LAS VEGAS -- What was expected to happen did in one way but not in another.
Floyd Mayweather was supposed to beat Conor McGregor on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena and he did so by TKO at 1:05 of the 10th round. However, McGregor was not supposed to hang around as long as he did. Using his experience and boxing acumen accumulated over 30 years of fighting, a patient Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) slowly and methodically dismantled McGregor, who was making his pro boxing debut and performed far better than anyone anticipated.
“I think we gave the fans what they wanted to see. I owed them for the [Manny] Pacquiao fight,” Mayweather said. “I had to come straight ahead and give the fans a show. That’s what I gave them. [McGregor] is a lot better than I thought he’d be. He’s a tough competitor, but I was the better man tonight. Our game plan was to take our time, go to him, let him shoot his shots early and then take him out down the stretch. We know in MMA he fights for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, he started to slow down. I guaranteed to everybody that this wouldn’t go the distance.
“Our game plan was to go straight ahead,” he added. “I said numerous times that I wouldn’t back down, and that’s what I did. A win is a win, no matter how you get it. Rocky Marciano is a legend, and I look forward to going into the hall of fame one day. This was my last fight tonight, for sure. Tonight was my last fight. Tonight, I chose the right dance partner to dance with. Conor, you are a hell of a champion.”
McGregor came out stronger, but his punches were wide and Mayweather stood by without even throwing a punch. The beginning of the second round began the same way, with McGregor carrying the action and nailing “Money” with a few shots from awkward angles. One thing was obvious when the two stood next to each other: McGregor looked far bigger than Mayweather. Because of Mayweather’s low activity rate, McGregor won the second round, too.
Mayweather threw his first real punch in the first minute of the third round -- a straight right to McGregor’s chest that had no leverage. McGregor was beating Mayweather at his own game, keeping him on the outside with a flabby but effective jab. With less than 25 seconds left in the third round, some of McGregor’s old MMA tendencies surfaced, like throwing hammerfists to the top of Mayweather’s head.
In the fourth, McGregor nailed Mayweather with a strong left, but Mayweather began closing the punching zone and started inching closer. Two things happened in round: McGregor lost some steam on his punches, and Mayweather began narrowing his punching range and closed the distance. It was the first round Mayweather won.
By Round 5, McGregor was holding on for dear life. McGregor had hardly anything left, fighting on instinct and heart. In the sixth, McGregor’s mouth was open as he gulped for air, and Mayweather began opening up. McGregor appeared to gas, had trouble holding up his arms and began holding more. After seven, the curiosity was gone. It started to look like a typical Mayweather fight.
“He’s composed. He’s not that fast, he’s not that powerful, but boy is he composed in there,” McGregor said. “I thought it was close, though, and I thought it was a bit of an early stoppage. I was just a little fatigued. He was just a lot more composed with his shots. I have to give it to him; that’s what 50 pro fights will do for you.
“I’ve been strangled on live TV and came back,” he added. “When you’re in here in the squared circle, everything is different. Let the man put me down. That’s fatigue; that’s not damage. Where was the final two rounds? Let me walk back to my corner and compose myself.”
It turned into target practice for Mayweather in the eighth round, as McGregor struggled to keep him away. McGregor began holding more in the ninth, and the sway of fight was clearly in Mayweather’s favor. McGregor could barely stand after “Money” landed a pile of flush shots, causing the Irishman to retreat and hold. Then it became a matter of time.
Mayweather stalked McGregor, landing flush shots again, and a pair of straight rights to the UFC lightweight champion’s head had him reeling backwards. That is when Mayweather stepped up the intensity, and referee Robert Byrd did the right thing by waving it over at 1:05 of the 10th.
In the end, Mayweather landed 170 of 320 total punches (53 percent) to McGregor’s 111-430 (26 percent). The real difference came in the power shots, where Mayweather landed 154 of 261 (58 percent), while McGregor connected on 84 of 332 (25 percent). Judges Burt A. Clements and Guido Cavalleri gave McGregor the first round only. Dave Moretti gave McGregor the first three rounds, which was more realistic, and the rest of them to Mayweather.
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.
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