As Mayweather leaves, McGregor enjoys rise
Champion, retiring again after 10th-round TKO, picks up protege Davis
LAS VEGAS — At night’s end, Floyd Mayweather Jr. rested on his chair quietly as his defeated opponent, Conor McGregor, stood and spoke.
Mayweather’s postfight news conferences usually aren’t like this. The star of the show typically doesn’t want to share his time with anyone. This was different. This was the end. And the man Mayweather defeated now stands as his successor, the king of combat sports.
UFC lightweight champion McGregor, 29, lost by10th-round technical knockout in what ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. described as a “special-attraction” boxing match, but the memory of his valiant showing in light of making his pro debut against the now 50-0 Mayweather will be powerful.
“I always knew I’d give a good account of myself,” said McGregor, who not only outjabbed Mayweather, but landed 111 punches on the 40-year-old in less than 10 full rounds — impressive, considering seven of Mayweather’s previous world-title opponents landed fewer than 100 on the elusive champion in 12-round bouts.
“It was a buzz. I enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed it. It was a fun fight,” McGregor said.
For all the criticism McGregor received about his boxing skills, he found a way to entertain even though he was outmatched.
By Mayweather’s standards, he took the first three rounds off as McGregor pressed the action while the watchers wondered whether Mayweather, at 40, and two years removed from his most recent fight, had turned old.
“The plan was to let him shoot heavy hands and take him down the stretch,” said Mayweather, who reached the fifth round and asked the boastful McGregor, “I thought you said it wasn’t going past four?”
By recording his first knockout victory since the surprise punch on Victor Ortiz in 2011, Mayweather’s approach won deep admiration from McGregor, who said he’ll return to the UFC, but first wants to further “study” Mayweather’s brilliance.
“You didn’t get rattled,” McGregor said to a listening Mayweather on stage. “You switched up your game plan three times. You were looking to box [early]. You got outboxed. You looked to play against the ropes like you love to play. You were getting picked off there. You came in, hands up to your forehead, forehead dipped in to the chest and sat [on punches], not afraid to fight. Three game changes. That’s what a great champion does. Much respect.… Hell of a fight.”
The entertaining action also helped salve Mayweather’s reputation. The fighter who overpromised and underdelivered so often in the past displayed boxing’s artistry.
“I’ve had some great fights, and I’ve had some boring fights,” Mayweather conceded. “But I will always be remembered as a winner.”
Onthe night Mayweather passed Rocky Marciano to reach 50-0, a rich example of how difficult the task of such longevity immediately preceded.
Mayweather’s unbeaten 22-year-old protege, Baltimore’s Gervonta “Tank” Davis, lost his world-championship belt by weighing 2 pounds over the junior-lightweight limit Friday. He then fought a disjointed Saturday bout, defeating Costa Rica’s Francisco Fonseca by knocking him out with a prohibited punch behind the head that went undisciplined.
Through the weight challenges, the stiff opponents and life’s varying moods and rough stretches, Mayweather found a way to be consistently good each night he stepped in the ring.
“Tank is young. When I was young, I would’ve made those same mistakes if I didn’t have my father in my life — a coach who was extremely hard on me,” Mayweather Jr. said of his trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., after the bout.
“If he didn’t discipline me, I don’t know howmy career would’ve played out. I didn’t want to slack or seem irresponsible or not disciplined. I always sacrificed. You’ve got to sacrifice something to get to the pinnacle, and that’s what I did.”