One of the greatest athletes once said “First of all, convince yourself that you are the best because the rest of your life is going to go proving this to others.”
When Wasim Akram said this, he had little idea that a 28-year Irishman would take it to another level by challenging one of the greatest combat athletes of all times at a level he never before appeared!
That narrative is straight out of Sly Stallone Rocky III where the arrogant and menacing Clubber Lang challenges the world heavyweight champion’s supremacy in the ring. The only difference is that this time it is real. The dual is set to break many records on many levels and already is the second most pricey combat sports event ever, behind 2015’s dual of Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Today, the avenues to encash an event of this stature are many such as pay-per-view sales, TV advertisement, ticket sales, merchandise and more. The fight is projected to purse revenues of around £385 million. Moreover, the leading betting companies are also rewarding punters with audacious odds and potential winnings. For instance, I’ve spotted that BetVictor are offering 100/1 to new clients excited about an unlikely McGregor victory on 26th August.
Everything is there for the taking for the all-time great, Floyd Mayweather. He is an overwhelming favourite to outbox mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor in his first official sanction boxing match. If the 5 times boxing world champion wins on 26 August 2017, he will eclipse Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 mark. It is pertinent to mention that no other widely recognised world champion has retired with a more glowing record than 50-0!
As an outsider looking in, it is tough to term anyone a loser in a duel where both individuals stand to make as much as Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are in a few days. Nonetheless, the former has far more at stake than his wild, but inexperienced opponent. It does not matter much how much money or he can acquire in the future if he loses the game, it would diametrically change how history will remember him.
Floyd is a student of the sport, a second-generation fighter whose uncles were also proud ringsters. Mayweather knows the sport like few do in its history and his legacy immensely matters to him. One can wax lyrical about the 40 year old’s technical supremacy and ironclad defence, but the thing that actually sets him apart from his peers is his zero career defeats. Therefore, not many can disagree when the yet-to-retire legend claims to be the best ever.
Any loss would remove that unblemished glow, but to lose to a mixed martial arts artist – who would be making his pro boxing debut – on the biggest stage combat sports has seen would be a humiliation for life. It would be next to impossible to find a more catastrophic way for Mayweather to end his professional career. Although, his bank account will be bulkier either way his pride will be wounded perennially. Conversely, if McGregor loses, no one will point and laugh as the majority, in fact almost everyone is expecting him to lose.
Moreover, any bit of ring success against the best ever will be a feather in his cap. The folklore stitched by his fans would be something like – McGregor never had a pro boxing game in his life and he was able to touch the greatest winner of all time, Mayweather. Therefore, McGregor comes out looking good irrespective of the result of the game.
HOW CAN MCGREGOR PULL OFF THE UNTHINKABLE?
Something fans often fail to recognise is that on how many occasions Mayweather has lost the initial few rounds of his fights. He has been out powered, outpaced, outboxed and outsmarted. However, through sheer resilience he has always found a way back relying upon his primary weapon and then fighting his opponent where he feels comfortable.
At the other end of the money fight spectrum stands Conor McGregor! Throughout his career, he has come up with picture-perfect strategies for all of his opponents to the degree of even prophesying how he would dismiss them in the ring. His creativity in the ring has done much to evolve the sport bringing new moves and techniques into play. However, if Mayweather figures out his plans before McGregor can finish him then it essentially becomes a battle of wits. Moreover, the question is not who the supreme athlete is, but who is a smarter fighter?
When The Pretty Boy fought Zab Judah, he fought a boxer who threw his counters from the same uncommon angles as McGregor, while it is typically considered a superior position for a southpaw to put his foot on the outside to punch. Zab like McGregor took an inferior angle from the inside and countered with either hand eventually landing a knockdown with the lead hook. However, Floyd adjusted by smothering Judah’s counter before shifting into his punch to cut off the opponent’s footwork. This modification won Mayweather the fight and kept his sparkling 49-0 unbeatable record intact. This is because Zeb never adjusted and it went to decision.
If fans are fancying this is what Mayweather could do against McGregor as well, you may be surprised to know that this has been tried on the notorious in the past. Chad Mendes frequently took advantage of the way McGregor pivots into his punch by stepping in and smothering it, similar to what Mayweather did to Judah. The majority of fighters try to pivot away from McGregor’s hammer-like left hand, but Mendes dismantled UFC champion’s plans by stepping right into it.
After that, he threw counters and occasionally ran McGregor straight into his right hand. Moreover, the current UFC featherweight also mixed up his attacks with takedowns. McGregor was getting trampled and beaten, but he stood up and readjusted. He began to hit Mendes in the solar plexus with front kicks to daunt him from coming in and punch him to the body and to discourage him from keeping his hands high. He then pinned his back foot to the ground and fought Mendes from his range where he had the reach advantage. When Mendes ran, he fell victim to McGregor’s pivoting left.
As smart as McGregor is, he lacks Mayweather’s experience. It may be much harder for him to outfox Floyd in a boxing match. For that reason, the way Mayweather readjusts is both good news as well as bad news for McGregor. This essentially means that McGregor must have something incredible up his sleeves to outsmart Mayweather. Something like a well-developed, unexpected plan that may catch the pretty boy by surprise and expose his vulnerabilities, then he will perhaps have a few rounds to exercise it.
Alternatively, if Floyd can squeeze out time to figure Conor out then the fight will go down to who can readjust the fastest. That is why in this match the smartest fighter will win the money pit and eternal (almost) fame!