical genius, wore Hatton down until the Englishman became rash and then finished him off with devastating alacrity.

The passing years have somehow dulled the memory of that particular performance from Mayweather, but it was a thing of stupendous brutal beauty. Do check out the highlights online if you get the opportunity. I defy anybody after seeing it, to suggest the Irishman has a prayer next weekend.

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Hatton was eliminated that night by virtue of one of the most devastating knockouts I can remember. Mayweather, with unerring sleight of hand, delivered a rapier-like left hook to Hatton’s jaw before, phantom-like, pivoting out of the way and watching Hatton crumple, face first, into the ring post and collapse supine with his senses well and truly scrambled. It was the climax of one of the finest counter-punching exhibitions I had ever witnessed.

Of facing Mayweather over 10 rounds, Hatton later concluded: “Wow, Floyd was hard to hit. I couldn’t hit the f****r with a handful of confetti”.

Now, if Mayweather can prove so infuriatingly elusive to a previously unbeaten world champion boasting 31 knockouts up to that point, who was as close in the bookmakers’ odds as anyone had ever been to the American at that time, take a moment to imagine how he could and in all likelihood should take apart a total novice at this level. It hardly bares thinking about.

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We thought we’d reached peak madness when it was declared that professionals would compete alongside amateurs at the Rio Olympics. But feeding a debutant to an unbeaten, barely marked master whose flawless career was built on a philosophy of never being hit enough to lose a fight could be the sport’s biggest abomination yet.

But the money’s there and McGregor is willing, so roll on. Stamp that license and let them have at it.

You can expect the excitement to hit frenzied levels in the final week leading up to the bout. One man who’s often sounded out by the media given the nature of his own dismantling at the hands of Mayweather is Hatton. Of the bout he simply said: “I couldn’t hit him. Conor’s not gonna hit him. It could get embarrassing.”