Mayweather-McGregor was what we expected in the end: Weekend Review

By Michael Rosenthal

BIGGEST WINNER

Floyd Mayweather Jr.: I can’t say I told you so because I thought Mayweather would dominate every second of every round against novice Conor McGregor on Saturday in Las Vegas, although the final result – an emphatic knockout – was exactly what I and many others expected.

How did a fight that was absurd on paper turn out to be mildly interesting for a while?

I thought Mayweather explained it well. In no particular order:

  • Mayweather was a 40-year-old who hadn’t fought in two years. He was old and rusty, which he acknowledged after the fight.
  • He said the game plan was to allow McGregor to be the aggressor early, let him to tire and then take control of the fight, which is what happened.
  • Mayweather was forced to fight out of character, as that of the aggressor, in order to deliver the knockout. That opened him up to taking punches he normally would’ve avoided.
  • And McGregor deserves some credit. He was amateurish (as expected) but he was busy and awkward, which gave Mayweather some trouble in the first half of the fight.

As a result of the above, the fans who watched on TV received a little something for their $89.95 or $99.95 in the U.S. and whatever the cost was overseas.

Let’s not take that too far, though. No, Mayweather didn’t toy with McGregor like a cat does a mouse – as I and many others suggested he would – but he did score a brutal knockout, something we hadn’t seen from Mayweather in years.

And it would’ve been a lot worse had referee Robert Byrd not stopped the fight when he did. McGregor was spared the more-ignominious fate of going out on his face or back.

I thought it would be easier for this generation’s greatest boxer but ultimately he executed an intelligent game plan with only a few minor hitches, which resulted in a beat down. I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise.

I don’t like the fact Mayweather recorded his 50th victory against an opponent making his pro debut but the fact is he’s a nice, round 50-0, is a special achievement. I haven’t always enjoyed watching him fight and I deplore some of the things he has said and done but one thing is abundantly clear: He was one hell of a fighter.

Well done, Floyd.

BIGGEST LOSER

McGregor: It was a classic moral victory, a better-than-expected performance in the face of impossible odds and ultimate defeat.

McGregor looked as if he belonged in the ring with Mayweather for much of the fight, using his quickness, athleticism and awkward style to mask his glaring deficiencies in basic boxing technique.

The Irishman landed jabs, a few power punches and was difficult to hit cleanly in the first half of the fight, which made it seem as if the fight was competitive.

I think that was at least in part illusory, though. I believe Mayweather allowed McGregor to do his thing until the time was right to turn the tide. Remember: Mayweather Sr. said between rounds early in the fight “fourth round,” meaning that was the time to take charge.

And his son did just that, beginning the process of breaking McGregor down. That was the plan.

I also believe McGregor employed the wrong strategy if he wanted to win the fight. I remember saying to a colleague in the first round or two that McGregor couldn’t win if he continued to box with a master boxer, which turned out to be the case.

Plus, McGregor, a Mixed Martial Arts star, wasn’t accustomed to fighting more than 25 minutes. He was bound to get tired using his game plan. He might have a few positive moments but Mayweather would eventually pull away.

Thus, the official scores through nine rounds were no surprise: 89-81, 89-82 and 87-83.

The correct strategy, which the entire world laid out for him, would’ve been to roll the dice by mauling Mayweather like a mad man – think Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana – in hopes of taking him out early and avoiding the late rounds.

Alas, McGregor did his best. He wasn’t embarrassed to the degree I expected and he gave his fans some hope he could score an upset, for a few rounds anyway. And most important to him, I’m guessing: He became a very wealthy man.

Overall, not a bad night.

BEST CHIN

Yoshihiro Kamegai: I half expect someone to open Kamegai up and discover a motherboard, evidence that the Japanese warrior isn’t human after all.

Miguel Cotto isn’t a big puncher at junior middleweight but one would expect an accumulation of, oh, a million power shots to break Kamegai down and eventually lead to his premature demise Saturday in Carson, California.

That didn’t happen. Kamegai (27-4-2, 24 KOS) somehow took everything Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) threw at him and barely blinked. He might have the best chin in boxing.

That might not be an ideal distinction when you think about the long term welfare of a fighter but it’s something. People admire toughness, resilience even if it doesn’t come with a great deal of skill.

Of course, even after his long hiatus, Cotto won virtually every round to capture the vacant WBO 154-pound title and remain in the mix for at least one more big-money fight before he retires from boxing.

I thought Cotto was too easy to hit early in the fight but that might’ve been the result of rust. Once he got his timing down, Kamegai became little more than a well-made punching bag.

Cotto, who said he doesn’t want to fight beyond 2017, has some options. The best might be hard-punching David Lemieux, who Cotto could fight in December and then say goodbye. Or, if he changes his mind about calling it quits this year and Canelo Alvarez beats Gennady Golovkin, a rematch with Canelo would be attractive.

No matter what happens, it’s been a pleasure, Miguel. Cotto combined refined skill, punching power (at lower weights), hard work and determination to become one of the greatest Puerto Rican boxers of all time and popular among fans worldwide.

The victory over Kamegai gave him seven world titles (including the RING middleweight championship) over four divisions – 140 pounds to 160 pounds, a resume few fighters in history can match.

A victory over Lemieux – which is no given – would be a fitting conclusion to a remarkable career.

RABBIT PUNCHES

I thought Byrd did a good job in the Mayweather-McGregor fight, particularly the stoppage. I would’ve liked to see it go a little longer but he probably made the right decision at the right time. There was one exception: McGregor’s rabbit punches. He was warned a few times, continued to do it and never paid a price. Byrd should’ve docked him at least one point for the incessant fouling. … Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) gave the strongest performance on the Mayweather-McGregor card, picking apart and then stopping naturally bigger Nathan Cleverly (30-4, 16 KOs) in only five rounds in Jack’s return to the 175-pound division. The Swede was fast, strong and much too good for his British counterpart during a performance that catapulted him to major-player status in his new division. I don’t know whether he could beat champion Andre Ward but everyone else could have their hands full with him. Cleverly (4-4 in his last eight fights) announced his retirement at 30 after the fight. The former 175-pound titleholder had a solid career, perhaps capped by his victory over Tony Bellew in their first fight. …

Gervonta Davis (19-0, 18 KOs) didn’t have his best week. The protégé of Mayweather lost his IBF junior lightweight title because he failed to make weight and then appeared to stop Francisco Fonseca (19-1-1, 13 KOs) with an illegal blow to the head in the eighth round, although the punch in question seemed to land more on his upper back than his head. Bottom line: Davis remained unbeaten and presumably will begin pursuing the best 135-pounders. … Andrew Tabiti (15-0, 12 KOs) is one to watch after he defeated veteran Steve Cunningham (29-9-1, 13 KOs) by a unanimous decision in a 10-round cruiserweight fight on the Mayweather-McGregor card. The Chicago fighter is the U.S.’ best bet to make some noise in a division dominated by Europeans. … Rey Vargas (30-0, 22 KOs) looked sharp in defense of his WBC junior featherweight title against Ronny Rios (28-2, 13 KOs) on the Cotto-Kamegai card. Rios gave a spirited effort and had his moments but couldn’t cope with Vargas’ unusual height (almost 5 feet 11 inches), reach, work rate and all-around ability.

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Source:: The Ring – Boxing