THAT’S ALL FOLKS

EASY MONEY May­weather ends his out­landish ri­valry with Mcgre­gor

Boxing News - - Con­tents - Matt Christie @Mattcbox­ingnews

IN the end it all went smoothly. Floyd May­weather

out­classed an ex­cep­tion­ally brave Conor Mcgre­gor

while vol­ley­ing him to de­feat in round 10, the fans in­side the T-mo­bile Arena en­joyed it and box­ing sur­vived. But, and there was al­ways go­ing to be a ‘but’ when May­weather went 50-0 against a debu­tant, this never felt or looked like a real fight.

For his part, Mcgre­gor gave this ad­ven­ture ab­so­lutely every­thing he had and he de­serves all the credit in the world for that. From knuck­ling down in the gym and learn­ing a new dis­ci­pline to pro­mot­ing the event to within an inch of its life, Mcgre­gor be­came the most talked about un­der­dog in sport­ing his­tory. And it can be said he sur­passed all ed­u­cated ex­pec­ta­tion by not only sur­viv­ing for as long as he did, but also for bring­ing the crowd to their feet by clump­ing his op­po­nent on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. How­ever, it’s im­por­tant to re­tain per­spec­tive when ex­am­in­ing his per­for­mance and that of his ri­val.

It was clear from the open­ing bell as the 29-year-old trot­ted over to May­weather square on, chin high, and swiped his left hand over, that he was so many lev­els below his op­po­nent it was al­most ridicu­lous. What wasn’t im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous, though, was why the Amer­i­can su­per­star didn’t make him pay for such care­less­ness straight away. Cer­tainly the Ir­ish­man’s ec­cen­tric style gave the favourite some­thing to think about, but if May­weather had

any re­spect at all for his op­po­nent, it would have been a com­pletely dif­fer­ent con­test. Yes, the punch stats – the holy grail for cer­tain en­thu­si­asts – will tell you that Mcgre­gor landed more punches on May­weather than Manny Pac­quiao man­aged in May 2015, and al­most as many in nine-and-a-bit rounds as Canelo Al­varez achieved in 12 four years ago. Bot­tom line, had May­weather ap­proached ei­ther of those two bouts like he did this one – con­temp­tu­ous yet com­pletely care­free – he would have lost. But against a novice like Mcgre­gor, May­weather knew there was ab­so­lutely no way he could lose.

While it would be wrong to say he wanted to get hit, it’s fair to say avoid­ing punches was not his pri­or­ity. Af­ter feel­ing Mcgre­gor’s power from a meaty up­per­cut in the open­ing round, he con­tin­ued to stray into the tar­get zone com­pletely con­tent he would not en­counter dan­ger. Fre­quently smil­ing and wink­ing at ringsiders, he did ex­actly as he pleased.

“It took us a lit­tle longer than we ex­pected,” May­weather said. “But I guar­an­teed you I was go­ing to score the knock­out. In 21 years in the sport of box­ing I had some great fights and some bor­ing fights, but I will al­ways go down as a win­ner and some­one who could dis­sect fight­ers and fol­low the game plan.”

The game plan for the open­ing rounds was sim­ply to see what Mcgre­gor had to of­fer. Af­ter all, no­body, not even Mcgre­gor him­self, re­ally knew what to ex­pect. What May­weather dis­cov­ered, while con­serv­ing en­ergy and only throw­ing a shot when he ab­so­lutely had to, was a will­ing but raw fighter, and one who was vis­i­bly ex­hausted by the fourth round. From this point, hav­ing seen all he needed to see, May­weather grad­u­ally in­creased his at­tacks from be­hind his high guard, and had lit­tle trou­ble land­ing when he chose to throw. It’s likely that May­weather de­cided to end mat­ters in the 10th round be­cause he knew by then his op­po­nent had noth­ing left. But the sense he was car­ry­ing his op­po­nent was hard to ig­nore.

Per­haps this feel­ing was ex­ag­ger­ated by pre-fight whis­pers from mem­bers of May­weather’s team that he had in­structed them to bet on a knock­out in round nine. Whether true or not, it’s in­dis­putable that the favourite turned up the heat dra­mat­i­cally in that ses­sion. Laser-like right hands bounced off Mcgre­gor, yet he pluck­ily re­tained his foot­ing while scram­bling to hold on. The bell saved him, but there would be no es­cape in the 10th. A crisp right sent Mcgre­gor tum­bling to the ropes, and an­other made his head go one way and his knees the other. The stop­page by ref­eree Robert Byrd, at 1-05, was per­fectly timed ex­cept for Floyd be­ing a round out with his pre­dic­tion. Fight­ers fore­cast­ing when they will win is noth­ing new of course, but in a con­test like this, it’s nat­u­ral to ques­tion the ethics of such an ap­proach.

Be­cause this is Floyd May­weather we’re talk­ing about. The man for whom box­ing will al­ways roll over and wag its tail. And this event was the most bla­tant belly stroke yet. May­weather ver­sus any­one would have been big busi­ness for Las Ve­gas and

‘IT TOOK LONGER THAN EX­PECTED. BUT I GUAR­AN­TEED I WAS GO­ING TO GET THE KO’

➤ box­ing, but May­weather ver­sus Mcgre­gor was off the scale and the Ne­vada State Ath­letic Com­mis­sion knew it. Sanc­tion a con­test with a debu­tant? Yes, mas­ter. Go against the ad­vice of doc­tors and re­duce the glove size? No prob­lem, just feed us a bone.

For many in the box­ing world, my­self in­cluded, it was the law­less­ness of the whole thing that leaves a bad taste, but ul­ti­mately we must be thank­ful that May­weather got the job done while prov­ing – even when Mcgre­gor was busier and en­joy­ing spo­radic suc­cess – that it is pre­pos­ter­ous for any­one to en­ter the sport at such a high level and be suc­cess­ful. We should also be grate­ful for Mcgre­gor’s be­hav­iour in the ring. Though he toyed with the rules at times (rab­bit and low punches were part of his arse­nal, but then show me an an­gelic boxer), he ex­hib­ited re­spect for the sport with his prepa­ra­tion, and was a gra­cious loser. Af­ter­wards, as he took sips from a tum­bler of whisky, he spoke about con­tin­u­ing in the sport and good luck to him if that’s the path he chooses to take. Against May­weather he dis­played enough ath­leti­cism and de­ter­mi­na­tion to sug­gest he could reach a cer­tain level, but that level is likely a long way below where some­one like Mcgre­gor would feel com­fort­able com­pet­ing.

“This was some buzz, to come here and fight Floyd May­weather,” the loser said. “There are op­tions in MMA, and there will be op­tions in box­ing I’m sure. I love com­pet­ing, and I love a good fight, and this was a good fight. I don’t know what’s next, but some­thing will be next.”

In­deed it will. What­ever di­rec­tion Mcgre­gor struts off in, it’s al­most cer­tain the world will be watch­ing. As for May­weather, one pre­sumes that this is re­ally the end. Al­though he has an­nounced his re­tire­ment twice be­fore, he would be well ad­vised to stick to it a third time. While he re­mains an ex­cep­tional com­peti­tor, at 40 years old it was clear his skills are start­ing to fade and, frankly, what else is there left to achieve? While we can ar­gue about May­weather’s place in his­tory, and his in­flu­ence and ef­fect on the box­ing world, his ge­nius both in­side the ring and out should never be doubted.

“I’m very com­fort­able, I didn’t have to come back,” May­weather said. “I’m not a fool. If I see an op­por­tu­nity to make $350m in 36 min­utes then I’m go­ing to do it. But that’s it. I won’t be back again.”

That’s your lot, and thanks for the ride. While the leg­endary and bril­liant run of 49 vic­to­ries that came be­fore should de­fine him, de­feat­ing Conor Mcgre­gor for the big­gest purse in box­ing his­tory is a fit­ting epi­taph for a fighter who al­ways played by his own rules.

THE VERDICT Let’s just move on.

Pho­tos: MARK J RE­BI­LAS/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

WELCOME TO BOX­ING: May­weather shud­ders the brave Mcgre­gor with a clean left hook

DUCK­ING LOW: The un­ortho­dox Mcgre­gor tries to evade a May­weather left hand

PRO­TAG­O­NISTS: Af­ter last­ing longer than many peo­ple ex­pected him to, Mcgre­gor [above left] is not too dis­heart­ened, while May­weather [above] poses with his gar­ish WBC Money Belt

ON THE MONEY: May­weather scores with an ac­cu­rate jab

Pho­tos: MARK J RE­BI­LAS/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

SHAT­TERED: Mcgre­gor ships more shots as he tires late on

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