How McGregor could pull off the impossible
Special to The R-C
Much has been written and spoken about the many reasons Floyd Mayweather should easily defeat Conor McGregor on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The most important reason is their 12-round bout at 154 pounds will be held in a boxing ring, which is practically a second home to the unbeaten 40-year-old Mayweather, who in his 50th pro fight is seeking to break heavyweight great Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record.
But surely the 29-year-old McGregor, the UFC’s featherweight and lightweight champion, has got to have at least the vestige of a chance, doesn’t he? He’s got to have a better chance of beating “Money” than the average person has in claiming the Powerball prize, which continues to produce winners in spite of nearly impossible odds.
Should he pull off the monumental upset, his success would have left behind several clues. Here are five:
First, the style of McGregor has to be defined. Contrary to how the fight is being marketed, McGregor, like his elusive opponent, is a counterpuncher, so he won’t be in there winging away shots like bangers Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana, who gave Mayweather tough fights. Indeed, if Mayweather deserved to lose a fight, it was his first bout with Castillo in 2002.
It’s hard to believe Team McGregor wouldn’t view tape on the counterpunchers who had the most success against Money. Those would be Demarcus Corley and Zab Judah.
Like McGregor, both Corley and Judah were southpaws. Both used their prodigious hand and foot speed to close the gap long enough to rock Mayweather. If McGregor, who’s also fleet of foot, could find a way to replicate their brief success, he could use his powerful left hand and martial arts footwork to do what they couldn’t and close the show.
A former plumber who was collecting welfare checks in Dublin before he broke through in the UFC in 2013, McGregor has always been his own best proponent.
He has used this self-belief to join Randy Couture and B.J. Penn as the only fighters in the UFC to win titles in two weight divisions ad the first to hold two titles at the same time.
In a Wednesday conference call McGregor talked about humans believing in the impossible in order to overcome such obstacles as putting a man on the moon.
And McGregor hasn’t let defeat stop him, as he has used his supreme confidence to move on from his three defeats — to Artemis Sitenkov, Joseph Duffy and Nate Diaz — and rise to the forefront of the UFC.
McGregor has scored 18 knockouts in his 19 stoppages. This power is what most believe is his best shot in beating Mayweather and turning the boxing world on its head. With the odds firmly against him, McGregor will be looking to land a Powerball punch to cash in on boxing history’s biggest upset.
For what it’s worth McGregor has thoroughly gotten the better of Mayweather in trash talking and has even used racial-tinged rhetoric to get under the skin of his opponent. If Mayweather, who has dedicated the fight “to all black people,” loses his customary cool and tries to walk into the wheelhouse of his opponent, he could get caught with an unexpected big shot and blow the fight.
THE WILD CARD: GLOVES
The Nevada Athletic Commission on Wednesday approved the requests of Mayweather and McGregor and allowed the use of eight-ounce boxing gloves.
The gloves, two ounces lighter than what 154-pound fighters usually wear, will benefit both fighters. Mayweather, who’s already lighting quick, will only be faster, and McGregor, who’s used to wearing 4-oz. gloves, should see a corresponding rise in his punching power.
But here’s what nobody is talking about: Mayweather’s former hand problems. In his early career, he was plagued by hand injuries. Even though he has apparently solved those issues, the lighter gloves in this fight could lead to an injury during the fight McGregor could possibly capitalize on. This is the biggest wild card in the fight and along with his self-belief and a Powerball punch gives him the best shot at pulling off an otherwise unlikely upset.
This controversial win could lead to a ridiculously lucrative rematch.
Mike Houser is a longtime boxing writer and former Nevada Appeal staff writer